Filmmaker Rachel Mason documents her parents' unlikely enterprise, which served LA's gay community for decades
Karen and Barry Mason are about as straitlaced a couple as you could imagine, hardly the kind of people you would expect to be running a gay bookstore. But for more than 35 years they owned Circus of Books in Los Angeles--selling books, magazines, porno videos, sex toys and what have you to the gay community.
Artist and filmmaker Rachel Mason and her siblings grew up not really understanding the nature of their parents' line of work. Before the advent of the internet wiped out the business, Mason began documenting her parents and their mom-and-pop operation. The result is Circus of Books, a new documentary premiering April 22 on Netflix, executive producer by Ryan Murphy (Pose, American Horror Story, Glee).
When I spoke with Mason at the Tribeca Film Festival, where Circus of Books premiered last year, she told me she was in high school when some of her gay friends revealed what the bookstore was all about.
"I thought it was really crazy," she recalled thinking, "because [my parents] are not the people I thought would be at the center of a space that was cool and interesting and fun."
There are many hilarious moments in the film, none more so than when mom Karen is going through inventory at the store, including the latest shipment of cock rings. But the new trailer emphasizes some of the more serious aspects of the film, including what Circus of Books meant to gay people in LA and how the AIDS epidemic decimated the community in the 1980s.
Watch the trailer below (and below that I have posted my interview with Rachel Mason from Tribeca).
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.