Poetry

Nipples and Cocks: Two Dudes in Love Celebrates ‘Big Joy’ and The Work of James Broughton

(all images via bigjoy.org)

(all images via bigjoy.org)

There was a lot of joy in my life last night, and it wasn’t just the home-brewed lager at Rockbar NYC.  Despite the picture of Vladimir Putin sporting a rainbow Hitler mustache, which graced the entrance to that magnificently dingy establishment, there was nothing but love in the room, and a lot of it at that.  The happy hour promoted Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton, a documentary on the life of poet and filmmaker James Broughton which is screening at Anthology Film Archives this weekend, and is well worth your time.

The soundtrack for the evening was provided by Two Dudes in Love, a San Francisco-based DJ collaboration consisting of David Sternesky and Matthew dos Santos, who are indeed exactly what they claim.  The pair is behind the music label Friends With Benefits, which has recently released an E.P. dedicated to the great James Broughton with each song consisting of lines from his poetry interposed over a wonderfully catchy dance beat.  Its compilation is a collaboration featuring music by Severino (Horse Meat Disco) with Hifi Sean (Raw, Bearracuda) as Up Yours (Southern Fried/Get Up Recordings), The SyntheTigers featuring Tobirus Mozelle (Moulton Music), Two Dudes In Love (Friends With Benefits Records), Juan Ramos  (Friends With Benefits Records), and Kenneth Kemp (Friends With Benefits Records).

Music of His Dance album (all images via bigjoy.org)

Music of His Dance album cover

Their goal, they told me, was not only to honor the late poet and filmmaker, but to remind today’s generation of the impact Broughton had on the gay rights movement by making his work accessible and fun for a young audience.  It seems entirely appropriate that Broughton’s words would be turned into the sounds of celebration, because his emphasis on love and happiness as the most essential parts of life are what earned him the nickname “Big Joy.”  One can only imagine that the former activist would approve wholeheartedly of today’s generation dancing eagerly, and openly, to his sentiments.

Broughton, as the documentary reveals, brought a lot of joy to those around him.  Anecdotes by those close to him are filled with memories of warmth.  His creed, “follow your own weird,” inspired decades of gay people to accept themselves with pleasure, and to celebrate the beauty of their sexuality despite the concerns of society.  Love, thought Broughton, was the answer to all.  In his Androgyne Journal, written in 1961, he asks of himself, “Can you accept yourself in every part and particular…Can you learn to love yourself with gusto?”  And for Broughton, his sexuality was an important part of that love.  In his keynote address to the second Gay Spirit Visions Conference in Atlanta he is quoted as having said, “the penis is the exposed tip of the heart.”

Perhaps that’s why we were treated to a 15 minute video of Broughton’s longtime love, Joel Singer’s, slowly hardening member.  It rose like a flagpole on the screen above our heads as I chatted with Stephen Silha, one of Big Joy‘s several directors, along with Eric Slade and Dawn Logsdon.  The film was a decade in the making, he explained, and had overcome several serious setbacks only because of the strength of vision of its collaborators, and their absolute belief that Broughton’s story should be shared.

Despite the delays, the documentary is just as relevant and inspiring now as it would have been when it was first conceived.  Broughton was a dedicated spiritualist, credited as having said, “God and Fuck belong together.”  That Broughton saw God in his own sexuality is undeniable.  His poem, Shaman Psalm includes the line “only through the body can/you clasp the divine”.  While he was a great student of Eastern religions, he married Joel Singer in 1971 in a ceremony performed by a Catholic priest.  More than 30 years later, it’s still an incredible and unique story.

But Broughton’s personal life is only one of the magnificent things about him.  He is considered a precursor to the Beat Poets, and his 1967 film The Bed has been credited with breaking taboos against frontal nudity.  His poetry ranges from sensual and serious to simply playful, and I wholeheartedly suggest you lose yourself in it immediately.

To that end, I’ll leave you with some lighthearted verse entitled Nipples and Cocks, which were dramatically read by Two Dudes in Love, and met with much applause, at Rockbar:

Nipples and cocks
nipples and cocks
Nothing tickles the palate like
nipples and cocks

Lose your appetite for
clippers and clocks
by trying a tipple of
nipples and cocks

Up with your T shirts
Down with your jocks
Tempt your taste buds with
nipples and cocks

Don’t riddle your brow
or rot in your box
It’s nice to nibble on
nipples and cocks

No need to be fancy
or unorthodox
Just try a plain diet of
nipples and cocks

Nipples and cocks
nipples and cocks
Nothing tickles the palate like
nipples and cocks

Now isn’t that a film you want to see?

Big Joy is playing this weekend at Anthology Film Archives at 8:00 PM. Tickets and info can be found here.

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