Comedian Stanley Baxter has come out as gay in a new biography, despite being married to a woman for almost 50 years.
Described as "relentless from the start", the tell-all biography, reportedly written over the past decade, sees Baxter detail in frank terms - and often explicit detail - his deeply troubled personal life as a result of his hidden sexuality, stemming from a time when homosexual acts were still illegal in Britain.
Chapter titles include "Poofter Hell", "3,000 Volt Love", "Spanked Bottoms", and "David Niven's Blow Job", amongst the relatively more mundane such as "There's Nothing Funny About Stanley", "A Star Is Grown" and "Stage Frights".
Baxter describes his sexual awakening whilst undertaking National Service in the 1940s: "Discovering about sexuality in Britain was groping in the dark in every sense. But in [Combined Services Entertainment] there were just so many poofs. And as such, there was a lot of excitement in realising you are not alone in the world. It's not like nowadays, where you are tripping over gay porn."
Notably, the book includes lengthy detail about his troubled marriage. Married to Moira Robertson for almost 46 years, they wed despite his protestations and explanation about his true sexuality, after she threatened to commit suicide by jumping from a second-floor window.
She would go on to allow him to bring male lovers back to their home, with a spare bedroom set aside for their use.
The biography recounts his time in the army in detail, and attempts to masturbate foiled by "the bromide they put in the tea".
He explains: "The army said they didn't ever do such a thing but believe you me I am living proof that they carried out pharmaceutical de-bollocking. The number of nights I sat in that loo working up to a sweat that would pour down my face - with nothing to show for it but a wee feeling - convinced me we had all been tampered with."
Recounting a meeting in America with Norman Wisdom, Baxter shares: "He was charming. And full of energy. I wasn't surprised to learn that little Sir Norman was something of a world-class swordsman. [The showbiz term for the priapic performers of the day, a nod to the parts played by the lustful Errol Flynn.]
"I think any comedian worth their salt is highly sexually charged, whether homo or heterosexual. Sexual and creative energy is tied up. Of course they are going to be at it with more than one partner! It's in the nature of the animal. And there is the greater opportunity. That's why artists are such easy pickings for the tabloid press."
Baxter enjoyed huge fame from the 1950s onwards. A Glasgow native, he starred in a string of hit films with James Robertson Justice and Leslie Phillips, made countless long-running, headline stage appearances, and a similarly long string of his own, self-titled TV series and seasonal specials from as early as 1963.
Working on both the BBC and ITV, his hit sketch shows mixed song and dance, mimicry, film and television spoofs, and a range of other wild comic characters, well into the 1990s. The 2000s have seen Baxter continue to work, albeit less frequently, with a number of radio series starring his comic talents. The Stanley Baxter Playhouse in particular ran for six series from 2006 to 2014.
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