B.S., I Love You

B.S. Pully (Murray Lerman, 1910-72) was a legendary burlesque, nightclub and Borscht Belt comedian and stage and screen actor of the mid 20th century, known for his gruff gangster persona and blue material. He was an influence on performers like Lenny Bruce, Rodney Dangerfield, and Andrew Dice Clay, His famous fans and friends ranged from Sophie Tucker to Frank Sinatra to Albert Anastasia. “B.S.” as you probably first thought and then dismissed from your mind, actually did stand for “bullshit”. He had originally worked with a partner named “H.S.” (Horse Shit) Gump. Belle Barth was once his piano player. Miami Beach was his home base for many years.

Between 1944 and 1946, Pully appeared in supporting roles in no fewer than 14 movies, including Greenwich Village (1944, pictured above), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945, as a Christmas tree salesman), and Nob Hill (1945, as Joe, the Bartender). The stage and screeb role he is most associated with is Big Jule in Damon Runyon’s Guys and Dolls, which he played in the original Broadway production (1950-53) and in the 1955 motion picture. Sinatra also got him roles in A Hole in the Head (1959) and Lady in Cement (1968). In 1960 he appeared in Jerry Lewis’s The Bellboy (1960).

In 1961 Pully released his raunchy comedy record B.S. Pully’s Fairy Tales, and this is the source of his greatest influence, on stand-up comedians, at any rate. To my delight, it’s up on Youtube: play it here — it’s the only way to really know what he was all about. By contrast, he also brought a highly sanitized version of his act to TV variety and talk shows like The Colgate Comedy Hour, Steve Allen’s Tonight Show, The Bob Hope Show, and Mike Douglas and Merv.

Pully also continued to take the occasional film and tv role in his last years, He made three appearances on Car 54, Where Are You?, one on Get Smart, and had roles in The Love God (1969) with Don Knotts and Myra Breckenridge (1970).

Pully’s son is Steve Lerman, a high-powered L.A. personal injury lawyer, best known for representing Rodney King vs. the LAPD.

For more on show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,