[Once a Star raw: Minnesota Fats #1]

An interview with revered pool hustler, Rudolf "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone. With tales from his life, Fats recalls his illustrious career as a pool player and card shark, describing the places he's visited around the world, how he earned the "Minnesota Fats" moniker, and a time when he was able to draw over 300,000 people to watch him play pool. It was shot for the documentary Once a Star.

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00:57Copy video clip URL Medium shot of Rudolf  “Minnesota Fats” Wanderone, talking loosely about the regulation sizes of pool balls and cues, as well as the logistics of pool games played around the world.

01:44Copy video clip URL Fats begins telling about all of the places around the world in which he’s played pool matches, from Berlin to Mexico City. “I’ve played everywhere. Take a pin, and stick it in a map–I’ve played in every country in the world.”

02:27Copy video clip URL Discussing his days as a card shark, Fats describes the kinds of card games he’s played in different countries, bringing up 12 Card Rummy in South America and Russian Pinochle in Moscow.

03:24Copy video clip URL Fats explains his lack of enthusiasm in regards to traveling, saying that it was not the promise of visiting other countries that led him to his career as a pool player. “I’m the most unusual creature in the world. I never cared about travel, that was not for me. I turned down one hundred engagements a year.” He then proceeds to name some of the cities around the world that had asked him to play, but he had declined to visit, like Trinidad and Aruba.

04:08Copy video clip URL Fats comments on the ways  in which pool is played around the world. He explains that in England and Canada, the most popular games are English Billiards and Snooker, while in Australia, the introduction of 7 foot pool tables from the larger 6×12 pool tables that were used in the past, has allowed for children and shorter people to play pool comfortably, which, he predicts, will lead to an increase in popularity for the sport. Fats goes on to compare the sizes of pool tables in the Southern United States with the sizes of pool tables in England, which he states are much larger.

05:58Copy video clip URL Fats tells about the pool games and events he’s played in as favors to others, for which he did not receive money. He explains that although doing favors for others have granted him awards or the ability to ask for a favor for himself, many times he has been left with the bills, causing him to lose money on the deal.

07:29Copy video clip URL Fats recounts a few stories in which he was not compensated for long hours of work. He talks about a recent incident wherein he played for eight days and nights in St. Louis in order to raise money for the Humane Society, never received any money, and was forced to foot the hotel bill. Fats then recalls playing for nearly 10 years in a row at the Special Olympics in Carbondale, IL, performing trick pool shots and distributing medals, not ever playing in a match or collecting any money.

08:45Copy video clip URL Discussing the ways in which his scheduled appearances occasionally conflict with each other, Fats tells an anecdote about a time when ABC had booked him for a celebrity telethon, which consequently lead to NBC wanting Fats for their own special. After an entire weekend of work, Fats says that he was left with a bill for over $400.

09:56Copy video clip URL Fats remarks that he can go into an interview completely unprepared and without cue cards and answer questions for as long as needed. “I do everything automatic. I was a genius when I was eight years old; they called me ‘double smart.'” He claims that he had made friends with some of the most intelligent people in the city at that time, naming New York bookmaker ‘Smart Henny’, Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos and Arnold Rothstein among the slew of legendary poker players that he had beaten in his younger years.

11:19Copy video clip URL Regarding his physical appearance during his poker playing days and the nickname ‘Fats’, Fats tells about his past eating habits, claiming that he could eat as much when he weighed 180 pounds as when he had gained a considerable amount of weight. He attributes his weight gain to  the lack of exercise involved in playing cards for nearly 6 years.

12:09Copy video clip URL Fats says that in his heavier years, he was a “fantastic eater,” able to eat an entire turkey or chicken in one sitting. He proceeds to tell about “the greatest eater” he’d ever met, a thin young man from Birmingham, Alabama named “Buttermilk”, who could eat an entire stalk of bananas.

13:28Copy video clip URL Fats talks about the fact he was born and raised in New York City, left to travel to other countries in order to pursue his career, returned to New York, and left many more times afterwards. After leaving New York, Fats names the various cities he’s visited, from Guadalajara to Panama City. “Managua, Nicaragua,” he says, “was paradise.”

14:24Copy video clip URL On the nickname ‘Minnesota Fats’, Fats discusses the name’s origin. He says that at the age of thirteen, Fats traveled to Minnesota, where he beat three of the best pool players in the state. After his victory, Fats traveled to the other cities in Minnesota, where he claims to have beaten every top pool player before returning to New York, earning him the “Minnesota Fats” appellation.

15:28Copy video clip URL Fats explains that there were a few occasions in which he let his opponent, usually a celebrity or a child, beat him in a game of pool. He contests, however, that on these occasions he was beaten only because he allowed his opponent to win. “Ain’t nobody living that will beat me if I don’t want them to beat me.”

17:06Copy video clip URL Fats talks about his uncanny ability to play pool with any kind of equipment or on any table, regardless of size or  flaws. He recalls an occasion when, playing in the back of a Greek restaurant, an owner placed a bet against Fats in favor of a custodian pool player that had beaten some of the all-time greats on a table without cloth. Though Fats says the owner believed that he had trapped him by having him play on a non-regulation table, Fats beat the pool player, despite the “trap.”

18:00Copy video clip URL Recounting a story about a time when he had drawn over 300,000 people to watch him play pool in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Fats tells about his starring role in the 1971 film, The Player, where he was, once again, stuck with the hotel bill. Fats goes on to talk about how, while shooting scenes on highway I-10 in Baton Rouge, 300,000 people within the 3 square mile radius of the highway had been in attendance to watch him play. “No matter who it was or what it was, if they had any time at all, they stopped.”

19:58Copy video clip URL End of tape.

 

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