I've just finished reading a book about the various People vs Lenny Bruce cases and I wonder why Elvis was never actually charged with public obscenity for his performances.
Lenny Bruce mostly seems to have been persecuted by police for obscenity, which then and now is defined as dirt for dirt’s sake – but also for the sole purpose of sexual arousal without any redeeming social or artistic merit or commentary. Lenny was not guilty of obscenity as poorly defined as it still is in law, the reason the courts went after him was blasphemy, which is not illegal, but they used obscenity as the cover charges.
Lenny Bruce’s performances were verbal with some gestures and often accompanied by free form jazz.
He did biting social commentaries on hypocrisy and especially religion – so many of the cases appear to be driven to punish him for blasphemy under the guise of obscenity
Lenny Bruce was charged under obscenity laws, but he was persecuted for blasphemy and exposing the hypocrisy of religion in plain and vulgar terms – something that is protected as a first amendment and not obscene in that it does not make anyone horny. Lenny didn’t make people horny, nor was he morbidly obsessed with sex or excretion – he was obsessed with truth and expressed that in the language of the people.
While Elvis’ performances were pretty much, as close as you could get to doing a sex act with your clothes still on. They definitely were sexual arousing.
So I have to wonder, if it was because Elvis himself was so well mannered and deferential to authority – not to mention being a huge money maker – being responsible for 50% of RCA’s total sales in 1956 – that he was never charged by police for obscenity
While Lenny Bruce, who’s entire act was about pointing out the hypocrisy of authority, was hounded to death
Deemed obscene and being legally obscene were (and are) different things
I think while Elvis was filmed by police and subjected to a lot of media negative coverage, cries from parent and religious groups – Elvis didn’t offend police – he worshiped them, hired them and respected them.
Elvis was the only performer to break Ed Sullivan’s secular show and perform a religious song.
I think Parker was actually smarter to take something of a long view and remake Elvis’ image as a good boy and his show as being innocent -rather than the revolutionary that he stumbled into being as a matter of being a decent person.
Lenny Bruce’s entire act was question authority – thus, authority cracked down on him – and went after him for blasphemy under the guise of obscenity – because there wasn’t much to turn you sexually on in Lenny’s show – while Elvis’ shows were pure sexual arousal and often, release.
So Lenny’s real crime wasn’t obscenity – he wasn’t any more concerned with sex than anyone else, which is to say, very concerned with only the religious being more concerned with sex, being that they are very concerned with the sex that other people may or may not be having, as opposed to being concerned with obtaining sex as often as you’d care for like a normal person.
Separation of church and state was intended to protect the state, which is about earthly concerns and existence, from religion, in which is earthly existence is a dress rehearsal for the afterlife
The various censorship and anti-vice waves that have gone through apparently secular law was religiously motivated and driven as a means to insert religious morals into secular law.
Lenny Bruce was charged under obscenity laws, but he was persecuted by law enforcement for blasphemy and exposing the hypocrisy of religion in plain and vulgar terms – something that is protected as a first amendment and not obscene in that it does not make anyone horny. Lenny didn’t make people horny, nor was he morbidly obsessed with sex or excretion – he was obsessed with truth and expressed that in the language of the people.
Religion can’t help but interfere with the state and attempt to impose it’s narrow view of morality on the public, regardless of whether the public subscribes to the religious ideas.
That’s not only the problem of asserting community standard, but also the problem of that same community voting for politicians based on the stated religion, rather than any qualifications, experience of the would be legislator.
The community is religious and as such, assumes that the law conforms to their beliefs – and being certain in their beliefs – they don’t have to expose themselves reality or law or even their own bible.
Which is why anyone with certainty of their beliefs is suspect, because if you have clarity, you are most likely, ignoring the bigger picture and certainly anything that would challenge that clarity.
I wrote it in early summer and blogged it - this site was having some weird facebook thing going on and I couldn't post it earlier