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Could this be the new Tiger King? New Netflix documentary Circus of Books follows a straight couple who built a gay porn empire

Patrick Kelleher April 14, 2020
Barry and Karen Mason Netflix Circus of Books gay porn Tiger King

Barry and Karen Mason in the Circus of Books trailer (YouTube)

Circus of Books – the new Netflix film about a straight couple who built a gay porn empire – could be the Tiger King replacement we’ve been waiting for.

The documentary tells the story of popular gay porn store Circus of Books, which was run by a straight couple.

Barry and Karen Mason met at a Jewish singles night, had three children and started their careers working in regular jobs – but when they ran into financial difficulty, they became porn distributors.

They started off distributing the straight porn magazine Hustlers but went on to work for gay porn publications too, and later took over a gay porn shop in Los Angeles.

Circus of Books was a mainstay of LGBT+ life in the city for decades and provided a safe, accepting and welcoming space for queer people.

Executive produced by Ryan Murphy and directed by the couple’s daughter Rachel Mason, the documentary examines how the Masons became the biggest gay porn distributors in the United States — and how they hid it from their family.

Circus of Books trailer reveals how straight couple built a gay porn empire.

 

In the recently-released trailer for Circus of Books, Karen Mason explains how people could “make a lot of money” from selling adult materials in the 1980s.

“We were probably the biggest distributor of hardcore gay films in the United States — but I never felt free to let anybody know what we did.”

She added: “It was like a knife over our heads all the time.”

Meanwhile, Barry Mason opened up about the the impact the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s had on their store.

“We lost so many of our employees. We’d call parents to say, ‘your son is sick’, and the parents would just say, ‘I never want to see the guy again.'”

Karen and Barry Mason are big allies to the LGBT+ community, even though their store has now closed down.

The couple never set out to support the LGBT+ community, but they “were not going to let other forces tell them what to do,” a voice-over in the trailer says.

The Netflix documentary will also detail how the couple struggled with what they did for a living as relatively conservative, religious people.

Over time, the couple learned to become more accepting and open — a process that was accelerated when one of their sons came out as gay.

Sadly, Circus of Books has since closed down due to the popularity of online porn, but the documentary will help to immortalise a store that was an essential outlet for the queer community in Los Angeles for many years.

Circus of Books will be released on Netflix on April 22.

 

More: circus of books, Los Angeles, netflix, Tiger King

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