The gay adult store has weathered its share of political pressures and has helped the LGBTQIA+ community thrive in Southern California.
(Note: This story appears in the April 2023 issue of SE Magazine)
Founded in 1960 on the cusp of the sexual revolution, Circus of Books is the longest-standing gay adult store in Los Angeles. Its institutional status is thanks to no less than a history of years in court for the right to distribute porn.
Circus of Books was a place where gay men could find porn and could cruise Vaseline Alley, one of LA’s notorious gay spots, just behind the store, for hook-ups, car dates, quickies, prostitution, as well as other illegal activity, according to the store’s website.
After more than two decades of quiet success, in 1988, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, an extension of President Ronald Reagan, used the U.S. Postal Service to intercept packages from adult distributors. In 1990, three California producers and distributors were indicted on charges of “interstate transportation of obscene material” when they were caught shipping VHS tapes to the store, according to the ‘history” section of their website.
Fortunately for the family who made Circus of Books famous, the Masons never served any time in prison, Barry Mason agreed to a probation without conviction, and the charges were dropped. Circus of Books continues to distribute porn and now sells a plethora of gay adult items.
“We are LGBTQ+ owned & operated and a lot of the companies we carry are, too,” says Samantha Madison, Manager and Buyer for Channel 1 Releasing, adult products retailer, distributor and production house of Circus of Books since 2020. “This is intentional and what Circus of Books is all about. We made Say Gay, Pro Roe & Abort the Court T-Shirt lines last year. We also participate in an annual fundraiser scavenger hunt with wayOUT LA in support of LGBTQ+ youth. We showcase and sell LGBTQ+ books and original artwork and host book readings/signings and other product launches all within and for our community. And of course, allies are always welcome too!”
“We are LGBTQ+ owned & operated and a lot of the companies we carry are, too. This is intentional and what Circus of Books is all about.” – Samantha Madison
No longer a porn hub alone, the best-selling LGBTQIA+ products at Circus of Books are “gift items, poppers, lube, books, jocks, strap-ons, vibes and toys, toys, toys,” according to Madison.
Besides Channel 1 Releasing, Circus of Books stocks and sells products from 665, Stockroom, Si Novelties & Oxballs.
“Blush, Femme Fun, Sportsheets and Tantus have been releasing products that are more geared towards our community, so we’ve been loving that,” Madison adds. More please! Our leather friends Mr S have been sending us some incredible stuff lately as well.”
As for the gender side of the LGBTQIA+ acronym, Madison says that “Trans, ENBY, GNC customers are mostly shopping for the same freaky products as everyone else, but we do carry some different kinds of lubes and lotions, amazing packers, dilators and both anatomical and non-anatomical toys. Our sales staff are super friendly and helpful. Looking for a safe and welcoming space to shop? You have one with us!”
Customers can anticipate pride streaming out of every aspect of Circus of Books. And coming in June, “It goes off in WeHo (West Hollywood) for Pride Month, so we stock up and go hard with special products, extra sales staff and a party vibe in the stores!” shares Madison.
For more information, visit circusofbooks.com.
KEEP READING for a Special Focus Extra from Channel 1 Releasing (C1R), adult products retailer, distributor and production house of Circus of Books since 2020, exclusive online content:
Channel 1 Releasing
Channel 1 Releasing has been a part of the adult industry for well over 20 years, and their roots are in the LGBTQIA+ community. C1R is 100% LGBTQIA+ owned, operated and employed…this was not intentional, they say that they are all just drawn to this family.
During trainings or interviews, Kristin Zuri, Director of Sales, has often said that C1R products are “toys for boys, designed by boys, who like boys”. While not all of their products are “only” for the LGBTQIA community, most are perfect for the gay man. The Rascal Brand is C1R’s Flagship Brand and their original novelty line that was intended to be for the gay community. Their packaging has the newer pride flag on it, and the products are simply more community-friendly.
In the past C1R has been a part of many different charities and outreach programs. Circus of Books is proud to offer Gallery @ Circus at both of their West Hollywood stores. Both galleries support and showcase LGBTQ+ artists that have a harder chance of obtaining gallery spaces. C1R’s flagship Circus of Books store in West Hollywood East regularly hosts symposiums and meetings for LGBTQ+ organizations and groups. C1R and its companies donate and contribute to LGBTQ+ causes throughout the year.
Each year for Pride Month, C1R picks a retail partner to work with during Pride, and they provide swag for giveaways, as well as toys and products for gift bags and raffles. Zuri is often found at a booth or table at these events working with the public and enjoying the event as well. This year, C1R is working with The Phoenix Bar in Nola for their Pride Block Party. They will also be a part of The Phoenix Bar Southern Decadence event later in the year.
C1R also will run sales and specials throughout the year gearing up for Pride. Zuri has also locally worked with LA’s pride events to bring C1R to support.
C1R works with many many many LGBTQIA+ adult retailers all across the world. With everyone in their company identifying with this community, they have an affinity for their LGBTQIA+ partners, and will often go out of their way to assist them in any way they are able. C1R also owns the two Circus of Books stores in Los Angeles, and the stores are often the site of many art shows, Pride events, Educational platforms, as well as simply being safe places within LA.
C1R’s Skwert line has got to be their longest-running best-seller items within the community, The 5pc Douche kit and the Aroma toppers are hard to keep in stock, although their anal balls definitely give them some competition. At least 15 SKUs were intentionally designed for the gay community.
Regarding the rest of the LGBTQIA+ acronym, C1R worked with Buck Angel, transsexual advocate, briefly last year to help him grow his line of Buck’d items, and enjoyed their time with him. C1R has kicked off this year with their new VERS line, and this line was designed for the “everyone” or “not just one” individual.
– Kristin Zuri, Director of Sales of Channel 1 Releasing. For more information, visit c1rb2b.com.
You must be logged in to post a comment.