Saturday, January 9, 2010

"Boy Scouts" Founder Died On This Date

Lord Baden-Powell, who founded the Boy Scouts (originally in Britain), died on this date in 1941 at the age of 83. I was a scout for many years as a kid in the very early 1980s, and really liked it. I remember his name well, even today. He was venerated by the Boy Scouts of America even in my time (already 40 years after his death), though only as a distant, colorless, grandfatherly figure.

So colorless, in fact, that I couldn't bring myself initially to bother watching a 1-hour TV documentary about him that first aired in 1995, which I stumbled upon on You Tube some time back. But in honor of his death, I started watching it this morning. And whoa: he's not colorless here, I assure you. ("In recent years he's fallen from grace: castigated as a militarist, a sadist, even a fascist sympathizer.") Perhaps not surprisingly, there's apparently also been long-standing debate among his biographers about whether, despite being a married father of three, he was (as they put it) a "practicing," or merely "repressed," homosexual.

This aspect of his life is examined in almost cringe-inducing detail throughout this documentary, from his school days up through his unusual marital relations with his wife, in part 4. ("Todd was a keen photographer," begins part 2 embedded below, "And Baden-Powell was greatly impressed by his studies of scantily clad schoolboys. But he was more taken by Todd's pictures of naked boys in contrived poses...")

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