PBA Galleries handles postwar counterculture at June 13 auction

Transcripts of Bruce’s 1958 performances in San Francisco. PBA Galleries image

BEREKELY, Calif. – On Thursday, June 13, PBA Galleries will offer an auction of Lenny Bruce and postwar counterculture material. The catalog feature features over 200 lots reflective of the massive social changes that occurred in the United States in the decades following World War II, as the beats gave way to the hippies, and what became known as the counterculture emerged. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

The first 80 lots in the auction comprise an important archive of material from the life and career of the comedian Lenny Bruce, best remembered today for his arrests for obscenity and drug possession. Included are letters, business records, performance transcripts, court documents and other key source materials. Among these lots are typed transcripts of Lenny Bruce’s three 1958 appearances at the Club 440 in North Beach, San Francisco, which marked the beginning of Bruce’s rise into the “Big Time,” with Bruce’s holographic corrections and notations ($7,000-$10,000). The Lenny Bruce offerings also showcase 12 rare vintage reel-to-reel audio tapes of Lenny Bruce performances in San Francisco, Chicago and elsewhere, 1962-1964, most of the content not available elsewhere ($5,000-$8,000).

Vintage audio tapes of Lenny Bruce performances. PBA Galleries image

The most notable artifact on the auction block is Lenny Bruce’s stage microphone, a Shure Unidyne Model 55S, notable for its wide-angled, polar acoustics, producing less feedback with reduced background noise, well-suited to the small stages Bruce frequently encountered ($2,000-$3,000).

PBA will also offer a typed draft of a letter from Lenny Bruce to President Lyndon B. Johnson regarding U.S. Senate legislation to regulate amphetamines and other diet pills, with holograph annotations and corrections by Bruce and his secretary ($3,000-$5,000). To round out the archive, a noteworthy item is the collection of approximately 1,500 business records, 1957-1965, embracing the bulk of Lenny Bruce’s productive career, about 60 with Bruce’s holographic annotations or notes ($5,000-$8,000).

Letter from Lenny Bruce to President Johnson about amphetamines. PBA Galleries image

Also in the auction are scarce publications and ephemeral items from the era, from such authors as Allen Ginsberg, Richard Brautigan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others, plus classic rock and psychedelic posters, counterculture newspapers, underground comix, drug culture and more. These lots include The Galilee Hitch-Hiker by Richard Brautigan, 1958, his rare second book, printed by John Dunn’s White Rabbit Press using the printing equipment at the Greyhound Bus Co. in San Francisco ($1,500-$2,500). A rare pirated edition of Bob Dylan’s Tarantula will be on offer, published in Hibbing, Minnesota, by the Wimp Press, circa 1966, possibly the earliest of two recorded pirated editions and predating the published edition by about five years ($1,000-$1,500).

‘Zig-Zag Man’ concert poster by Alton Kelly and Stanley Mouse. PBA Galleries image

Other significant lots include the rare first printing of the “Zig-Zag” poster by Alton Kelly and Stanley Mouse for Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service at the Avalon Ballroom in 1966 ($1,500-$2,500) as well as “Hell No! Nobody Goes!! End the War” – a rare suite of 20 protest posters from the Stop the Draft Week protests in Oakland, California ($3,000-$5,000).

Posters from Stop the Draft Week, Oakland, Calif., 1967. PBA Galleries image

The sale will begin at 11 a.m. Pacific Time and the public may preview the auction on Monday, June 10, from 1-5p.m.,, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 11-12, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Thursday, June 13, from 9-11 a.m. at PBA Galleries at the auction’s new location at 605 Addison St. in Berkeley. For more information, contact the PBA Galleries at 415-989-2665 or pba@pbagalleries.com.