Review: Jewel’s Catch One

Review: Jewel’s Catch One

By Unique Dowtin

Jewel Thais-Williams is a force to be reckoned with. C. Fitz the, director of Jewel’s Catch One, introduces her with such subtlety that you may mistake Thais-Williams as just one of the thousands of patrons who frequented Catch One during its 42-year run. In the middle of praises of how much fun, how relevant and how popular Catch One was (it was considered the Studio 54 of the West Coast), Thais-Williams simply says “the club was created to fulfill a need.”

“Above all, Thais-Williams was a community advocate.”

    Catch One, a black-owned disco for the LGBTQ community, opened in 1973 in Los Angeles at a time when black and brown people were being denied entry into other clubs for the color of their skin. Thais-Williams opened Catch One when it was illegal for women to tend bar, and she learned the basics of electric and plumbing. She took pride in buffing Catch One’s floors to a brilliant shine. Thais-Williams created a space that accepted everyone regardless of race, gender or sexuality. The club gained popularity and became the place to be in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Celebrities flocked to Catch One because all pretenses were thrown to the wind; everyone was “somebody” at Catch One. Scenes from Beaches, Pretty Woman and Straight Outta Compton, among others, were filmed at the Catch.

   Above all, Thais-Williams was a community advocate. At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s, she opened Catch One to homeless  people living with HIV/AIDS. She provided food and shelter at the club for men and women who were forcibly outed by their diagnoses and had no place to land. Thais-Williams watched as more than half of the men who frequented Catch One as vibrant young men withered away before her eyes in the last place to accept them.

This advocacy lead Thais-Williams to open the Village Health Foundation in 2001. Thais-Williams brought an adjacent building on Crenshaw and Pico and added a Village Health Clinic, a Vegan Village Internet Cafe and the Village Manor along with Catch One. At 56 years old and while still running the club, Thais-Williams decided to go back to school and received a Master’s degree in Chinese medicine. She spent the next decade serving more than 6,000 patients out of the Village Health Clinic. Jewel’s Catch One is a testament to what one person can do to serve their community. This documentary shows the power of Thais-Williams perseverance, gratefulness and humility as she quietly carved out a place for herself and other LGBTQ people of color like her. In a time when most clubs lasted three years, Catch One survived for 42 years.

Jewel’s Catch One is currently streaming on Netflix, allow yourself the favor of “Catching” this documentary.

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