Stanley Baxter

On this date in 1926, Scottish actor/author/atheist Stanley Livingstone Baxter was born in Glasgow. His father, Frederick, was an actuary and assistant bank manager, and his mother, Bessie, nurtured his early penchant for performing by having him entertain at their home and in public venues such as church halls.

He served in a National Service theater unit in the Far East, where he entertained troops. He worked in roles as a child actor for BBC Scotland and continued in theatrical productions before moving to London in the 1950s to pursue a career in radio and television. “The Stanley Baxter Show” ran from 1963 to 1971 and catapulted him to stardom.

Through the ensuing decades, he starred in and produced regular specials and series and became a successful author. In 2007, critic Laurence Marcus called him “Scotland’s mimic supreme, who combined superbly observed, written and performed comedy in spectacular eye-catching style. He is one of the true creative geniuses in British television light entertainment, and as far as comedy goes, Stanley Baxter is the true King of Scotland.”

He married Moira Robertson in 1951. In The Real Stanley Baxter, a 2020 authorized biography, Baxter came out as gay and described how he told Moira he was gay before they married. “I told her my preference and said, ‘That’s why I am breaking off the relationship. This would be no life for you, married to someone who is essentially and primarily a homosexual.’ ” She supposedly threatened suicide if he ended the relationship, so they were married. Their arrangement allowed him to bring men home. They stayed married until her death in 1997.

Baxter was among about 200 public figures who signed a letter in 2014 to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence. In a 2005 interview (Scotsman, May 26, 2005), he answered a jocular question about “the good Lord” looking after him in his old age with, “Oh, I’m not so sure about that. I’m a lifelong atheist. Not a believer. So there couldn’t ever be a part for me in the great theatre in the sky.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation