From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.
December: Forgotten Anniversary
AS ANNIVERSARIES go, this was a biggie and it went virtually unnoticed.
October marked the 25th anniversary of the release of director Martin Scorsese's "The Color of Money."
For an industry that has pined for "another movie" for nearly a decade, I found it surprising that no one took note of the birthday.
How easily people forget.
I still remember the build-up to the movie. Heck, I still remember author Walter Tevis' novel that led to the resurrection of Fast Eddie. That was in 1984. I still have a copy of the uncorrected page proofs that Tevis had sent to our offices for review. It was 304 pages and it bore absolutely no resemblance to the screenplay for the movie. There was no Vincent. There was a Babes Cooley and an Earl Borchard. They were the young guns that the aging Eddie was trying to topple.
Fats was in the book as well, at least he was until he died suddenly as he prepared for an exhibition with Eddie.
Not that any of that matters. "The Color of Money" was a box-office hit and earned Paul Newman a long overdue Oscar. In truth, the movie really wasn't that good. The characters weren't especially compelling, and the pool scenes were mediocre at best. The script, acting and pool all paled in comparison to Newman's original appearance as "Fast Eddie" Felson in "The Hustler."
Billiards Digest's George Fels lamented that "Color" lacked the "emphasis on expert play" that had sparked the industry's '60s revival following the release of "The Hustler."
Didn't matter. Style over substance. What "The Color of Money" did for pool was nothing short of astonishing.
Almost immediately poolroom owners across the country cursed Warren Zevon "Werewolves of London," which blared on jukeboxes while Tom Cruise wannabes twirled house cues like majorettes in a college band.
Still, all the while they cursed, they were equally busy counting their money.
Poolrooms opened at a breakneck pace. Big city poolrooms, too. After more than a decade of rent-driven banishment to the suburbs, entrepreneurs in touch with the spending habits of America's increasingly wealthy youth brought rooms back downtown and into the high-rent districts, where no one blinked at paying $10 and $12 an hour to shoot pool.
"The Great Poolroom Boom" was front-page news, garnering significant ink in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and Time. Television talk shows followed suit.
And oh, how the industry thrived!
Table manufacturers, then still primarily based in the U.S., were maxing out production. And as if the domestic craze didn't make them giddy enough, Europe and Asia quickly caught the bug as well. In 1987, it was estimated that more than 5,000 tables were shipped to Japan alone. Some Japanese investors, eager to strike while the iron was hottest, even demanded that tables be air shipped! With cues and accessories, the Japanese poured an estimated $20 million into the pockets of the U.S. billiard industry.
It was a grand time for billiards, and it carried the entire industry for more than a decade.
The luster from "The Color of Money" has long since faded, but it should never be forgotten.