Dirty Looks: On Location–a 31-day art, performance and film festival throughout the month of July–is hosting a sneak peek preview screening of the Circus of Books documentary, which focuses on the history of the Circus of Books gay porn shops and how the roles they played in Los Angeles LGBT history. The screening will take place at the actual Circus of Book porn shop, located at 8230, Santa Monica Blvd., in West Hollywood, Sunday, June 15, at 7pm. The event is curated by Marvin Astorga and Young Joon Kwak.
Circus of Books, West Hollywood’s gay cruising mecca before the age of the internet, is the subject of the upcoming documentary by Los Angeles-based artist Rachel Mason, the daughter of the bookstore’s owners, Karen and Barry Mason. The documentary will chronicle the history of the storied adult bookstore, located on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and North La Jolla Avenue, in front of what used to be the notorious gay cruising spot, Vaseline Alley, which was popular in the 80s and 90s. The porn shop, which is scheduled to close its doors at some point in 2018 after 57 years, continues to sell erotic movies, sex toys, lube and poppers.
Circus of Books stood as a place of free expression and safe haven for the LGBT community through the tumult and trauma of the AIDs crisis, and the battle for civil rights against the moral majority campaigns of the 1980s and 90s. Karen and Barry lived a hidden life, facing down FBI raids and charges of obscenity, while raising a family that followed conservative Jewish values at home. The film chronicles the dichotomy between their work and home life, and the ruptures and seams that surfaced when their own son comes out as gay. The documentary is an exploration of the multiple identities we inhabit, the collisions that emerge, and the improbable communities we create when assumptions and barriers are dismantled. The documentary also features interviews with Larry Flynt, Alaska Thunderfuck, and Jeff Stryker.
According to Rachel Mason, the Circus of Books documentary is in post production. She says the film is being edited and a rough cut should be complete by the end of this summer.
The documentary had a short experimental screening at the former Circus of Books location in Silver Lake on July 5, as part On Location’s Human Bridge exhibit by experimental artist Aimee Goguen.
“The West Hollywood screening is the very first public teaser of the documentary,” Mason tells WEHO TIMES. “We’re going to be showing some super raw, early scene selections from the doc. People will get a taste of the style, and the way we are telling the story and they will see how we are getting into the narrative of who my parents are and were when they got the store, and the fight they fought for LGBT rights at a time when there were very few people–especially straight people–staking out much territory to help.”
Rachel Mason will present selections from the work-in-progress film. There will be a short screening followed by a Q&A with the owners of the gay porn shop. Film crews will also be present on location, capturing a behind-the-scenes look of the screening, which could possibly end up in the documentary.
Mason also wants to put the word out to anyone who may have Circus of Books archival footage–be it video or personal photos in their possession, and is willing to share these items to document them as part of gay history. “The gay historical record of the gay community in West Hollywood and Silver Lake is vastly diminishing,” she said. “People are dying and they are taking these things to the grave.”
Send your photos and/or video footage to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Circus of Books documentary visit documentary.org/project/circus-books
Dirty Looks: On Location began in 2012 in the bars and community centers that fill New York City. Pitting screenings or performances in everyday spaces brought new life to the works, focusing on the social nature of art making in the city. On Location 2018 was organized by 13 local curators, artists and promoters, playing with venues and meeting places that defined queer life in Los Angeles: 31 spaces across the 31 days of July, charting a progression of culture(s) using one month’s time.
According to their website, there is no city that feels quite as diverse, vast or chaotic as L.A. We have also witnessed the erasure of many queer communal spaces, a byproduct of gentrification, apps and online culture or the AIDS crisis. On Location celebrates thriving spaces while also paying homage to the lost lesbian bars, bookstores or significant storefronts from which political activism once erupted. Through fun summer screenings and shows featuring local musicians and artists, this is a look back to move forward with a deeper understanding.
To learn more, visit http://dirtylooksla.org/