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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, September 18, 2005

Honey Friedman, Lenny Bruce's ex-wife

By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times


Services were held yesterday for Honey Bruce Friedman, 78, a Honolulu resident, best known as the former wife of legendary comedian Lenny Bruce.

She died Monday at Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center after a long illness, said her husband, Jeffrey Friedman.

Her husband said about 100 people attended a service for her yesterday at 12 Coconuts in Kapi'olani Park.

"We were married 21 years," Jeffrey Friedman, 55, said yesterday. "I loved her very much. She was a beautiful woman, friendly, polite, a good artist, a good cook, a good wife. She had lots of friends."

Friedman was working as a stripper under the name Honey Harlowe when she first met Bruce, then a fledgling comic, in a Baltimore hotel coffee shop.

They were married in 1951.

According to Gerald Nachman's book "Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s": "The couple did an act together, in which they both sang and teamed up on movie parodies such as one on 'The Bride of Frankenstein,' in which the monster picked Honey up in a pizza parlor."

Bruce, who became known as a First Amendment martyr for his legal problems over onstage language, later referred to his wife in his act as the "beautiful mama with the long red hair."

But the marriage, troubled by their heroin use, ended in 1957. They had a daughter, Kitty.

Lenny Bruce died in 1966 of a drug overdose.

Friedman was portrayed by Valerie Perrine in the 1974 movie "Lenny," starring Dustin Hoffman. Her book, "Honey: The Life and Loves of Lenny's Shady Lady," was published in 1977, at which point she said she had been clean for more than seven years after a 16-year drug addiction.

"I was fortunate to be able to share a lot of Lenny Bruce's artwork that my wife would play for me," Jeffrey Friedman said yesterday. "Movies, cartoons, comedy routines, records and tapes."

He compared the "Lenny" movie to the classic "Citizen Kane" in its artistic importance.

Born Harriett Jolliff in Manila, Ark., she grew up in Detroit, where problems with her stepfather caused her to run away from home as a teenager.

At 17, after falling into disreputable company, she found herself serving a year in a state prison. She later joined a carnival, where she developed a taste for "show business" and "exotic dancing." After a brief and disastrous first marriage, she became a nightclub singer and a successful stripper in Miami.

In 2003, Friedman was one of the many people who signed a petition that paved the way for New York Gov. George Pataki to give Lenny Bruce a posthumous pardon for obscenity. Friedman, who had lived in Honolulu more than two decades, is survived by her husband and her daughter, Kitty Bruce of Pennsylvania.

Donations are requested to the H-5 program at First United Methodist Church.

Advertiser Assistant City Editor John Windrow contributed to this report.