Partner Joel Singer

Queer Places:
Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, Stati Uniti
Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Townsend, Washington 98368, Stati Uniti

James Broughton (November 10, 1913 – May 17, 1999) was an American poet and poetic filmmaker. He was part of the San Francisco Renaissance, a precursor to the Beat poets. He was an early bard of the Radical Faeries[1] as well as a member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,[2] serving the community as Sister Sermonetta.

Born to wealthy parents in Modesto, California, Broughton lost his father early to the 1918 influenza epidemic and spent the rest of his life getting over his high-strung, overbearing mother. He spent his childhood in San Francisco and attended Stanford University until just before his class graduated in 1935. In 1945, he won the Alden Award given by the Stanford Dramatists' Alliance for his original screenplay "Summer Fury." [3]

Before he was three, "Sunny Jim" experienced a transformational visit from his muse, Hermy, which he describes in his autobiography, Coming Unbuttoned (1993):[4]

I remember waking in the dark and hearing my parents arguing in the next room. But a more persistent sound, a kind of whirring whistle, spun a light across the ceiling. I stood up in my crib and looked into the backyard. Over a neighbor’s palm tree a pulsing headlamp came whistling directly toward me. When it had whirled right up to my window, out of its radiance stepped a naked boy. He was at least three years older than I but he looked all ages at once. He had no wings, but I knew he was angel-sent: his laughing beauty illuminated the night and his melodious voice enraptured my ears….

He insisted I would always be a poet even if I tried not to be….Despite what I might hear to the contrary the world was not a miserable prison, it was a playground for a nonstop tournament between stupidity and imagination. If I followed the game sharply enough, I could be a useful spokesman for Big Joy.

In the book, Broughton remarks on his love affairs with both men and women. Among his male lovers was gay activist Harry Hay.[5]

He briefly lived with the film critic Pauline Kael and they had a daughter, Gina, who was born in 1948.[6]


Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

Broughton is the subject of the 2012 award-winning documentary film, Big Joy: the adventures of James Broughton[7] from Stephen Silha, Eric Slade, Dawn Logson and cinematographer Ian Hinkle.[8]

With Joel Singer, Broughton traveled and made more films – Hermes Bird (1979), a slow-motion look at an erection shot with the camera developed to photograph atomic bomb explosions, The Gardener of Eden (1981), filmed when they lived in Sri Lanka, Devotions (1983), which takes delight in friendly things men can do together from the odd to the rapturous, and Scattered Remains (1988), a cheerfully death-obsessed tribute to Broughton’s poetry and filmmaking.

In fact, Broughton explored death deeply throughout his life.[11] He died in May 1999 with champagne on his lips, in the house in Port Townsend, Washington, where he and Joel lived for 10 years.[12] Before he died, he said, "My creeping decrepitude has crept me all the way to the crypt." His gravestone in a Port Townsend cemetery reads, "Adventure – not predicament."[13]


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/queerplaces/images/James_Broughton#References