Saturday, September 12, 2009

An interview with Karen Fox, widow of Minnesota Fats biographer Tom Fox

Karen Fox, widow of Tom Fox, attended the first Johnston City tournaments with her writer-husband in 1961. Both Karen and Tom worked at the Evansville Courier and Press, a newspaper published from the hometown of backroom legend Hubert "Daddy Warbucks" Cokes. Tom Fox would later help Minnesota Fats pen the "The Bankshot and Other Great Robberies," which was republished by Lyons Press in 2006.

What follows is a partial transcript of various interviews with Karen Fox, the first conducted in August of 2000.


"Tom was a sports writer at the time, and he was a very good newsman, as well as being a good sports writer. Somebody called at the sports desk at the Evansville Sunday Courier and Press, and told him that this great Evansville Indiana pool player, Hubert Cokes, an oilman, was going to be participating in the tournament. They said that Tom, with his love for characters, should go to Johnston city, and watch Cokes play.

And this guy, on the phone, said that Cokes was a heavy money-player.

He and I had just started dating, and we had just seen The Hustler a couple of weeks before he got that call. He could not believe that out in the middle of nowhere, in Southern Illinois, were all these incredible pool players. They had this really good tournament room, with good acoustics, and bleachers, in the back. There was a concrete block room where, after the tournament was over, there were heavy-duty gambling. And Tom knew it was a national story.

We got to see it first hand. You know, television has a way of sterilizing stuff like that. ... But what we saw was pure, and raw, and real. There was a moment in time, a freeze frame, that we had that privilege to see. Those guys were incredible characters.

Oh my god, it was awesome. When tom started going over there, he took a bunch of us the 90 miles from Evansville. It was a drive. I worked at the paper too. We had just met. And he e took a whole load of us over there. He had a station wagon. It was so far, that (eventually ) everybody else stopped going, but I loved it."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lassiter & Shorty in Johnston City

video
Here's another great video of Wimpy Lassiter and Boston Shorty playing one-pocket in Johnston City, Illinois. It's from ABC's Wide World of Sports. Lassiter won everything there was to win at Johnston City. You can read more about the famous tournaments an the newly renamed Johnston City Hustler Tournament blog. (It was formerly the George Jansco blog. Same content. Just more stuff.) That's a picture of Shorty, on the left, with fan Ross Parker Simons in 1965. You can read more about Shorty at Onepocket.org, which has inducted him into its Hall of Fame. Shorty also won big in Johnston City.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Johnston City & The Jansco Brothers

Here's another Johnston City video, this one featuring trick shots by Ronnie Allen, Champagne Eddy Kelly, Weenie Beenie and others. Jim McKay from Wide World of Sports hosts. The Johnston City jamborees began with the release of The Hustler, and lasted until 1972. They were organized by George and Paulie Jansco, who also created the Stardust Events in Las Vegas. The Johnston City events were clearly the most colorful pool tournaments of the 1960s, as they brought road players from all over. The closest thing to Johnston City these days are the annual Derby City events, which features plenty of action -- but on a much grander scale. You can read all about the Johnston City events in Hustler Days.