January 18, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

GAY L.A. – New Doc Celebrates the Queer Legacy of Circus of Books

The Sunset Boulevard store was the first to go, back in 2016. Last year, the West Hollywood flagship Circus of Books, an old-school store specializing in porn mags, books, and videos, shuttered to the dismay and sadness of many.

But let’s save our tears: the gay legacy left by Circus of Books isn’t quite dead. Not yet, anyway, thanks to filmmaker Rachel Mason, whose parents Karen and Barry were responsible for taking over the legendary porn store in the 1980s. 

According to a recent L.A. Magazine article, Mason’s parents entered the brick-and-mortar porn industry by accident. The two met at a party for Jewish singles in 1960s Woodland Hills, fell in love, and start investing their time and energy into stocking up the latest issues of Honcho, Mandate, and Blueboy. 

Not all at once, of course. Before they got involved with the Circus, Barry worked in the industry (no, the other one) doing special effects work for films like “Airplane,” while Karen worked as a reporter. After they found out that the owner of Circus of Books was failing to pay rent in the early ‘80s, they took over, quickly launching their own production company based on sales from the store.

Business was bumping, but not for too long. The AIDS crisis took care of that. 

“People might find it shocking,” Rachel Mason told L.A. Magazine, “But my parents saw all these young men dying. They understand what a challenge it is to be a gay man. Her concern came from a place of conservative religious values, which is crazy and in direct conflict with the store.”

After AIDS came the ‘90s, the early 2000s and the slow death of paper porn alongside the emergence of the internet. Circus of Books held on as long as it could, but in the end, it went the way of the Dodo. 

Mason, who is queer, decided to tell her parents’ story by creating a documentary, executive produced by Ryan Murphy in partnership with Netflix, about the store’s legacy. The film recently screened for the first time at Outfest. By interviewing famous and infamous patrons of the Circus, from Alaska Thunderfuck to Larry Flynt himself, Mason gets at something real. For many, Circus wasn’t just a porn store. In a long ago time and a faraway land (WeHo before the rainbow crosswalk), it was a place where queer folks could find each other, and themselves. 

Related Posts

WeHo Dodgeball at the Sin City Classic LGBTQ+ Sports Festival

January 17, 2020

January 17, 2020

Hosted annually by The Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA), Sin City Classic brings together the United State’s finest athletes for a...

LONG BEACH PRIDE Unveils New Logo, Drops “Lesbian & Gay” From Name

January 16, 2020

January 16, 2020

Formerly known as  the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride, the new and improved Long Beach Pride – the organization...

VIDEO: Grand Opening of Los Angeles LGBT Center’s New Campus in South LA

January 15, 2020

January 15, 2020

‘Center South’ will provide HIV testing; access to PrEP and PEP services; housing case management; mental health services; a computer lab; and...

Sin City Classic Sports Festival has Los Angeles Roots

January 14, 2020

January 14, 2020

For those who cannot wait every two years for an iteration of the Olympics, or every four years for Gay...

LA’s Only Known Trans Nightlife Event Just Got A Little More Fierce

January 13, 2020

January 13, 2020

Heavenly Bodies is Los Angeles’ only known monthly transgender nightlife event featuring live performances hosted by trans model and activist, Sasha Colby.  Proceeds...

Craigslist Man Extorts Angelinos, Santa Monicans with Gay Sex, Pleads Guilty

January 10, 2020

January 10, 2020

Tyler Buchanan faces 10 years in federal prison By Sam Catanzaro A man has pleaded guilty to using Craigslist, among...

Honoring Timothy Dean One Year Later

January 8, 2020

January 8, 2020

An intimate gathering was held Tuesday, Jan. 7 at West Hollywood Park to honor the 1-year anniversary of 55-year-old fashion...

LGBTQ+ Ally Taylor Swift to Receive GLAAD’s Vanguard Award

January 7, 2020

January 7, 2020

GLAAD announced Tuesday, Jan. 7 that Taylor Swift with receive the Vanguard Award at the 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards. ...

Three CA Bills for the LGBTQ+ Community to Keep An Eye On

January 6, 2020

January 6, 2020

Three key pieces of California legislation that were tabled last year for various reasons will see the floor in 2020. ...

LGBT Icon, Talkshow Host Ellen DeGeneres Wins Award at 77th Annual Golden Globes

January 5, 2020

January 5, 2020

The 77th annual Golden Globes is looking a little bit more LGBTQ-inclusive, and talkshow host and LGBTQ+ icon Ellen DeGeneres’...

City of WeHo to Host Clothing Drive for LGBTQ Youth

January 4, 2020

January 4, 2020

The City of West Hollywood will host its eighth annual clothing drive for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Services...

PLAY PREVIEW: A Queer Tribute to Frida Kahlo

January 3, 2020

January 3, 2020

Frida Kahlo was born July 6, 1907 and died July 13, 1954. Her death certificate alleges cause of death as “pulmonary...

2020 Golden Globes Nominations Gayer Than Ever

January 2, 2020

January 2, 2020

Awards season is just around the corner, and the LGBTQ+ representation is bigger and better than ever before. The 77th...

Slow But Steady Increase of LGBTQ+ Representation on TV This Year

December 30, 2019

December 30, 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, we begin to reflect. How far has queen representation progressed this year? We saw...

Q&A: Celebrating ‘Gelty Pleasures’ for Hanukkah with JQ International

December 28, 2019

December 28, 2019

In honor of Hanukkah, the Pride LA spoke with Anna Goodman from JQ International about its recent “Gelty Pleasures” holiday...