Circus of Books Documentary is Coming to Netflix this Month

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(L-R) Karen Mason, Jeff Stryker, Barry Mason - Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES
(L-R) Karen Mason, Jeff Stryker, Barry Mason - Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

The Circus of Books documentary finally has a release date on Netflix. The streaming service provider will premier the story of a nice Jewish couple who ran Circus of Books, the porn shops in West Hollywood and Silverlake, on April 22nd.

The documentary is directed and produced by daughter Rachel Mason. Other producers include Kathryn Robson, Cynthia Childs, Camilla Hall and Adam Baron. Ryan Murphy, Josh Braun, John Battsek, Rhianon Jones and Gerald Herman executive produced. Bob Hawk is a consulting producer.

The Circus of Books Documentary follows the family life of Karen and Barry Mason, who n 1976, had fallen on hard times and were looking for a way to support their young family. They answered an ad in the Los Angeles Times, by controversial pornographer Larry Flynt, who was seeking distributors for his Hustler Magazine. What was supposed to be a brief sideline gig, led them to become fully immersed in the LGBT community as they took over the local Circus of Books adult store located at 8230 Santa Monica Blvd. A decade later, they became the biggest distributors of gay porn in the US.

The film focuses on the double life they led, trying to maintain the balance of being parents at a time when LGBT culture was not yet accepted. Their many challenges included facing prison time for a federal obscenity prosecution and enabling their store to be a place of refuge at the height of the AIDS crisis. The movie offers a rare glimpse into an untold chapter of queer history (the world famous adult bookstore once stood in front of a what was once a cruisy gay men’s spot known as Vaseline Alley). It explores the contradictions of growing up in an unconventional household where mom could be found volunteering at her synagogue or re-stocking issues of Hand Job Magazine. It’s an honest and engaging portrait of the legendary X-rated emporium and its unlikely proprietors. Stories are told through interviews conducted by the owners’ own daughter who is an artist, filmmaker and musician.

Buck Angel and Rachel Mason out Outfest 2019 - Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES
Buck Angel and Rachel Mason – Outfest 2019 – Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES
The Masons purchased the West Hollywood Circus of Books in 1982. It closed on February 9, 2019, after standing on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Jolla Ave. since 1960.

The space was taken over by Chi Chi LaRue’s to become Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus. It had its grand opening on January 11, 2020.

Don’t miss the Circus of Books Documentary premiering on Netflix, April 22.

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Paulo Murillo
Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience in LGBT media and more than two decades as a West Hollywood resident. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. Murillo’s work has appeared in numerous print and online publications. He was a contributor to LGBT magazine IN Los Angeles. He is known for the “Hot Topic” column in Frontiers magazine, in which he covered breaking news and local events in the City of West Hollywood. His recent work has been published in the Los Angeles Blade and his articles, essays and photographs can also be seen on the pages of THE FIGHT Magazine. He started “The Share” feature for THE FIGHT, which spotlights members of the Los Angeles recovery community who share about their sober journey. He can be reached at editor@wehotimes.com
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