(America-127) Feb 16, 2019 – grandma and grandpa finally closing porn store in California

pornstore

PERSONAL NOTE: Grandma says she never watch a porn movie during all those years of selling porn products in her store? steve, feb 16, 2019  stephenehling@hotmail.com    blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com

The grandma and grandpa of gay porn: couple call it quits after decades in the erotica business
• For 37 years Karen and Barry Mason have sold gay and straight erotic magazines, hard-core pornographic films and sex toys
• Brought down by the internet, they have closed their bookstore Circus of Books in West Hollywood, California
12 February, 2019
Tribune News Service SCMP

 

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Karen and Barry Mason swear they never planned to sell porn for long. They were just really good at it.
For 37 years, the couple – now septuagenarian grandparents – have run Circus of Books, a bookstore in West Hollywood, California, that sold gay and straight erotic magazines, hard-core pornographic films and sex toys, as well as international newspapers and classic literary titles. “I always assumed that we would end up doing something else,” Karen said. “We don’t know anything, really.”
The Santa Monica Boulevard store gained legendary status in Southern California’s LGBTQ community as a place where people could peruse gay erotica or meet other gay people, hanging out in a place free from homophobia.
Over the years, Circus of Books has survived an FBI raid, federal obscenity charges and complaints from law enforcement, who said the store attracted prostitution and other criminal elements. It remained open during the Aids crisis, when numerous employees died.

But it could not survive Amazon. Strangled by theinternet– where pornography anddating appsabound – Circus of Books closed for good last Saturday.

“A lot of people are sorry to see it go, grateful it’s been there all this time,” Karen said last week. “And as we’reclosing, people are saying, ‘You know, this store saved my life.’”
When the Masons started out in the early 1980s, “Circus of Books and the gay bars were places where people would go to meet, to find each other”, said West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, who is gay. “There was no Grindr or Scruff or Tinder. If you wanted to find community, you had to go out and seek it.”
For many customers, the gay erotica was revolutionary, he said. “It’s not like any of us got this through sex ed or at home with mom and dad,” Duran said. “We had to learn.”
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In the 1970s, Barry made a decent living selling accessories he’d invented for dialysis machines until the cost of medical malpracticeinsurancebecame too much.
After Karen, who had worked as a journalist, spotted a newspaper ad seeking magazine distributors for Larry Flynt – the publisher of Hustler and Chic – Barry started driving around to liquor stores and news-stands, taking orders. Karen did deliveries.
She was pregnant at the time, so she hired unemployed musicians – she preferred drummers, who always seemed the most reliable – to help with heavy lifting.

One West Hollywood store, Book Circus, ordered 600 gay titles, including Blueboy and Honcho, each month and instantly sold out. “I’d have to fill the whole truck up just to fill those titles,” Barry said. Customers were so glad when the magazines arrived, “they would come out front and help me unload it”.
The Masons eventually learned that the bookstore’s owner, who had fallen behind on magazine payments, was being evicted. Barry made a deal with the property manager: he’d pay half the man’s US$1,400 monthly rent until he was evicted if the Masons could take over the lease afterwards.
The couple kept the staff and changed the name to Circus of Books. Along with the pornography, they sold obscure novels from LGBTQ authors as well as science-fiction books, foreign newspapers, even Bibles.
Gay-themed magazines played an important role in assuring people they weren’t alone at a time when homosexuality was taboo, said Joseph Hawkins, director of the One National Gay and Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California.
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For decades, gay magazines – including One, the non-pornographic magazine for which the archive is named – that were sold at news-stands in big cities were obscured behind a tarp or curtain and sold alongside bawdy straight magazines, even if the gay periodicals had no nude pictures.
A typical news-stand would have “just enough space to edge in and look, and there were porn magazines for the straight men and the gay men. Everybody was in there,” Hawkins said. “Sometimes the men in there looking at straight erotica would see you looking at a gay-oriented magazine and get upset.
“You never had a sense of safety. You’d worry there was a vice officer in there who would arrest you for looking at the magazines. … The place was selling the magazine, but you weren’t allowed to look at it.”
The West Hollywood store had its share of drama. The alleyway behind it was a well-known gay cruising spot, and residents and sheriff’s deputies said the 24-hour bookstore attracted prostitutes and drug dealers.
In 1989, the city ordered the store to close from 2am to 6am. Karen Mason told the Los Angeles Times then that they were being used as a scapegoat for a problem they didn’t create. “The hustlers are around the building like roaches,” she said at the time, “and we’ve tried to get rid of them.”
In the early 1990s, an employee shipped several gay and straight pornographic VHS tapes to a customer in the state of Pennsylvania. But it was a sting. The Masons were indicted on federal charges of interstate transport of obscene materials, and the FBI raided their warehouse, carrying guns.

“They were looking for a copy of what was shipped,” Barry said, “a girlie title, and all of them, every time they’d pull out a box they’d laugh at the titles”.
After years of litigation, the Masons avoided jail time by agreeing to a pretrial diversion programme and a US$20,000 fine. For about a year, Barry had to report to federal court once a month to show he was still working and not committing any crimes. Federal investigators, he said, later mailed back the tapes they’d taken as evidence.
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Karen, who gets a bit embarrassed when talking about the pornography, said she’d never watched any of the films. It all seems kind of boring, she said with a shrug. In her spare basement office, Karen still keeps contacts on a Rolodex. She also keeps two sketches done by her children hanging above her desk.
One is a portrait of Mother Teresa. The other is a drawing of a frail man with anoxygentube in his nose. They’re a reminder, she said, that everything in life is finite.

 

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