Circus of Books has closed, but three-ring adult antics will continue at the historic location when Chi Chi Larue’s Circus opens in the spring.
Chi Chi LaRue’s, the West Hollywood gay porn emporium retail space on Santa Monica Boulevard west of La Cienega, will open its second location May 1.
CHI CHI LARUE’S CIRCUS
Like it’s iconic predecessor, the new big top will also sell a large selection of sex toys, leather items, condoms, and lubricants.
Chi Chi LaRue’s is the retail arm Channel 1 Releasing, one of the largest gay-owned and operated adult entertainment companies in the world.
The new Circus will blend Chi Chi LaRue’s upscale, naughty retail store with the history of Circus of Books, said Rob Novinger, CEO of Channel 1 Releasing, who signed a 10-year lease for the space last month.
CIRCUS OF BOOKS’ HISTORY
“It’s a great location and historical,” Novinger said in a telephone interview.
Part of Circus of Books’ legacy was its location directly in front of the notoriously cruisy gay spot behind the store known as Vaseline Alley. The store’s lube section will be named Vaseline Alley, Novinger said.
“I moved to West Hollywood when I was 20 years old. Vaseline Alley was still going,” Novinger said. “I remember that before I was in the adult industry. It’s a historical for me, too.”
CRUISY MEETING PLACE
At the time, decades before the internet and hook-up apps, Circus of Books was also played an important role for gay men discovering and exploring their sexuality.
“Things are so different now, Novinger said. “Before the internet, you only had bars as meeting places. In West Hollywood, Circus of Books was a gathering place, too. You went there to meet people.
“The content inside the store made it dirty, racy, and scandalous,” Novinger said. “It was an epicenter.”
The original store, Book Circus, opened in 1960 and had red and white stripes. Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus will have their signature pink and orange stripes.
When Barry and Karen Mason bought the store in 1982, they changed the name to Circus of Books. Novinger initially spoke with the Masons a few years ago when he heard they were selling the store, he said.
A medical marijuana dispensary owner wanted to buy the space, but when that sale didn’t happen, the Masons and Novinger rekindled their conversation about Chi Chi LaRue’s opening a second location in the space.
The facade of the building will display the name Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus, and the big picture windows that faced Santa Monica Boulevard back in the day will return to the building. The interior also will receive a makeover Novinger said.
Also, both Chi Chi LaRue’s locations will feature a Tom of Finland store-within-a-store.