L.A. nightclub, the Catch One, opened its doors to patrons of all backgrounds, surviving through thick and thin for 42 years, changing lives along the way.
Jewel’s Catch One explores the history of the nightclub, and its impact on Los Angeles society over the years, with first-hand interviews with the club’s owner Jewel Thais-Williams and people in her inner circle, along with people whose lives had been impacted by the club, including famous celebrities like Sharon Stone. Jewel, the driving force behind the nightclub’s enduring success over the last four decades bought her venue back in 1973 with minimal funds, but a strong desire to succeed. To make matters worse, here was a young woman that was not only African-American, but also poor, female, and a lesbian – trying to succeed in a racially charged time-period, where being a queer female would win you no favours, let alone help you get your foot in the door in an industry where to that point, was mostly dominated by white people, and whose clubs were mostly attended by young, white, straight partygoers.
Through sheer will and determination, Jewel managed to acquire the Catch One and open its doors to people of all colours, race, and sexuality, turning it into one of the hottest nightclubs in America, fondly dubbed the Studio 54 of the west. Jewel speaks openly in the documentary about her hardships with running the club, from the venue surviving a tragic fire, persevering through the AIDS crisis in the 80’s and having lost many a friend along the way, through to battling prejudice from local authorities – Jewel had seen it all. On top of all that, the remarkable woman earned herself a Masters degree in Acupuncture in the middle-years of her life, and went on to open up a community health clinic and a popular vegan café next door to her club, again opening the doors to people of all creeds and socio-economical backgrounds.
It’s Jewel’s story that is the heart and soul of the documentary, making up its most intriguing elements. Her story is one of hard work and dedication, and should serve as an inspiration to anyone watching the film. Director C.Fitz does a commendable job at capturing the history of Jewel and the Catch One, but has some issues with the film’s beats, never really allowing for any shocking moments to catch the viewer off-guard. With a story as rich in history as this one, and the countless events that transpired over the years, there would have surely been some stories that would have made for more entertaining viewing, be it for comedic or sombre purposes. There are parts of the story and Jewel’s journey that certainly fit that criteria, but are not covered in-depth in the documentary, partly due the fact that there was so much information to cover. Nevertheless, it’s a good effort on Fitz’s behalf.
Jewel’s Catch One is an informative, and somewhat entertaining documentary about a nightclub that changed the lives of many a prejudiced people over the four decades it was open for. It’s Jewel’s story that is most interesting here, and her efforts to develop social inclusivity under extreme scrutiny is as inspirational as it gets.
Jewel Thais-Williams received the Legacy award from Entertainment AIDS Alliance at their Wine, Wisdom & Vision Event on June 22, 2017, with Thea Austin performing and director C. Fitz on hand.
Jewel’s Catch One is screening as part of the 2017 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, for tickets please visit the MDFF official website.