WeHo’s Historical Circus of Books Announced it is Closing on February 9

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Karen & Barry Mason behind the counter of Circus of Books - Photo by Paulo Murillo

West Hollywood’s historical Circus of Books adult book store finally has a closing date after coasting along for well over a year. Owners Karen and Barry Mason have been trying to lease the space on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd., and La Jolla Ave., but they have had numerous setbacks from potential renters with agreements that never came to fruition.

“Our last day will be Saturday, February 9th,” Mrs. Mason told WEHO TIMES today. “We’re just running out of stuff. We’re pretty much done. We’re still selling stuff every day, but things will be cheap by then. We don’t have the lease signed yet, but I think we have a new tenant. It’s pretty much closing whether we get that lease signed or not. We’ll start renovating the following week.”

The world famous adult bookstore opened in 1960 and was acquired by the Masons in 1982. It has mostly been a source of nostalgia in recent years in what was once a pit stop for many gay men who used to flock past those infamous saloon doors in search of erotic movies, sex toys, lube, poppers or glass pipes throughout the 80s and 90s when the store’s popularity was at its peak. It also attracted straight porn lovers and some famous faces as well.

Circus of Books West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo

When we spoke to Mrs. Mason late November of last year, she seemed pretty confident that her next renter would be in the business of cannabis. She had a top contender and some backup tenants who were competing to get a cannabis license in West Hollywood, which were distributed like they were golden tickets on December 7.

“We have a tenant in place who is hoping to get a license,” She said back then. “If not, we have a strong backup offer and there is also a third offer in place. We expect somebody to rent the store and use it for cannabis. People are pretty much ready to go, but The city of West Hollywood has been putting this date off for a long time, so we’re not sure who is getting on that list.”

A sign went up at the store stating that the space was cannabis compliant and that it qualified as a retail space, but the cannabis plan would hit a major roadblock.

“Unfortunately things did not go according to plan,” she told us last week. “The dispensary that we hoped would lease this, did not get the license and the backup offer decided to go someplace else, so we don’t have a marijuana tenant. We’re hopeful that we’ll get a tenant. We’re having somebody look at it this weekend. I think we may end up with somebody more adult. So far we’re coasting along. We’re still open. We cut our hours a little bit, but we’re still here.

(L-R) Mayor John Duran, Karen Mason, Rachel Mason, Jeff Stryker & Barry Mason – Photo by Paulo Murillo

The closing of the historical Circus of Books has been the subject of a documentary being directed and produced by the Mason’s daughter Rachel MasonDirty Looks: On Location presented a special screening of the CIRCUS OF BOOKS Documentary at the store on June 15, 2018. West Hollywood mayor John Duran attended the event to present the Masons with a city Proclamation. Duran brought along gay porn legend Jeff Stryker as a surprise guest. Stryker reunited with the Masons after being out of touch for many years. The three go way back to the days when the Masons distributed some of Stryker’s biggest porn titles from the 80s. The reunion will be part of the documentary.

As the store moves towards closing, Rachel Mason revealed via email that the documentary will premiere in a few months. It is slated to enter a festival that has yet to be announced.

Circus of Books – Resist March 2017 – Photo by Paulo Murillo

After several pitfalls and broken agreements, Mrs. Mason announced today that the historical Circus of Books is closing in a little over a week after being open for well over 60 years. She has yet to reveal what will take over the iconic space.

“I’d like to be able to announce that, but I can’t do it today,” she said. “I can say we are closing. February ninth is what I told my employees. If people want to come by, we’ll be here until then.”

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Paulo Murillo
Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings close to 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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