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Program 15: Circus of Books

Directed by Rachel Mason

To Rachel Mason, her family seemed just like any other American family. Her parents, Karen and Barry, were great parents. They supported and provided for their three children. Just like any family, they had outings, celebrations, and regular trips to synagogue. But the Masons had a secret, one so closely kept that the kids didn’t even know until they were teenagers: the Masons’ family business is a hardcore gay adult bookstore.

Karen and Barry Mason have run Circus of Books, a prominent adult bookstore in West Hollywood, since 1982. After his medical supply business went under, Barry Mason took a job distributing adult magazines for Larry Flynt. Soon he would purchase one of the stores on his route and turn it into a bustling business that would become a top seller, and occasional producer, of gay pornography. They even helped to produce Jeff Stryker’s iconic adult film, Stryker Force.  Circus of Books became such a pillar of the local gay scene, that the alley behind the store became known as Vaseline Alley – West Hollywood’s most prolific hook-up spot.

Circus of Books is a three-ring spectacle, dazzling audiences with the story an eccentric all-American family, the ups and downs of a hardcore adult business, and a unique slice of gay history. Directed by Rachel herself, Circus of Books is intimate, personal, and endlessly entertaining. It is full of twists and turns that surprise both the audience and the filmmaker. It features interviews with Larry Flynt, Jeff Stryker, and former Circus of Books employee, Alaska (Rupaul’s Drag Race All-Stars). Hitting on everything from Jewish faith and parenting to the AIDS crisis, Reagan-era obscenity laws, and even a trip to a sex-toy trade show, Circus of Books is one of the most entertaining ImageOut documentaries in years.

~ Stephen Weisenreder

Awards & Accolades

  • Opening Night Selection – Outfest LA LGBT Film Festival
  • Closing Night Selection – North Bend Film Fest (Washington)
  • Official Selection – Tribeca Film Festival
  • Official Selection – Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival
  • Official Selection – Frameline SF Int’l LGBTQ+ Film Festival
  • Official Selection – Reeling Chicago LGBTQ+ Int’l Film Festival
  • Official Selection – aGLIFF All Genders, Lifestyles and Identities Film Festival (Austin)
  • Official Selection – Provincetown International Film Festival
  • Official Selection – Hamptons International Film Festival
  • Official Selection – True/False Film Fest

Dates & Times


Little Theatre 1

Sun, Oct 13
3:15 pm