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Circus of Books: A Straight Couple Runs a Gay Bookstore

Families all have little secrets, but the Masons had a big one: The family business was porn… which sounds like the lead-in to a grim story of shame and abuse, of which the film is the exact opposite.

Directed by daughter Rachel Mason and featuring her parents, Karen and Barry, and brothers, Micah and Josh—Circus of Books explores the paradoxes of growing up the children of an ordinary, genial couple who owned and operated the most famous gay porn shop in West Hollywood. On the one hand, bar mitzvahs, family dinners, school life and trips to the playground, on the other being told to “look down” whenever mom had to stop by work while ferrying around the kids. Not that they did—“wandering eyes,” recalls Josh, while Micah recounts the sad tale of finding a videocassette in the car and patiently waiting months for the opportunity to sneak a peek… only to discover that it was a beta tape and they had a VCR. It wasn’t that Karen and Barry were ashamed of what they did for a living; they were just afraid their kids might be shunned if their friends’ parents found out.