Obscenity: Redeeming Social Value

"I'm not a crier or a whiner," Comedian Lenny Bruce said after a New York Criminal Court convicted him on an obscenity charge in November 1964. "I respect the law, and it will eventually vindicate me." Although Bruce became a minor martyr and hero to some people, few believed that he would eventually beat the rap. Last week he did—18 months after he had been found dead in Hollywood of a probable overdose of drugs.

Bruce's conviction grew out of an arrest for delivering a scatological monologue at the Café Au Go Go, a Greenwich Village coffeehouse. In...