Circus of Books

Director: Rachel Mason
2019 | USA | 90m
GENRE: Documentary | Gay | Jewish | Lesbian | Parenting/Family | Queer
SECTION: Documentary
Expected Guests: Director Rachel Mason, Subjects Karen Mason and Barry Mason, Producers Adam Baran and Gerald Herman

For decades, Karen and Barry Mason were the proprietors of Circus of Books, a small but mighty gay pornography outlet nestled in the heart of West Hollywood. Starting out as distributors of Hustler Magazine to support their growing family, the modest couple never expected to become pillars of the community, let alone operate a space referred to as “the center of the gay universe.” With their unassuming storefront, the Masons provided a sanctuary for men to explore their homosexuality at a time before it was accepted. The couple even faced prison time for obscenity during the Reagan era, and they would eventually become the biggest distributors of hardcore gay films in the country, all while raising three children (within a surprisingly conservative home environment).

Featuring salacious stories and candid interviews with former patrons and employees, including drag superstar Alaska Thunderfuck, adult film legend Jeff Stryker, and publishing titan Larry Flynt, filmmaker Rachel Mason peels back the curtain on her parents’ unlikely rise within the industry and LGBTQ+ community, and how their humble business became an historic landmark in this exuberant and penetrating documentary about a traditional family that was anything but.



Jewish Film Institute / GLBT Historical Society

  • Premiere Status: Bay Area