July 18: Documentary Chronicles the History of WeHo’s Circus of Books

circus of books, vaseline alley, porn,
Circus of Books owners Barry and Karen Mason, subjects of a documentary by their daughter Rachel.

“Circus of Books,” a documentary chronicling West Hollywood’s gay cruising mecca before the age of the internet, will be the subject of a documentary by Rachel Mason, the daughter of its owners.

The documentary will be screened as part of the Outfest film series at the Orpheum Theatre, 842 South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, July 18, at 8 p.m.  Tickets, priced from $60 to $180 can be purchased online.

The documentary will preserve the story of the adult bookstore, which sits on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Jolla. Karen and Barry Mason, its owners for more than 30 years, announced in March last year that they would be closing it.

“We’re at the end of an era,” Karen Mason said in an interview with WEHOville in March 2016. “The neighborhood has changed a great, great deal. I mean, today, with the Internet, with gay marriage, there’s less need for the niche that our store occupied all those years, which is, I think, a good thing.”

The store is in the heart of what was once West Hollywood’s “Vaseline Alley,” a parking lot and alley where gay men cruised for sex.

“There was a lot of activity in the alley behind our store,” Mason said. “People would meet each other here, and even though we, as owners, kept out of it, it was definitely a pickup spot. I think when Circus of Books opened, this was such a special place for people who were gay or were trying to come out or feel comfortable.”

“Over the years, the store has been patronized by famous folks like Elton John, Drew Carey and David Hockney, along with countless gay men to whom the shop became an invaluable meeting place and an important piece of the fabric of life in West Hollywood, L.A.’s foremost LGBT district,” says a promotion of the campaign. “But despite the importance of Circus of Books to men all over the world, brick and mortar bookstores and DVD rental shops have long been slowly fading. Now that the majority of porn is available on the Internet for free, the Masons’ business has taken a severe hit.

“’Circus of Books’ documentary will trace the Masons’ remarkable history of finding themselves the proprietors of the premier gay porn shop, the history and significance of the store in Los Angeles and the gay community in particular and the personal ups and downs the business has brought to the observant Jewish couple and their family.”


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Curtis Beers
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Curtis Beers

$60 for 1 ticket seems kinda high

Rachel Mason
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Rachel Mason

I agree, and I am the director…but its because it is the gala screening. if there is another screening- we will well everyone know. Its also on Netflix in the fall.