Netflix to release documentary Circus of Books about famous LA gay porn shop

The documentary centres around the couple who dominated the US porn distribution industry for three decades, and they're not exactly who you’d think.

Poster for Circus of Books : An old woman and man sit on a couch, a huge image of a man's crotch in jeans on the wall behind them

Looking for another documentary to get stuck into during quarantine? The unusual tale of a straight couple who secretly ran America’s porn distribution industry, Circus of Books will drop on Netflix on Wednesday, April 22. 

Documentary subjects Karen and Barry Mason were by all outward appearances the all-American couple. After meeting at a Jewish singles night they had three children together and both held down respectable jobs, with Karen working as a journalist for well-known newspapers in Chicago and Cincinnati and Barry a special effects engineer in the film industry – even working on Star Trek and 2001 Space Odyssey.

But little did anyone know, that over the years the Jewish couple built a gay porn empire, distributing adult films and magazines across the country and running LA’s best-known gay porn shop, Book Circus, which they later renamed Circus of Books in 1982.

The shop was not only a place to buy porn, but also a safe-haven for many LGBT+ people to meet one another and form friendships and support systems that were very much lacking at the time. Especially during America’s AIDS crisisKaren and Barry provided endless support to the community that kept them in business. 

While Barry made it a point to visit store regulars who were at the end stages of the disease and had entered hospice care, Karen allowed staff with AIDS to work on the days they felt well enough to do so, despite it being illegal at the time, paying them cash-in-hand for their work so they could keep their much-needed health insurance.

After dominating the market for three decades as the largest distributor of gay porn in the US, the couple closed up shop in 2019 due the large numbers of people now getting their porn from online sources.

The documentary contains many first hand accounts from patrons and former employees of the iconic shop as well as interviews with both Barry and Karen and their three children, with one of their kids, Rachel Mason, actually being the director of the Circus of Books documentary.

You can watch the trailer below!

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