Circus of Books - Lilith Likes to Watch Documentary December 2021

Title: Circus of Books
Starring: Karen Mason, Barry Mason, Rachel Mason
Director: Rachel Mason
Synopsis: For decades, a nice Jewish couple ran Circus of Books, a porn shop and epicenter for gay LA. Their director daughter documents their life and times. - Via Netflix
Lilith's Notes: Circus of Books, the store, has been reopened as Chi Chi LaRue's Circus, a high-end adult boutique.

"I think what we did was small human kindesses."

When I say things like "I am not a historian" or "I've never been to film school", I'm not saying it to flaunt my ignorance. I'm saying to make it clear that I am aware I have blind spots. I'm just a woman who likes porn and likes talking about it, and likes to flaunt what meager knowledge I do have. It's why I enjoy documentaries; they me feel like I'm learning in a passive way. I was never a good student.

All this made me a little nervous to review Circus of Books because the trailer made it seem very much a big part of LGBTQ history and I thought maybe I wasn't the right person for the job. I'm not a historian and I'm just a straight woman who likes to watch other women fuck sometimes. I didn't want to put my foot into any muck, say something disrespectful, or simply just not get it.

Circus of Books shows us that you don't have to be part of the scene to fight for the scene.

In the early 80s, Karen AKA The Only Good Karen On Earth and Barry Mason acquired an adult bookstore. Thinking it would be a little lark to pass the time for a few years, they stuck with it for literal decades and provided a safe haven for the Hollywood gay and cruising scene. The Masons were open-minded and non-judgmental. To them, it was a business, a way to pay the bills and put the kids through college.

For the most part, this movie is a shining example of how to be an ally.

Until the last third, when we're suddenly told that Karen takes her Jewish Faith very seriously, her son is gay and didn't feel safe sharing this fact. It doesn't mesh with what the audience had been told for the last hour.

Karen had been a reporter. She had seen the best and worst of people in that career. She was enmeshed in the Hollywood Gay Scene. She peddled porno. She watched friends and employees succumb to HIV and AIDS. She outright states she didn't have a problem with gay people, but it's different when it was her family. The idea of her shunning her own son for being a homosexual didn't feel right.

Eventually, and luckily, Karen comes to accept her son and participates in an alliance organization. It's good. People can change, expand their horizons.

Berry, on the other hand, was caught up in legal hell when the store was raided one year. He had to plead guilty to a felony, which one would assume severely narrowed his prospects in life, employment and other aspects of his life.

Unfortunately, Circus of Books, the store, cannot compete with the internet and dating apps, so they were forced to close. Karen is a practical woman and is not precious about the unsold stock and just trashes the merchandise. 

I would have liked to see more of Barry's reaction to closing the store. He became a felon on behalf of the bookstore, and now it was going away. He sacrificed a great deal on its behalf and I wish the film dove more into his thoughts and feelings.

I honestly expected this film to end with big Save The Rec Centre energy. That the gay community would rally around the Masons and engage in an Everything Must Go sale while a block party raged on out in the streets. That didn't happen.

Circus of Books is what I thought A Secret Love was going to be. It soaked itself in the moments of upheaval and raids and culture and public health. It stood vigil for the sick and suffering. The store was there when others were not. It provided a much better picture of what life and the culture was like than other films we've watched this month. The Masons put their fucking skin in the game and they absolutely did not have to. They had a choice and they did what was right.

Despite their faults, The Masons were true allies, the sort we should all aspire to be like.

Best Moment: Jeff Stryker's voice. Please sir, narrate an audio book. Any audiobook. I will listen.

Worst Moment: The movie sort of peters off at the end.So, that's sort of a bummer.


Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.

FleshlyX - Adult Website Gallery and Job Board