Gay group apologises for Sir Elton's camp act with `cub scout' strippers

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The Independent Online
THE GAY rights group Stonewall has apologised after Sir Elton John caused outrage by performing a dance act with male teenage strippers dressed as boy scouts at a benefit concert.

The Scout Association described the show as "deplorable and in bad taste" and is asking Sir Elton for a formal apology and a charitable donation by way of redress.

Sir Elton, 52, introduced the dancers, who peeled off their uniforms and caps to the tune of "It's A Sin" by the Pet Shop Boys. The 18- and 19-year-old dancers knelt on the floor, grabbed their groins, and stripped down to skimpy shorts.

Among guests at the concert on Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall in central London, which was held to celebrate Stonewall's 10th anniversary, were the Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Blair, the actress Liz Hurley and the MPs Frank Dobson and Simon Hughes.

John Fogg, a spokesman for the Scout Association, said: "We think it is pretty deplorable and in bad taste in terms of denigrating our uniform and what it stands for. We are disappointed that someone of Sir Elton's standing should involve himself in something of such poor taste. It linked homosexuality with paedophilia. If Stonewall are completely for the rights of homosexual people, they have not done themselves any favours."

Mr Fogg said the dance routine was "an error of judgement" and added that he hoped Sir Elton now realised his mistake. He said the association planned to write to him to seek an apology.

"The association would welcome any positive sign of regret from Sir Elton, including his holding a concert for some of the association's young members, a donation or taking part in one its child-welfare campaigns," Mr Fogg added.

A letter outlining the concerns of the Scout Association's chief executive, Derek Twine, was sent to Stonewall's chief executive, Angela Mason, yesterday urging the group to seek to "educate and inform, and avoid the reinforcing of stereotypes".

Mr Fogg said the association had made the difficult decision formally to allow homosexuals to become troop leaders four years ago amid much controversy, and the dance routine was a major setback to a slow process of education. "Many of our members will be upset by the mickey-taking aspect of the dance, but the issue is more serious - it gave out the wrong message about homosexuality and paedophilia," he said.

The Baden-Powell Scouts Association, an independent group with 10,000 members in Britain which has a policy of refusing to let homosexuals be troop leaders, also condemned the act.

The honorary president, Lawrie Dring, said: "I am absolutely appalled. I am no fan of his, but this type of image portrayed by Elton John is exactly contrary to what we are trying to do."

Laura Willoughby, a spokeswoman for Stonewall, said they would carefully study the contents of the letter before making a formal reply to the Scout's Association. But she added: "Of course we apologise for any offence that it may have caused, it was unintentional. The routine was Elton's own contribution to the show. We have a very good working relationship with the Scout Association and would not want to damage that. It is a shame this was blown out of context."

Sir Elton could not be contacted for comment.