Honey Bruce

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Honey Harlow
Harriett E. Jolliff

(1927-08-15)August 15, 1927
DiedSeptember 12, 2005(2005-09-12) (aged 78)
  • Lenny Bruce (m. 1951–1957)
  • Jeffrey Friedman (m. 1984)
ChildrenKitty Bruce

Honey Bruce Friedman, born Harriett Jolliff, also known by her professional name Honey Harlow (August 15, 1927 – September 12, 2005) was an American stripper and showgirl who was the wife of stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce.[1]

In 1976 she released her autobiography, Honey: The Life and Loves of Lenny's Shady Lady.[2]

Early life[edit]

Friedman was born Harriett Jolliff in Manila, Arkansas, the daughter of unmarried teenage parents Mabel Layson and Murl Jolliff.[3] She never knew her father, who died in a tuberculosis sanitorium. She was named after her paternal grandmother, Harriett Joliff (1877-1941), but as a child, her nickname was "Poochie".

Her mother, Mabel, moved her and her sister, Virginia, to Detroit, Michigan in search of work. Finding work at nightclubs, Mabel married a local hustler who often was in trouble with the law. While ostensibly owning a bookshop, in reality he was operating an illegal business from their attic. Young Harriet's mother and step-father enforced strict Catholic rules on her, and reportedly the home was an abusive environment. Harriet dreamed leaving home for a career in show business, and she intently studied Hollywood movie stars like Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth.

Harriet's unstable home life led to rebellion, and she started skipping school and staying away from home. Eventually she ran away from home with a female friend and two boys to nearby Toledo, Ohio, and from there, the four teenagers decided to go to Florida. The boys hot-wired cars to steal transportation, and soon they arrived in Miami where they rented a room. To earn money to support themselves, the girls answered an ad in the paper for showgirls; Harriet was hired to be a topless dancer, but her friend was deemed not pretty enough and so was given a job as a cigarette girl.

Once Harriet had earned enough money for the group to continue on their journey, she quit the dancing job, and the group planned to move from Miami Beach to Palm Beach. The two boys she was with had enlisted in the army and were "sowing some oats" before heading to basic training for World War II. One of the boys raped Harriet while she was sleeping, which she shrugged off as "the way things were". Harriet's friend left the group and went home to Detroit.

With Harriet and the two boys in need of more money, they decided to break into a vending machine. They broke out the glass and managed to get cigarettes, candy, and cash into their pockets and escaped on foot into a nearby orange grove, but were caught by police. Once in custody, it was established that the group was responsible for several cars being stolen in addition to the theft, and Harriet was sentenced to one year incarceration at Florida State Prison.

After her release, she worked as a successful stripper in Miami under the name "Hot Honey Harlow."[4]

Lenny Bruce[edit]

On June 15, 1951, she married comedian Lenny Bruce after meeting him in Baltimore. Bruce tried to become her manager and make her a legitimate star, but she fought against this. She would sometimes perform with her husband on stage, including an act based on Bride of Frankenstein.[5]

As an actress she appeared in the 1953 indie film Dance Hall Rackett which also starred Lenny Bruce.

They divorced on January 21, 1957, after having a daughter, Kitty. The two fought a custody battle over their daughter.[6]

In her autobiography, Honey revealed having six abortions during her life.[7][8][relevant? ]

Later life[edit]

Harlow successfully lobbied New York Governor George Pataki to posthumously pardon Bruce for the obscenity conviction resulting from his performance and arrest at the Cafe au Go Go in Greenwich Village in 1964. Lenny Bruce died of a drug overdose in 1966, after which she continued to promote his legacy.[7]

She is credited in the 1974 film Lenny as being an advisor for the film.

She married Jeffrey Friedman in 1984, and they remained married and living in Hawaii until her death. She had legally changed her name to "Honey Bruce Friedman".[4]


She died on September 12, 2005, in Honolulu.[1][4][9]

In popular culture[edit]

She was portrayed by Valerie Perrine in the 1974 biopic Lenny, for which Perrine was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Caitlin Mehner portrays Honey Bruce in the 2017 TV series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.


  1. ^ a b "Honey Bruce Friedman, Wife of Lenny Bruce". The Washington Post. 19 September 2005. Honey Bruce Friedman, 78, the former wife of comedian Lenny Bruce who successfully lobbied to clear her husband's 40-year-old obscenity conviction, died Sept. 12 at a hospital near her home in Honolulu. No cause of death was reported. ...
  2. ^ Shady Lady at Goodreads accessed 1-1-2016
  3. ^ 1930 Census Record accessed 1-11-2016
  4. ^ a b c Fox, Margalit (September 20, 2005). "Honey Bruce Friedman Dies at 78; Entertainer and 'Lenny's Shady Lady'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-03. Honey Bruce Friedman, a former nightclub entertainer who in 2003 helped win a posthumous pardon for her ex-husband, the comedian Lenny Bruce, on a 39-year-old obscenity conviction, died on Sept. 12 at a hospital in Honolulu. She was 78 and a Honolulu resident. The cause was complications of colitis, her daughter, Kitty Bruce, said.
  5. ^ "Honey Friedman, Lenny Bruce's ex-wife - The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper". the.honoluluadvertiser.com.
  6. ^ "Ex-Dancer and Mate Agree on Custody". Los Angeles Times. January 4, 1957. Retrieved 2008-08-03. Honey Harlow, 29, former striptease, yesterday went before Superior Judge Elmer D. Doyle to fight her, estranged husband for custody of their daughter Brandie, 1 year old, spirited from their home in Hawaii by him.
  7. ^ a b August, Melissa (September 25, 2005). "Died". Time. Retrieved 2008-08-03. Honey Bruce Friedman, 78, ex-stripper who in 1951 married the soon-to-be-famous comedian Lenny Bruce; in Honolulu. Though the drug-addled pair split in 1957 (they had a daughter, Kitty), the sometime actress who called herself "Lenny's Shady Lady" helped successfully lobby New York Governor George Pataki to pardon Bruce
  8. ^ O'Malley, Ryan, "Lenny Bruce’s daughter reaching out : Pittston resident Kitty Bruce hopes to help women in recovery with ‘Lenny’s House’" Archived 2011-11-23 at the Wayback Machine, The Pittston Dispatch, Pittston, Pennsylvania, October 4, 2009
  9. ^ "Honey Bruce Friedman, ex-wife of Lenny Bruce, 78". Associated Press. September 19, 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-03. Honey Bruce Friedman, the former wife of comedian Lenny Bruce who successfully lobbied to clear her husband's 40-year-old obscenity conviction, has died. She was 78. Friedman died Monday after a long illness at a hospital near her home in Honolulu, family friend Jeff Abraham said from his Santa Monica office on Friday.

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