If he'd had a Lenny's House to go to, Lenny Bruce's daughter says, her father might have lived to celebrate his 84th birthday on Tuesday.
But there wasn't one, and the groundbreaking comedian who pushed free speech boundaries to the limits with his obscenity-laden routines on such taboo subjects in the early 1960s as sex, race and politics, died of a drug overdose 44 years ago.
In the time since, Kitty Bruce has hauled trunks full of old photos, stage props and other items from one end of the country to the other, keeping alive as many memories as she could of the father she lost at age 11.
Now she's looking to create a permanent memorial to her father in the form of Lenny's House, a recovery home for women returning to society after treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. To raise the needed funds, she's auctioning some of her keepsakes, as well as items contributed by other celebrities.
"There is some very cool stuff here," says Bruce, adding one of her father's trademark trench coats is going up for sale, along with a picture of him giving the finger outside a Chicago nightclub where he was arrested. Another photo shows him happily setting fire to critics' reviews calling him sick and unfunny.
Online bidding is scheduled to open Tuesday on toddmuellerautographs.com. It will conclude Oct. 28, the same day Richard Lewis is to headline a fundraising benefit at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood.
Bruce isn't sure how much money she'll raise but she's hoping it will be enough to let her pick out a small home in northeastern Pennsylvania. She's lived there quietly for 22 years, since leaving behind the Hollywood fast life that consumed her father and threatened for a time to do the same to her.
After her husband died in 2002, Bruce says, she began looking for something to add more meaning to her life. She established a nonprofit Lenny Bruce Foundation and set about to create Lenny's House.
"I think he'd be totally behind this, I really do," she says of her father. "Even though he wasn't one of those people to get behind any kind of cause.
"But he'd get behind this," she added with a laugh, "because I'm his daughter."