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Lee R. Baxandall (January 26, 1935 – November 28, 2008) was an American writer, translator, editor, and activist, first known for his New Left engagement with cultural topics and then as a leader of the naturist movement.
Baxandall was born and raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he obtained a B.A. (1957) and M.A. (1958) in English, studied comparative literature at the doctoral level, and became one of the editors of Studies on the Left, a New Left intellectual journal known for its free-wheeling qualities. In 1960, Baxandall traveled to revolutionary Cuba. In 1962, he married Roslyn Fraad; she would become an early women's liberation activist and they would have a son, Phineas. Living in New York City from 1962 to 1977, they were active in the movement to end the Vietnam War.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Baxandall demonstrated a strong interest in the relationship between culture, particularly theatre, and radicalism. He translated plays by Peter Weiss and Bertolt Brecht, edited a collection of writings by the German social critic and psychologist Wilhelm Reich, compiled an annotated bibliography on Marxism and aesthetics, and wrote numerous essays on major literary figures, including Bertolt Brecht and Franz Kafka. In 1973, he edited a collection of writings by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels on art and literature with Polish philosopher Stefan Morawski. Baxandall's writing appeared in a wide variety of venues, from left-wing periodicals such as The Nation, New Politics, The National Guardian, and Liberation, to mainstream publications including The New York Times and intellectual-cultural outlets such as Partisan Review, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and New German Critique.
Naturism would by the late 1970s become the main focus of Baxandall's activism. He first took up the activity as an Eagle Scout in Wisconsin and would frequent a free beach with his family at Cape Cod National Seashore in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1974, he travelled to the West Coast of the United States to meet founders of the free beach movement there: Eugene Callen and Cec Cinder. This became Beachfront USA. Having inherited his family's publishing business in Oshkosh in 1970, which he managed by traveling back there monthly and then by relocating to there permanently in 1978, Baxandall began to publish Free Beaches magazine and created the Free Beaches Documentation Center, collecting data from all over the world on nude beaches. He published Lee Baxandall's World Guide to Nude Recreation, a color guidebook locating places to go nude all over the world, which he succeeded in getting distributed through major book channels.
Baxandall's view was that nudism fostered body acceptance and broke down the alienation and repression that stood in the way of the realization of full human potential. He founded The Naturist Society in 1980 and was the first editor of its magazine, Clothed with the Sun, launched in 1981 and renamed Nude & Natural in 1989. The Naturist Society welcomed everyone from nude bikers to gay and lesbian and transgendered naturists to nude massagers and everyone in between, in contrast to the more conservative American Association for Nude Recreation.
Baxandall was one of the originators, along with Eugene Callen, of "National Nude Weekend," later "National Nude Week," which he used to generate media attention for the cause. He helped organize and sponsor the first nationwide and later regional annual Naturist Gatherings, with seminars and nude fun for everyone. He also commissioned Edin and Ethel Vlez to produce a series of videos (World of Skinnydipping, etc.) depicting the naturist lifestyle and debunking myths surrounding nude recreation.
Baxandall founded the Naturist Action Committee, the primary group responsible for early warning and defense against those who would legislate naturists out of existence in the United States. He was the first to retain the services of a professional lobbyist to get the movement's viewpoint heard in state legislatures and Congress. He founded the Naturist Education Foundation, devoted to improving awareness and acceptance of naturism and body acceptance throughout North America.
In 1992, Baxandall remarried, to longtime companion Johanna Moore. In 1995, Baxandall was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and he retired from public life from 2002 until his death on November 28, 2008.
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