Fats #2

In this segment of an interview with Rudolf "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, the revered pool player reflects on some of the more personal details of his career. Discussing his beginnings as a 7 year old pool player, his personal relationships with celebrities, and his input on the 1961 film, "The Hustler", Fats gives insight into an adventurous (if unconventional) life as a pool legend.

00:00Copy video clip URL Color bars.

00:30Copy video clip URL Famed pool legend Minnesota Fats describes what the somewhat solitary life on the road was like for him, and how it was unusual for him to be destitute, even in the worst of times.

01:36Copy video clip URL Fats claims that he began playing pool for money when he was a child of about 7 or 8 years of age. After he began making money, Fats says, a dice hustler whom he was acquainted with started borrowing  money from him in order to pay rent. When the hustler offered to give Fats tips on cheating at dice or at card games, Fats says that he refused, believing he was a good enough player on his own. Fats then proceeds to explain the rules of betting in regards to craps games, the way he made money as a child.

03:27Copy video clip URL Fats describes a hotel on the North Side of Chicago, which was home to a great many magicians and entertainers. He talks about wandering  into the hotel every weekend to learn card games and card tricks from the magicians during parties that they would throw.

04:47Copy video clip URL “I had fun all my life; I had a lot of fun,” Fats says, reflecting on his adventurous life. Fats explains that he is unusual in that he does not feel the need to drink or smoke to excess in order to enjoy his life. “I can have all the fun on Earth if I go into a restaurant and eat something I really like.” He goes on to talk about his ability to charm women, which he claims has not waned since his younger years.

06:18Copy video clip URL Fats discusses the relationships with celebrities and multi-millionaires he’s built up over the years, citing Judy Garland, Howard Hughes and Jack Dempsey as personal friends of his. “I’ve got a guest list in there that you wouldn’t believe.”

09:24Copy video clip URL Fats talks about all of the places in which he’s played pool, saying that pool halls were plentiful when he was younger. “Every corner had a pool room.” He proceeds to talk about The Claridge Hotel in Times Square, a hotel that, by Fats’s recollection, was elegant and beautiful, but was dressed to look like a tawdry pool hall for the 1961 film The Hustler, starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason.

10:33Copy video clip URL In regards to the way that famous locations are portrayed on films or in stories, Fats says that he is unsure whether or not any place that he’s visited can be portrayed as accurately in fiction as in the way that he remembers them in his mind.

11:09Copy video clip URL Of the film, The Hustler, which starred Jackie Gleason as a character named ‘Minnesota Fats’, Fats puts to bed any doubt that the film was based on his life. “It was all based on me . . . there couldn’t ever have been no movie without me.” Fats also discredits Walter Tevis’s original novel The Hustler, the book on which the film was based, saying that Tevis never knew him, and got all of his information from outside sources.

12:46Copy video clip URL Fats talks about how disinterested he was in the film industry, despite having know many big, hard-hitting figures in Hollywood during the 1920’s. He names actors Ben Turpin, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd as some of the people he had been close personal friends with at one point or another. Because all of these stars played pool, Fats says, he was able to befriend stars like Mickey Rooney and Peter Falk.

14:02Copy video clip URL Fats tells an anecdote about a time when he went to visit Peter Falk on set during a shoot for a television show, and actually held up production on the show for 2 hours when crew members refused to work until they got Fats’s autograph.

15:22Copy video clip URL Fats recalls playing games of chance with high-rollers renowned throughout New York city, such as Nick ‘The Greek’ Dandolos and Alvin Clarence ‘Titanic Thompson’ Thomas. Fats says that the high-rollers he knew would bet on anything from the numbers on a taxi license plate to professional sports games. He then explains the spontaneous nature of gamblers, in the sense that they would occasionally take thousand of dollars worth of winnings and bet them on one event.

16:44Copy video clip URL When asked the question, “What is the difference between a gambler and a hustler?” Fats responds by explaining that a ‘hustler’ is a person that “tries to make propositions.” Continuing on this train of thought, Fats claims that he was not a hustler, as he would play top-notch players and beat them at their own games. “I never was a hustler . . . all I ever done was play.” He attributes his success monetarily to his ability to play, rather than hustle, players. Hustlers, he says, make far less money than quality players.

18:45Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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