Honey: The life and loves of Lenny's shady lady
by Honey Bruce
Playboy Press, Los Angeles, 1976.
In my late teens I became obsessed with the First Amendment and its protection of adult material, about which I had very strong (ahem) feelings. Once I became adult material myself, I was even more passionate about defending adults' rights to uncensored media, and Lenny Bruce was one of my idols. As soon as I read her autobiography, his wife, Hot Honey Harlow, became one of my idols as well.
Hot Honey Harlow, known also as Honey Bruce, produced one of my favorite books by a burlesque legend. She published her autobiography two years after much of her life had already been revealed in Bob Fosse's film "Lenny" (which I highly recommend to burlesque students for Valerine Perrine's depiction of Honey Harlow's routine, and for First Amendments students for the depiction of Lenny's arrests and responses). However, I suspect she would have been open about her past even if she hadn't already been so vividly exposed in the movie.
She talks about her early years in a small Arkansas town, her first unwilling experience with sex (in a story which she chillingly describes as typical of her era), her time in jail, traveling with a carnival, becoming enamoured of stripteasers, and completing her rise to burlesque star status in Miami (driving a convertible with leopard seats, no less). She also describes 1950s/1960s show business from dives to Vegas. She tells all about falling in love with a woman, falling in love with Lenny, getting married and having a daughter, abusing drugs, losing that daughter, losing Lenny, and recovery from drug addiction. The story is heartbreaking, but her honesty and resilience and desire to render true amends make it not only bearable, but inspiring.
The story is even more moving when one takes into account that, after the publication of this book, Honey successfully remarried, reunited with her daughter, and assisted in obtaining a posthumous pardon for Lenny Bruce's conviction of obscenity in 1964.
You may not be able to love Honey without reserve; there are a lot of attitudes to make you think twice in this book. But you will be able to get an indelible sense of her dazzling personality, and of a life well-lived in spite of tough choices, some of them dreadfully, fatally wrong. You will know that this is the genuine article--the authentic Hot Honey Harlow.
Me performing a tribute to Honey Harlow at Exotic World, 2006. Photo by Chris Blakely.
I love this photo, but I'd prefer to have a photo of Honey, and will be happy to credit any submissions. My copy of her book has no cover!
Buy this book used on amazon.com
Born in 1927, Honey Harlow passed away in 2005.
Honey's obituary in Variety Magazine
Honey's Obituary in the NY Times