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LGBTQ

Hundreds Celebrate Dedication of ‘Jewel Thais-Williams Square’

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LOS ANGELES — Thais-Williams is the second black woman and the first Black lesbian to receive honors in the City’s history. Over 400 people came out to witness the historic designation by Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson of “Jewel Thais-Williams Square” in Arlington Heights Saturday. 

The square sits at Pico Boulevard and Norton Avenue in front of the site of the night club she founded in 1972, ‘Jewel’s Catch One’, that became a safe haven for the Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Thais-Williams has since become recognized by many as a matriarch of Los Angeles’ Black LGBT community.  With this designation, Thais-Williams becomes the second Black woman in the history of the City of Los Angeles to have a square named after her and the first Black lesbian to receive the honor.  

For over four decades, Thais-Williams helped change the course of our country by breaking down racial, social and cultural barriers. One of the original safe spaces for the Black LGBT community, The Catch, also served as a refuge for many during the AIDS crisis.

LGBT and human rights activist Jewel Thais-Williams addresses the hundreds gathered at the Catch One nightclub in Los Angeles in honor of her square dedication. Jewel opened ‘Jewel’s Catch One’ at the intersection of Pico Blvd. and Norton Ave. in 1972 and it quickly became a safe haven for the Black LGBT community in Los Angeles. Photo credit Office of Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson.

As Thais-Williams’ club grew to become known as the “unofficial Studio 54 of the West Coast,” Jewel became a national role model for how to fight discrimination and serve the less fortunate. 

Thais-Williams graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in History; and during her college years, she wanted to be self-employed. Her first business was a boutique, but it went out of business, so she bought a bar.

She opened the club after she experienced discrimination in different clubs around West Hollywood because she was Black and female. Women at the time were not allowed to tend bar, but Jewel saved enough money and bought the bar despite the limitations.

When the club opened, it became a hub for a diverse population of performers, including Sylvester, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, Donna Summer, Whoopi Goldberg, Rick James and Madonna.

While she was still the nightclub owner, Jewel went back to school and got her Master’s of Science in Oriental Medicine from Samra University in 1998. Due to the high rate of preventable diseases such as diabetes and obesity in minority populations, Jewel decided to open a non-profit called the Village Health Foundation next door to The Catch.

Jewel Thais-Williams and her wife, Rue, with Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson as the sign is unveiled. Photo credit Office of Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson.

It was created with the purpose of educating lower-income communities on nutrition and living a more healthy lifestyle and continues to serve the community. As profiled by journalist, Karen Ocamb, “Thais-Williams became a mother figure to many, helping her ‘kids’ get clean and sober and providing comfort to Black gay men rejected by their families and church during the AIDS crisis.”

But Thais-Williams took the extra step and co-founded the Minority AIDS Project and Imani Unidos Food Pantry in South L.A. while joining the Board of AIDS Project Los Angeles to bring their HIV/AIDS services ‘down to the hood.’ Ocamb continued, “additionally, with her wife, Rue, Thais-Williams founded Rue’s House, the nation’s first housing facility for women with AIDS and their children, most of whom were poor and Black.” 

Thais-Williams funded Rue’s House from revenue at The Catch. A number of the women living with AIDS staying here publicly raised the issue of what would happen to their children after they died.  After the women gained access to life-saving HIV medications, Rue’s House transition to a sober living facility. 

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Business

RAGE is Latest Venue to Fall Victim to the Pandemic

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Another LGBTQ+ Nightlife Destination Has Fallen Victim to the Pandemic

WEST HOLLYWOOD (L.A. Magazine) — Rage nightclub has been a destination for LGBTQ+ nightlife in the bustling Santa Monica Boulevard corridor of West Hollywood for decades. Now, nearly 40 years after first opening its doors, the club has announced it has permanently closed, yet another local business to collapse amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rage nightclub management lays some portion of the blame on their landlord, Monte Overstreet. The club’s now-former general manager, Ron Madrill, told Q Voice News that rent for the location was already “very high” prior to operations shutting down in March. He says he believes an impasse over rent payments may have contributed to Rage’s closure.

Overstreet also reportedly owns the space formerly occupied by neighboring bar Flaming Saddles Saloon, which also announced […]

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Celebrity News

Anderson Cooper Reveals He’s a Dad, Welcomes New Baby Boy

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Anderson Cooper Reveals He's a Dad, Welcomes New Baby Boy

NEW YORK CITY (TMZ) — Anderson Cooper is the proud new father of a baby boy … revealing Wyatt Morgan Cooper to the world.

The CNN anchor took to Instagram Thursday night to reveal earlier this week Wyatt was born via surrogate. Cooper said, “As a gay kid, I never thought it would be possible to have a child, and I’m grateful for all those who have paved the way, and for the doctors and nurses and everyone involved in my son’s birth.”

As for Wyatt’s name, 52-year-old says it’s in honor of his dad, who passed away when he was just 10, saying, “I hope I can be as good a dad as he was.”

Anderson also shared a sweet message about his surrogate, saying, “Most of all, I am grateful to a remarkable surrogate who carried Wyatt, and watched over him lovingly, and tenderly, and gave birth to him. It is an extraordinary blessing – what she, and all surrogates give to families who cant have children.”

Finally, Anderson says, “I do wish my mom and dad and my brother, Carter, were alive to meet Wyatt, but I like to believe they can see him. I imagine them all together, arms around each other, smiling and laughing, happy to know that their love is alive in me and in Wyatt, and that our family continues.” His mother, Gloria Vanderbilt died last year.

Wyatt is Anderson’s first child … Congrats!!

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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Books

Mister Rogers Told Co-Star Don’t Come Out as Gay, and Marry a Woman

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Mister Rogers Told Co-Star Don't Come Out as Gay, and Marry a Woman

(TMZ) — “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was no place for gay people … so says one of the stars.

Francois Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons from 1968 – 1995, says in his new memoir, Fred Rogers got wind of the fact Clemmons was gay, pulled him aside and said, “Franc, you have talents and gifts that set you apart and above the crowd. Someone has informed us that you were seen at the local gay bar downtown. Now, I want you to know, Franc, that if you’re gay, it doesn’t matter to me at all.”

And, then the other shoe dropped … “Whatever you say and do is fine with me, but if you’re going to be on the show as an important member of the ‘Neighborhood,’ you can’t be out as gay.”

Clemmons told People Rogers told him secrecy was the only way … “You must do this Francois … because it threatens my dream,” adding, “I was destroyed. The man who was killing me had also saved me. He was my executioner and deliverer. But, at the same time, I knew that he would know how to comfort me.”

According to Clemmons, whose memoir is titled, “Officer Clemmons,” Rogers also told him the audience didn’t care who he was sleeping with … “especially if it’s a man.”

And, there’s more … according to Clemmons, Rogers urged him to marry a woman, and he obliged. Clemmons married La-Tanya Mae Sheridan. They divorced in 1974 and later Clemmons came out.

He says he forgives the legendary TV host … “Lord have mercy, yes. I forgive him. More than that, I understand. I relied on the fact that this was his dream. He had worked so hard for it. I knew Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was his whole life.”

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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