Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus is having a Grand reopening of a newly re-imagined Circus of Books. The adult retail space was originally scheduled to open last May, 2019.
Construction has already begun and Rob Novinger, CEO of Channel 1 Releasing (C1R) and part owner of Chi Chi LaRue’s in West Hollywood, told WeHo Times last February, that he plans to
“keep as much of the history as possible.”
Channel 1 Releasing is the largest gay owned and operated adult entertainment company in the world. Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus will include the the history of Circus of Books, and an additional element will be a new Tom of Finland store-within-a-store, which brings even more LGBTQ history.
A little background on Ms LaRue… former porn producer and director, Chi Chi helped make drag a little more mainstream. Her appearances in movie roles, TV spots and music videos (Hello, RuPaul!) made her a recognizable face.
Circus of Books opened in 1960 and was acquired by Karen and David Mason in 1982. According to the BBC,
“Our parents ran a secret gay porn empire”
It wasn’t the most obvious career choice for Karen and Barry Mason, and not one they could talk about openly. But for years the couple ran LA’s best-known gay porn shop, and distributed adult material across the US.
Outwardly they were a respectable family. Karen had been a journalist on well-known newspapers in Chicago and Cincinnati. Barry had worked as a special effects engineer in the film industry, including Star Trek and 2001 Space Odyssey. They had met at a Jewish singles night and their three children went to Shabbat services, prayer meetings and studied hard at school.
The children, Micah, Rachel and Josh, were given strict instructions, when they visited the shop, never to look at or touch any of the products. They also had it drummed into them never to tell their friends the shop’s name.
According to daughter Rachel Mason,
“When that store closed it was unbelievable, the kind of reaction. People walked in and just burst into tears. I mean, people walked in through the front door, and were just crying…”
Many veteran customers and former staff members mourned the loss of what had once been one of their only safe spaces – and a part of LA’s gay history.
A documentary, Circus of Books, directed by Rachel Mason and produced by Ryan Murphy, is out on Netflix in the spring of 2020.
The circus stripes are coming back too, but in Chi Chi LaRue’s themed colors and Mason says that she approves of the updates and changes coming to the new store.
Don’t miss the grand opening of Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus January 11 from 7pm-midnight at 8230 Santa Monica Blvd.
Speaking of LaRU!? Here’s Chi Chi in Mama Ru‘s WOW produced and shot Jealous of My Boogie!
(Photos, CR1, Rachel Mason; via WeHo Times)