When it opened in 1973, Jewel’s Catch One in Los Angeles was one of the country’s first black discos—dubbed the West Coast’s answer to Studio 54.
It was also a rare space for LGBT people to let their hair down and be themselves.
But Jewel Thais-Williams was more than just a club owner—she became a community activist and healer, helping to launch the Minority AIDS Project and the Imani Unidos Food Pantry, and opening the Village Healthcare Foundation right next to the Catch One.
In the new documentary Jewel’s Catch One, now playing the festival circuit, filmmaker C. Fitz has captured her remarkable story.
“I wanted the world to meet this woman who literally transformed a corner in Los Angeles into its own village that served thousands,” Fitz tells NewNowNext. “Through her club, her community work, her clinic—and selfless years of dedication to all walks of life—Jewel became a pioneer.”
While the film does delve into serious issues—racism, misogyny, the devastation of the AIDS epidemic—it also celebrates the joy and freedom the club provided, offering a stellar soundtrack and interviews with Sharon Stone, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Sandra Bernhard and others who partied there.
Fitz describes it as “a fast-paced, fun musical history lesson through four decades of this inspirational woman’s life.”
Though she closed the club last year, Thais-Williams, 77, is still very active in the community. (She was even a grand marshal at L.A. Pride Parade this year.)
She says she hopes people see the documentary and realize “we can all do more.”
“One person following their vision—with patience and perseverance—can make a difference.”
Jewel’s Catch One screens at the London BFI Fest on October 8 and 9, and the Milwaukee LGBT Film Fest on October 17.