Union to rename as Catch One, tribute to club’s African-American gay history

Jewel's Catch One

The popular nightclub Union will officially rebrand itself Catch One on Monday as a homage to the venue’s original name and rich history in the African-American LGBTQ community, according to the club. Union’s rebranding to Catch One will include a new logo and signage for the venue, but the original Jewel’s Catch One sign will remain on the side of the building. Photo: Los Angeles Conservancy.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS — The club Union will officially return to its original name, Catch One, on Monday as a homage to the venue’s rich history in the African-American LGBTQ community, according to the club.

Union’s rebranding to Catch One will include a new logo and signage for the venue, but the original Jewel’s Catch One sign will remain on the side of the building, said spokeswoman Kate Webster.

The Union sign on top will be replaced with the new Catch One logo. All other architectural elements on the building will stay the same, Webster said.

RETURNING TO CATCH ONE

In an interview with LA Weekly in July, club owner Mitch Edelson said he had been thinking about the name change for a while. Union bought Jewel’s Catch One in 2015 from Jewel Thais-Williams, who opened the pioneering gay disco in 1973 as a safe space for the LGBTQ African Americans. Under Edelson, the venue turned into a live music venue with everything from soul, funk, and jazz nights, to heavy metal, hip hop, and EDM.

Part of Edelson’s decision to rename the club was influenced by the popularity of the 2017 documentary “Jewel’s Catch One,” which explores club’s rich history and Thais-Williams groundbreaking role in making it a success.

Jewel’s Catch One eventually became known as the “unofficial Studio 54 of the West Coast,” and Thais-Williams became a national role model on fighting discrimination and breaking down racial, social, and cultural barriers.

Union and now Catch One will continue the tradition of welcoming queer artists and people to the space, Edelson said.

We’ll always be very queer-friendly and very accepting of everybody,” Edelson told LA Weekly. “We want everyone to be themselves.”

PIONEERING CLUB

After experiencing discrimination from clubs in West Hollywood because she was a black lesbian, Jewel Thais-Williams opened Jewel’s Catch One in 1973 in Mid City at the corner of Pico Boulevard and Norton Avenue.

She established Catch One as a safe-haven for the African-American LGBTQ community at a time when such places rarely existed.

At the time, it also was groundbreaking for a black woman to own and operate a nightclub.

Thais-Williams adopted “catch one” because it was a popular expression in the African-American gay community that meant finding a new friend of love interest.

TRAILBLAZER

Thais-Williams kept the club open more than 40 years  in the face of systemic racism, the AID’s epidemic of the 1980s, and a 1985 arson attack that almost burned the venue to the ground.

Catch One also was popular with the glitterati, hosting performances and celebrities, including Sylvester, Rick James, Gloria Gaynor, Janet Jackson, Chaka Kahn, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Donna Summer, Tina Turner, and Luther Vandross.

Thais-Williams still focuses on the community. She works with the Village Health Foundation, a clinic she founded next door to the club that offers alternative health care treatments and educational programs.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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