August 11, 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

Unicorn Pizza in Santa Monica

August 9, 2020

August 9, 2020

DagWoods’, a popular pizza spot in Santa Monica, is home to the “Magical AF” pizza that’s been featured on shows...

August Celebrated As Anal Pleasure Month

August 9, 2020

August 9, 2020

In 2012 August was declared to be anal pleasure month which is unbeknownst to many people. Good Vibrations, an adult...

Longest Running Escape Room In LA Goes Virtual

August 5, 2020

August 5, 2020

Escape Room LA, in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, is the longest running escape room in Los Angeles going...

WeHo DJ Music Series Continues Through September

August 4, 2020

August 4, 2020

In the middle of a pandemic, people can’t help but feel disheartened, frustrated and melancholy. In an attempt to lift...

WeHo Closes West Hollywood Park and Plummer Park

July 29, 2020

July 29, 2020

The City of West Hollywood is making every effort to respond to community needs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health...

WeHo Makes Efforts to Help Its Businesses and Residents

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

With the Coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc across the world and many businesses unfortunately succumbing to the lack of business. The...

City of West Hollywood’s ‘One City One Pride’ LGBTQ Arts Festival

June 12, 2020

June 12, 2020

Features a ‘virtual platform’ for arts and cultural events: May 22 through June 30 By Staff Writer Each year, the...

North Hollywood Gay Latino Bar ‘Cobra’ Closed for Business

June 12, 2020

June 12, 2020

Instead adopts virtual entertainment method By Toi Creel The effect of COVID -19 has not only taken a toll on...

MIKA, Lil Nas X and More at GLAAD Awards

March 6, 2020

March 6, 2020

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced that recording artist and...

“Pose” Actress and Transgender Rights Advocate Angelica Ross Among the Honorees Truth Awards

March 3, 2020

March 3, 2020

The Annual Awards Show to Honor and Recognize LGBTQ + African Americans and Their Allies By Staff Writer Better Brothers...

Apply for New Affordable Senior Housing at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s McCadden Campus

February 28, 2020

February 28, 2020

The City of West Hollywood has announced that applications for new affordable senior housing will be accepted by the Los...

Santa Monica Honors LGBTQ Politician and Heal The Bay CEO on 100th Anniversary of U.S. Women’s Right to Vote

February 28, 2020

February 28, 2020

Honorees Include Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Heal The Bay CEO Dr. Shelley Luce Amidst an election year...

Los Angeles Premiere of Latinx LGBTQ Film at Outfest Fusion

February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020

“Acuitzeramo” screening March 9 By Staff Writer Outfest Fusion presents the Los Angeles premiere of Cabaldana Alchemy’s short film “Acuitzeramo”...

Douglas: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting

February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020

By Chole Marie Rivera The theater is dark and light casts a purple glow on the outline of a cartoon...

WeHo Opens Nominations For 2020 Rainbow Key Awards

February 18, 2020

February 18, 2020

Nominations will be Accepted Until Thursday, February 27 By Staff Writer The City of West Hollywood is gathering nominations for...