Marr, Sally (1906–1997)

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Marr, Sally (1906–1997)

American comedian and talent agent . Born Sadie Kitchenberg in Jamaica, New York, in 1906; died in Los Angeles, California, on December 14, 1997; married Mickey Schneider (divorced); married Tony Viscarra; children: Lenny Bruce (1926–1966, the comedian).

Sally Marr was born Sadie Kitchenberg in Jamaica, New York, in 1906, and grew up with little parental supervision. As a young adult, she began supporting herself as a waitress and maid, but quickly moved into the entertainment business. Working as a standup comedian, she performed in nightclubs, doing impersonations of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. Marr was known for her bawdy act and free lifestyle, and she remained active in the entertainment world throughout most of her life.

Marr is probably best known as the flamboyant mother of infamous comedian Lenny Bruce. Born in 1926 to Marr and her first husband, Bruce became known for his use of drugs and obscenities, and his innovative style and raw edge inspired the next generation of comics, including George Carlin, Joan Rivers , and Richard Pryor. During her son's career, which was marked by on- and off-stage controversy, obscenity prosecutions and drug arrests, Marr married Tony Viscarra, who was 23 years her junior. During their eight-year marriage, Marr and Viscarra traveled with Bruce and his wife Honey Bruce , a stripper, performing in clubs together.

After her son's death from a drug overdose in 1966, Marr continued to perform and also raised Bruce's daughter, Kitty Bruce . Having been instrumental in managing her son's career, Marr also worked as a talent agent and is credited with discovering comics Cheech and Chong, Sam Kinison, and Pat Morita. She appeared in the films Every Little Crook and Nanny (1972), Fire Sale (1977), House Calls (1978), Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams (1981), and The Devil and Max Devlin (1981). A 1994 Broadway play, Sally Marr … and Her Escorts, starring Joan Rivers, was based on her life. Sally Marr died in a Los Angeles hospital on December 14, 1997, at the age of 91. In 1989, she had noted, "People are always saying that everything in comedy stems from Lenny—that everything touches him. What can I tell you? He took after me."


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Kari Bethel , freelance writer, Columbia, Missouri