Last time : 25) Lydia Cabrera studied the influence on Cuban religion of traditional African deities, one of whom, 26) Ochossi, is closely associated with fellow patron god of archery, 27) Apollo, who won a song contest against 28) Pan in an ancient version of the modern Eurovision Song Contest of which 29) Bob Benny is the earliest known lgbt entrant.
Bob Benny (1926-2011)
was born in Sint-Niklaas in Belgian Flanders. His real name was Emeil Wagemans
and he adopted the stage name Bob Benny after Bob, the leader of the Metro Club
Orchestra with whom he performed and who played the clarinet like the famous
bandleader Benny Goodman.
Bob began performing in
his home town after World War II. He became a very popular singer and had his
first big hit in 1957 with “Cindy, Oh Cindy”. This led to his selection as the
representative for Belgium at the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest in Cannes.
As Eurovision celebrates
its 60th contest this month it is fitting that we should recognise 29) Bob Benny as the contest’s first
known lgbt contestant, though he wasn’t openly gay at the time. As a very
well-known and popular singer he feared the effect coming out as gay would have
had on his career. He said later in his life that he regretted not coming out
sooner, which he did in 2001 at the age of 75. In 2000 Bob suffered a stroke.
He became unable to perform and spent the rest of his life in a rest home in his
home town. He died on 30th March 2011.
Bob Benny performed in two
Eurovision Song Contests. His second was in 1961. This time round his song
didn’t do very well. He had finished 6th in 1959, but in 1961 he was
equal last with only one vote – from Luxembourg. Ironically, Belgium didn’t
give Luxembourg any votes at all, and Luxembourg ended up as that year’s
winner. Belgium’s low score may have had nothing to do with either the song or
Bob Benny but because of a protest vote against Belgium’s recent involvement in
a war in the Belgian Congo.
Bob Benny’s connection
to the next of our “80 Gays” comes through the person who gave the votes from
the Danish jury in 1961, Claus Toksvig (readers in the UK will guess where
we’re heading). Denmark was one of the 15 nations who gave Belgium the dreaded
Claus Toksvig was one of
Denmark’s most respected journalists and broadcasters. And in the UK so is his
daughter 30) Sandi Toksvig (b.1958).
Sandi has spent most of her life in the UK and is best known today for her
appearances on several tv and radio quiz shows, as either presenter or guest,
but her early appearances on television were as a comedian and children’s
programme presenter. She is also a prolific writer of both fact and children’s
An unexpected side of
Sandi’s life was revealed to the public in 1999 when she made the first of
several appearances on “Time Team”, a hugely popular archaeology series that
ran for over 20 years in the UK. Up till then people had no idea that she had a
first class degree in archaeology from Cambridge University (curiously, this
significant part of her broadcasting career is ignored on her current Wikipedia
entry). In fact, at Cambridge Sandi was awarded the Raemaker’s Prize for
I don’t have that many
lgbt archaeologists on my databases, and even fewer Danish ones. Other than
Sandi Toksvig the only other Danish lgbt archaeologist I have (who also has a
link to her father) is 31) Eigil Knuth (1903-1996).
I wrote about Eigil Knuth
a couple of years ago when I had archaeology as one of my “Ologies of the
Month”. On that occasion I wrote about the significant discovery he made of the
world’s most northerly human settlement in
During World War II Eigil
worked for Denmark’s national radio station when the country was under Nazi
occupation, having been prevented from pursuing his archaeological expeditions
to Greenland. Ostensibly, Eigil’s role was to broadcast Nazi propaganda, but in
fact he was also working secretly with the Danish Resistance and broadcast
coded messages to the Allies. A decade later 30) Sandi Toksvig’s father would work as a foreign correspondent
and announcer at the same radio station, commentating of 5 Eurovision Song
Contests as well as announcing the Danish votes in 1961.
Before he was unwillingly
coerced into broadcasting propaganda for the Nazis, and before his first
archaeological expedition, Eigil Knuth graduated as a gymnastic teacher from
one of the most famous gym colleges in Europe at the time, at Ollerup.
Supervising the training of the students was the college’s founder, and
infamous Nazi supporter, called 32)
Niels Bukh (1880-1950).
Next time we see how
gymnastics was influential in the development of the bondage and sado-masochism