The appeal of Lenny Bruce's spiraling descent

On October 4, 1961, Comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested and charged with obscenity by the San Francisco police department. His offense was based on a simple joke, in which he pointed out that the word "to" was preposition, and "come" was nothing more than verb. The use of those two words together, Bruce pointed out, mattered little, except perhaps to someone who had the inability to have the verb in question happen to him or her.

Though the arrest was absurd, and a jury would later acquit Bruce, it served as an obvious turning point in his life, and his career. Other police departments began to monitor his appearances, and similar arrests followed. In West Hollywood, he was arrested for using the Yiddish word schmuck on stage. He was also arrested in New York City's Cafe Au Go Go for obscenity, and blacklisted from nearly every night club in the United States, as well as Australian television. The legal battles were long, costly and (in retrospect) ridiculous.

Once considered to be the most brilliant comedic minds of his time, Lenny Bruce was eventually reduced to performing in small clubs, where he would rant angrily about his ongoing legal battles, sometimes reading lengthy court transcripts verbatim to bewildered audiences who had come to see a famed comedian at work, but got something very different instead. What they got was a broken man who rambled incessantly as his life began to fall apart due to endless persecution (his drug use certainly didn't help matter either).

Why on earth am I telling about about Lenny Bruce? Well, here's why:

First, let me tell you that I in no way compare myself to Lenny Bruce. Not his talent, the scope or reason for his troubles, his drug use, his comedic ability or even his height (as a Colombian, I can safely assume that any and all American-born males are taller than me). But I've been thinking a lot about Lenny Bruce, and those performances later in his career, the ones where he would read court transcripts, and angrily tried to understand how on earth his life had come undone as a result of using a word like schmuck on stage.

I've been thinking about those performances, because I see how this blog could very well spiral down that some similar path after my interviews with Juan Pablo Villegas. Both the original one, and the second one about him having to quit the sport due to threats. As a result of those interviews, other things have come to light, and people's take on them has been odd and sometimes amusing. Like the people who thought Juan Pablo was lying to me, and I was a fool for not having checked to see if any of this was true (I did check with several sources in Colombia before publishing the interview, by the way).

So there were those who said Juan Pablo was making all of this up, along with the standard emails from Colombian readers who called me a plague and a traitor for trying to hurt Colombian cycling. You know, the usual stuff. Beyond that, more information has come my way, which supports Juan Pablo's statements, and then some. But I'd rather not share it now, for reasons that should be obvious when you consider what has happened to Juan Pablo as a result of his statements.

As I sort through all of this stuff, I begin to fear that I could go into a full Lenny Bruce spiral, and endlessly address one lone topic while trying to convey Colombia's reality to a small number of people who are simply unable to understand a life and surroundings other than their own. No, I'm not under attack, as Lenny Bruce was. It's just that I see how I could easily I become so singularly focused, that I'd seem crazy to most of you. And while I ponder that approach, I can't help but wonder how on earth people who have been around cycling and written about it for a long time have not found themselves where I am right now. And if they have, I wonder how they got themselves out. Because right now, I have no idea how to stop this from happening. And as a result, ranting while reading proverbial court transcripts is starting to seem more and more appealing as the days wear on.