Trials of Lenny Bruce

First Amendment Award




Ronald Collins, Kitty Bruce,
Bill Maher, and David Skover

Collins & Skover Win

the 2004 Hugh M. Hefner

First Amendment Award

for Book Publishing
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On May 24, 2004, Ronald Collins and David Skover were presented with the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award for Book Publishing at a New York City reception.

The First Amendment Awards were established in 1979 by the Playboy Foundation to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans.

Nominees have traditionally come from the areas of print and broadcast journalism, arts and entertainment, education, publishing, law and government. The winners are selected by a panel of distinguished judges. The 2004 award winners also included entertainer Bill Maher, columnist Molly Ivins, and Georgetown University law professor David D. Cole.

Excerpts from Collins & Skover's

Reception Speech at the Award Ceremony

We are honored to receive this award in recognition of The Trials of Lenny Bruce. There are many people here tonight to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. First, we need to recognize and thank them.

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The one person whom we most miss tonight is, of course, Lenny Bruce. That may be somewhat of a statement against interest, since we would not be here but for Lenny’s sacrifice as a First Amendment martyr.  But we cannot help but wish that Lenny were among us still, lampooning in his searing and satirical way the free speech abuses recently committed by conservatives and liberals alike. Where is he now, when we need him to mock truly breathtaking examples of hypocrisy?

In times of national crisis, our expressive liberties are most endangered precisely when they should be most engaged. Regrettably, our nation’s leaders are all too willing to trade hard-won freedom for the illusion of security.

Ladies and gentlemen, remember this: Fear is the first enemy of freedom. All who struggle for liberty must be concerned whenever our leaders and citizenry embrace a dangerous myth: that we can preserve freedom by abandoning it.

We must, above all, create a culture of free speech. Such a culture must defend the free speech principle in and outside of our courtrooms and legislative chambers. It must:

  • encourage free thinking in the arts, and invite free-spirited innovation in music;

  • promote expressive freedom on our airwaves and in our classrooms;

  • bring a new measure of freedom to the Internet and to those public fora where dissent is stifled every day.

In all of this, the patrons of this principle must support freedom at every turn and in every venue.

If the First Amendment is the principle, then our lives – like that of Lenny Bruce – must be the practice that gives meaning to that great experiment that we call democracy.

Thank you for this honor.

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