Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus announces grand opening date

Chi Chi LaRue's CircusWEST HOLLYWOOD —Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus is coming to town.

This big top experience is a sexy gay porn retail store that has moved into the former adult bookstore Circus of Books, which closed in February.

Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus

Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus will have its grand opening January 11 from 7 p.m. to midnight. The store was expected to open in May.

The store will follow in the naughty footsteps of Chi Chi LaRue’s, the West Hollywood gay retail emporium a few blocks down the street, and spotlight the history of Circus of Books, Rob Novinger, CEO of Channel 1 Releasing, one of the largest gay-owned and operated adult entertainment companies in the world, told Q Voice News earlier this year.

The tagline for Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus is “Established in 1960. Reimagined in 2020.”

Chi Chi LaRue's Circus

Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus will move into the former home of Circus of Books. The big picture windows will be restored to reflect the building’s original facade. The grand opening is scheduled for January 11, 2020.

Channel 1 Releasing owns, among other brands, Chi Chi LaRue. Both Chi Chi LaRue stores are retail arms for Channel 1 Releasing.

Historic building

The most noticeable change to the former Circus of Books building will be restoration of the big picture windows that are being restored to reflect the original facade, including the Circus of Books sign.

Initially, the building’s original circus stripes would return, but in Chi Chi’s orange and pink theme colors. That plan has been put on hold, Novinger said.

On the merchandise front, Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus will sell a large selection of novelties, sex toys, leather items, condoms, and lubricants. It also will feature a Tom of Finland store-within-a-store.

The shop also will feature rotating exhibits from local LGBTQ artists.

Circus of Books

Circus of Books opened in 1960 and was acquired by Karen and David Mason in 1982. The adult book store was once a pit stop for customers searching for gay movies, sex toys, books, and magazines.

But as online shopping increased in the early 2000s, Circus of Books business decreased.

After hearing a few years ago that the Masons wanted to sell their business, Novinger, through a mutual friend, approached them.

They agreed to sell, and Novinger signed a 10-year lease on the space.

Vaseline Alley

Part of Circus of Books’ legacy was its location near the cruisy gay spot known as Vaseline Alley. The lube section in Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus will be named Vaseline Alley, Novinger said.

Circus of Books also played a vital role for gay men exploring and discovering their sexuality, Novinger said.

“Before the Internet, you only had bars as meeting places,” he said. “In West Hollywood, Circus of Books was a gathering place, too. You went there to meet people.”

Novinger said the store’s merchandise made the location “dirty, racy, and scandalous. It was an epicenter.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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