AE Exclusive: “Jewel’s Catch One” Documents the Life of a Humanitarian Pioneer Who Never Gave Up

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Humanitarian and pioneer of providing oppressed groups with a safe social space, Jewel Thais-Williams has dedicated her entire life to helping those outcasted for being poor, female, African-American, gay, some of the above, or — as was Jewel’s case — all of the above. Our AfterEllen exclusive interview with Thais-Williams and director C. Fitz of the documentary Jewel’s Catch One gave us a closer look as to what took place in the making of the film and what life for a Black lesbian in 1974.


“Even the gay clubs in West Hollywood were white dominated.” –C. Fitz

“The big club in West Hollywood was called Studio One and the owner was really blatant about what it was that he wanted.  He even did a big article for the LA Times saying ‘I’d close down if too many women or too many people of color showed up in our club.  I’d shut the door for a couple of weeks then clear it off all fresh again’.” –Jewel Thais-Williams

“Her club was the first one that allowed everybody.” –C. Fitz

Jewel’s Catch One Documentary Interview with AfterEllen – C. Fitz, Jewel Thais-Williams, and Lily Khuu – Photo/Sarah Woodward

Lily Khuu, AE Reporter:  You are very selfless and you focus a lot on the whole LGBT community.  What was it like for you as a Black lesbian growing up in that time — before you opened up the club.”

Jewel Thais-Williams: I had only recognized myself for what I was — being a Black lesbian — a few years prior to opening up the club.  And we’re talking 1973, when we opened.  It wasn’t a good time to come out.  So, I was closeted at work, closeted at church, closeted at home… Closeted everywhere.  We had racism, which was rampant in addition to what would happen at the club. There were riots in LA.  In 1964, there was another one.  Police brutality… you hear a lot of about it now because people have cell phones and they can take pictures.  But, it’s been going on for as long as I can remember.  We were being killed… unnecessarily.

Watch the trailer for Jewel’s Catch One below, which “celebrates the legacy of a legendary Los Angeles nightclub, Catch One, and the life-changing impact its owner, Jewel Thais-Williams, had on her community breaking down racial and cultural barriers and building the oldest black owned disco in America.” The film will be screening June 4 at the Toronto Inside Out Film Festival.

Featured in the documentary are interviews with the likes of Sharon Stone, Sandra Bernhard, Bonnie Pointer, Jenifer Lewis and more. Most famous, however, were Madonna’s visits (it’s been said Catch One was where she learned how to vogue). She even booked the venue to host the release party for her 2000 album Music.

Read our 2016 review of the documentary ‘Jewels Catch One’ HERE. The full documentary is available on Netflix

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