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Mountain Memoirs and Historical Essays

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LENNY BRUCE & MY FATHER
By Mark Kramer

In 1950, my father, Jack Kramer, hired Lenny Bruce to be the Master of Ceremonies for our hotel in Hurleyville, Kramers on Luzon Lake. Lenny was great. He tumulted, he danced, he told jokes. He was even great with the little old ladies. My father was happy.

In fact, he rehired Lenny for the 1951 season. That summer, Lenny brought his new wife Honey along. They were still a happy couple. So happy to be with each other all the time. In fact, several times a week my father had to have Lenny paged over our booming loudspeaker system. A temporarily chastened Lenny would straggle back from a private escape on the lake or from a romantic walk in the woods to conduct the daily dance lesson by the pool. My father was not so happy with Lenny that summer.

In spite of his concerns about Lenny neglecting the guests, when he made a proposition to my father, he listened. Lenny suggested that he invite some of his entertainer friends to do a late show at the hotel's casino a few nights a week. In return for providing extra entertainment for our guests, he wanted fifty percent of the bar take after midnight. Since our guests were all asleep by midnight, and the bar take past that hour was zero, my father gladly accepted.

Good to his word, Lenny brought in jazz musicians, comics, even strippers to our little casino. For 1951 only, Kramers was the hottest hotel in the Catskills. Everyone was happy. Lenny was an impresario (and getting a cut of the bar) and my father was getting income from the bar while he and most of the rest of the hotel slept. Some of our younger guests and most of our dining room staff did stay up for the shows.

Several weeks into this arrangement, there was a particularly large, raucous crowd at Lenny's show. Cars were parked all over the lawn, under the guest room windows, down the driveway and onto the road. A couple guests knocked on my father's door to demand that he quiet down the crowd since it was after 2 AM, and they could not sleep. Reluctantly, my father donned his bathrobe, put on his slippers, picked up his ubiquitous cigar and ventured downstairs.

There were people all over, both drunk and sober. He went looking for Lenny to get him to try to quiet down his crowd. When he arrived at the casino, there was a pudgy, pimply faced kid on stage talking dirty in New York English and broken Yiddish. The crowd loved it, but this was too much for my father. He marched on stage in his bathrobe, slippers, and cigar and kicked the young comic off the stage.

The next week or so Lenny got more morose with the guests, and more attentive to Honey. So about the 15th of August, when the crowd was thinning out anyway, my father fired Lenny. He figured he would get an MC for Labor Day Weekend, and save two weeks pay.

So there you have it. In one season my father fired Lenny Bruce and threw Buddy Hackett off stage for talking dirty.