Would You Believe.........
So where and how did the Bloke Project ( or 'The League of Bald Headed Men' originally) actually commence?
The clock has to be wound back quite a few years to find the genesis and there are probably some discrepancies according to whos version you'd like to believe.
However, it begins with the onset of inevitable hair loss to 'The League founder' - Stephen Espenschied. At that point of time in his life, that is, a 20 year old in the early 80's with mullets in full cry and Duran Duran dominating the airwaves, hair loss was definitely a dirty word/s - much like the old as opposed to 'ego' and the old Skyhooks song. Mate dubbed him 'espenkojak' and the sledging commenced (as blokes do) all in good fun but it ultimately would start to wear thin. The line between blokes in house humour which is often designed to 'take the piss' out of someone and where it crosses the line to have a real psychological impact on an individual is duly noted. However, this was treated as fun there was general concern that the hair loss was detrimental to the stereotype that a young male should fulfill.
Around this time, there were quite a few in the extended group who were showing very early signs of possible hair loss. At a BBQ in the depths of one long summer, it was floated that a group should be started of all guys that were worried about losing their hair. Once such suggestion was based on an old 'Get Smart' episode (a series based in the late 60's and of which most of which most in their early 20's in the 80's would be familiar with). There had been an episode according to one distinguished member of the group, Scummie Cuthbert ( so called for cleaning the scum lines at a summer job at the local pool to enable better vantage points to perve on women) called 'The League of Bald Headed Men' and suggested it would make a great name for the loose band of brothers that were apparently beginning to emerge as their 20's vanished!!!
Just as a quick aside
Don Adams who played Agent 86 was approached to sign some paraphernalia for 'The League'. Unfortunately Don passed away a couple of weeks after the items were sent and they were returned. However, via an intermediary there was some contact with Leonard Stern who was the producer for the show. Of interest was where the term 'The League of Bald Headed Men' came from. It was known via research that many of the titles of the 'Get Smart' episodes were parodies of recent movies or aspects of popular culture from that period. Although Leonard was not a writer, his recollection was that it most probably was a parody of an Arthur Conan Doyle story based in his Sherlock Holmes works called 'The Red Headed League'.
The name was informally adopted and used to refer to the group as an ongoing joke. As time went on various people loosely affirmed their affinity to the group especially by the early 90's where some had lost that much hair that they now accepted their fate and chose to shear off what was left. This was commonly given the term of reaching the level of acceptance and gaining the liberty of now not having the burden of some type of semi shame to lumbered around that 'you were not quite right'. In the loose fitting group there now seemed to be an acceptance of the inevitable, to go with the flow and no doubt made easier to accept with the advancement of years and the maturing perspective that hair was irrelevant to the person that lay beneath.
It wasn't until 2002 when one such person who went onto become a much loved friend passed away after suffering a heart attack whilst in the middle of a basketball game did 'The League' as it came to be known actually formalised. It was only after John had died and his subsequent wake that there was the realisation of the power of a common denominator between people. This no doubt goes to extend to many areas of life where people have either experienced, suffered or celebrated similar events. The point of empathy is a very valuable element in bringing people together.
At the wake T.Shirts were simply given out stating;
Inaugural Life Member
The League of Bald Headed Men
The shirts were that popular that it reinforced there was something to go with here. There was a connection many men could make with each other, to check in and have a point or reference with each other. The League of Bald Headed Men had in fact been born and it had just been a very protracted pregnancy and in the mold of most blokes, we had not even realised that there was a pregnancy........