This weekend, March 25, Jewel Thais-Williams — the nearly 80-year-old lesbian who opened Los Angeles’s first black gay disco, Catch One—is hosting a Tea Dance fundraiser for the clinic she launched for people living with HIV. The event will feature a live performance by Thea Austin (singer of '90s hit "Rhythm is a Dancer") and will be held at the old Catch One building.
Opened in 1973 to serve L.A.'s black LGBT community, the Catch One nightclub quickly morphed into one of the hottest dance clubs in town, which drew in 1,300 people a night — including celebrities Madonna, Sharon Stone, and Janet Jackson. Over the next four-decades, Catch One’s DJs may have changed their tunes, but the nightclub remained a safe and inclusive place for the black queer and trans community.
Jewel Thais-Williams in 1970s Photo Courtesy of Jewel Thais-Williams.
The difficult days of the AIDS epidemic drew queers of all colors to the nightclub and sparked Thais-Williams’s on-going commitment to help people living with HIV. In 2001, she bought a building near Catch One to open an alternative clinic, offering “nontoxic treatments” for people living with the virus. The Village Health Foundation has expanded since then and now provides affordable, accessible, and culturally competent complementary healthcare treatments to multiple underserved communities (services are provided in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean).
By 2015, when Thais-Williams turned 76 and Catch One had been open 42 years, she knew it was time to “hang up [her] rock and roll shoes,” as she recently told Channel Tyson (read Tyson's full profile of Thais-Williams in The Advocate here). She closed Catch One and is focusing more of her energy on the nonprofit clinic.
Thais-Williams is hosting the Tea Dance fundraiser for the clinic, Sunday, March 25th—at the old Catch One nightclub. The event will honor Bill Alexander, Catch One's first disc jockey, and feature a live performance by Thea Austin (singer of '90s hit "Rhythm is a Dancer"), as well as DJ Key-Key and DJ A-Ski spinning tunes from the disco era to hip-hop. (bitly.com/discoteadance)