entertainment

'Circus of Books': Watch the trailer for Netflix's new film about an unlikely '80s gay porn empire

The film tells the story of a straight couple who became the largest gay porn distributors in the US during the 1980s.

2020-04-14

With just over a week until it lands on Netflix, the streaming giant has dropped the trailer for its new documentary film Circus of Books, which tells the story of the Jewish straight couple who built a gay-porn empire in the 1980s.

Barry and Karen Mason ran Circus of Books, a gay porn shop in Los Angeles, after becoming porn distributors to make ends meet for their family of five.

The film, directed by the couple’s daughter Rachel Mason and executive produced by Ryan Murphy, shows how the bookshop was a cornerstone of LA’s LGBTQ community, and was a very profitable venture in the 1980s when adult material was in high demand.

After taking it over in 1982, the Masons opened a second (and later third) store in another part of the city and grew the business to become the biggest gay porn distributors in the US.

However, the trailer (which also stars Drag Race queen Alaska) shows Karen saying how she “never felt free to let anybody know what [they] did”.

She adds: “It was like a knife over our heads all the time."

Barry and Karen’s children – one of whom identifies as gay – were kept in the dark about what their parents did for a living.

Initially a money-making venture, the couple became more active allies when the AIDS crisis began to ravage the gay community in the 1980s.

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

Footage shows them taking part in PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) marches, while members of the LGBTQ community say that Circus of Books was their “first glimpse into the fact that [they weren’t] alone as a gay person” and “kept [them] out of harm’s way”.

The last Circus of Books branch – the original store in West Hollywood – closed last February due to the rise of online pornography and cruising apps like Grindr replacing the need for physical cruising spaces.

'Circus of Books' will arrive on Netflix on Wednesday 22 April. Check out the trailer below: