Now, the story of the city-changing bookstore and the LGBTQ+ activism it helped engender as a result of the HIV/AIDs crisis is being told in a Ryan Murphy-produced documentary for Netflix, aptly also titled Circus of Books, which daughter Rachel directed.
But Rachel and her brothers were never kept in the loop of what exactly their parents did. So where are Micah and Joshua Mason today, years after the bookstores have closed and all their parents' secrets have come to light? Keep reading.
Where is Joshua Mason from 'Circus of Books' today?
The Mason children were raised attending a "classical, regimented, very intensely patriarchal" Jewish synagogue, and parents Karen and Barry led something of a double life during the years in which they operated their three stores, which served as hubs for the gay community during the '80s in Los Angeles.
Over the course of the film, we get to hear the story of Circus of Books from the Masons directly. Much of the conflict in the documentary stems from Karen's Judaism, which leads her to take shame in the family business and hide the fact that she and her husband work in the adult film distribution industry from her friends and community.
"What's so weird to me is that she's very progressive and yet she could totally absorb this really nasty, in my mind, patriarchal bulls--t," Rachel says at one point in the film. Karen's commitment to her faith is part of why she doesn't respond as positively as one might think from someone familiar with the community when her son came out to the family as gay.
"The movie would not be interesting if it was just about my dad, he's just sort of a fun-loving guy who did respond well to my brother," Rachel shares. "But my mom completely had this double life. The movie is only interesting because there was this massive conflict in her mind."
He's been excitedly posting about the amazing press that Circus of Books has been receiving, and the film's premiere happened to coincide with Josh's 40th birthday. "This will definitely go down as one of the most unique if not the best birthday," he captioned an April 23 photo on Instagram, hours after "sitting down to.... watch myself!" in another post.
Where is Micah Mason today?
The three Mason siblings, along with their parents, attended many of the documentary's initial premieres, including the Tribeca Film Festival screening at Village East Cinema in 2019, as a family.
"If anyone asked us what our parents did, the official answer was... 'We own a bookstore!'," the Masons, now adults, recall of their childhoods. Micah recalls his childhood most fondly in the documentary, and shares his most vivid memory of coming close to discovering the family business: when he found a VHS tape in the family car.
In present-day, we watch him fill with pride as he learns of his mother's past career as a journalist.
Watch this amazing documentary about a family owning a secret porn empire, told by their daughter. Circus of Books is now streaming on Netflix.