Rudolf Wanderone - "Minnesota Fats"

"Minnesota Fats"

In 1961, the film version of Walter Tevis's novel The Hustler was released. The film tells the story of a pool shark named "Fast Eddie" Felson and his quest to beat the greatest pool player in America, "Minnesota Fats". World Champion Willie Mosconi served as a technical advisor and trick shot stunt man for the film. During a promotional interview, Mosconi stated that the character of Minnesota Fats was based on Wanderone. Wanderone almost immediately dropped his "New York Fats" nickname, adopted the name "Minnesota Fats" and began spreading the story that the character was based on him. Tevis denied this for the rest of his life.

Wanderone's notoriety as "Minnesota Fats" led to a job as executive vice-president of billiard table manufacturer Rozel Industries, playing exhibition matches and giving demonstrations. Rozel, in 1965, published Wanderone's first book: Minnesota "Fats" Book of Billiards. On January 17 of that year, Wanderone appeared on the television game show What's My Line, successfully stumping the panel.

In 1966, he wrote his autobiography, The Bank Shot, and Other Great Robberies, with Sports Illustrated journalist, Tom Fox. Wanderone's first TV game show, Minnesota Fats Hustles the Pros, debuted in 1967, featuring "Fats" playing against other pro players. In 1967 he completed and published an instructional paperback, Minnesota Fats on Pool, which was reprinted through 1976 in large-quantity editions, then reissued as a hardcover in 1993, and remains to this day commonly available.

The next year, on January 24, 1968, Wanderone was a guest on The Joey Bishop Show. By 1970, Celebrity Billiards with Minnesota Fats, another short-lived TV game show series, featured Wanderone playing against celebrity guests such as Sid Caesar. In a feature film, The Player (produced in December 1970, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Wanderone played himself as "Minnesota Fats" and was featured prominently on the promotional poster. The movie was written and directed by Thomas DeMartini, also starred pool pro Jack Colavita, and had a very limited release in 1971 by International Cinema. That same year Wanderone was a guest on both The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (September 21, 1971), on which he hustled Carson out of US$1, and the British David Frost Show (October 13, 1971). His fame as "Fats" had already made it difficult for Wanderone to hustle effectively, so he relied more and more on exhibition games for income.

By 1979, Wanderone was well-known enough to be playing himself as a celebrity guest star on a Season 2 episode of the popular TV detective drama Vega$. Titled "the Usurper", the episode featured "Fats" and pro Jimmy Mataya playing one another in a game of pool. In 1980, while visiting a one-mile stretch of St. Louis, Wanderone had to double his order of autographed pictures after he was stopped thirty-seven times. During this trip he was beaten by Michael Boulton 4 out of 10 times in games of pool.

Read more about this topic:  Rudolf Wanderone

Famous quotes containing the word fats:

    Fast Eddie, let’s play some pool.
    Sydney Carroll, U.S. screenwriter, and Robert Rossen. Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason)