Netflix's upcoming documentary Circus
of Books looks at the straight couple who created a gay adult
media empire and stood by the LGBT community during the AIDS crisis.
Circus of Books from executive
producer Ryan Murphy had its world premiere at last year's Tribeca
Film Festival. It arrives on Netflix on April 22.
Barry and Karen Mason took over Book
Circus bookstore on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1982. The couple, who
had been working as distributors for Larry Flynt's publications,
renamed it Circus of Books. At its height, there were three Circus of
Books locations in Los Angeles.
“In the 80s, if you could sell adult
material, you could make a lot of money,” Karen
Mason says in the film's trailer.
“We were probably the biggest
distributor of hardcore gay films in the United States,” she adds.
“But I never felt free to let anybody know what we did.”
“Mom was caught between this stuffy
conservative synagogue and the business,” one of the couple's sons
But their disinterest in their
merchandise didn't stop the Masons from becoming local heroes and
developing a cult following in the LGBT community.
During the AIDS crisis, the couple
financially supported ailing employees.
Their business began to decline as gay
pornography moved online and hook-up apps replaced cruising spots.
Circus of Books is directed by
Rachel Mason, the Masons' daughter, who began documenting her
parent's work as they prepared to shutter their last remaining store