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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.


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November: A Cameo Roll For Pool
November 2020

I’ll be honest. I’d never heard of Cameo before safe-at-home orders in March put Americans on lockdown. (Then again, I’d never heard of Zoom, either.) With businesses shuttered and people confined to quarters, social engagement very quickly became relegated to text messaging, FaceTime calls, Facebook posts and Instagram.

One day I noticed an article in the Sports section of the local newspaper, and the writer referenced Cameo, a video sharing site that connects celebrities with fans. It is, he noted, a creative and unique way of sending cheer to someone special during these unsettling times.

For a price, of course, you can hire an actor, athlete or other pop culture icon to videotape a personal message for a friend, business associate or even, I guess, an enemy! (“Hi! This is Dick Butkus, Hall of Fame linebacker. My friend Mike Panozzo wanted me to tell you that if you ever even set foot in the same zip code as him again, I will personally find you and rip your head off! Oh, and have a great day.”)

The concept is brilliant. This may well be the most American startup ever created.

I spent a fair amount of time scrolling through some of the 30,000 celebrities. Are there really that many famous people in the U.S.? Not surprisingly, the Cameo community runs the gamut from Caitlyn Jenner ($2,500) and Snoop Dogg ($900) to Brady Bunch child actor Barry Williams ($140) and, my favorite, pro wrestler BrawlnBarnes ($7).

(Personally, I was bitterly disappointed that Julia Garner, who plays brutally blunt Ruth Langmore on the Netflix drama “Ozarks,” was not a Cameo talent. I’d pay bundles to have her throw her Southern twang at a few choice friends: “If you’re a great pool player, then I’m Snow White. And I don’t see no dwarves around!”)

And no sooner did I start to get mesmerized by the site than pool’s own crossover star, Jeanette Lee, appeared on the roster. The “Black Widow” was recently added to the Cameo roster (see Wing Shots, pg. 12) and will send you her personalized video for a mere $50. Always engaging and well versed in marketing to the masses, Lee will surely bring style, bravado and charm to her messages. What better way to surprise the pool player in your life than with a personalized shout-out from Lee to offer birthday or anniversary wishes, or congratulations on someone’s latest pool league triumph?

Of course, my mind quickly drifted (it does that a lot) to my own potential startup: Pool Cameo! Granted, I may have a problem with the name. But you get it, right? Pool meets Hallmark!

There are hundreds of thousands of hardcore pool fans that would jump at the opportunity to have video messages left for them or sent to their friends. Trust me, this is gold!

I’ve even come up with a potential roster for the launch.

Earl Strickland: The temperamental 9-ball legend runs hot and cold, which would add to the anticipation of his message.

“Hi, (fill in a name), this is Earl ‘the Pearl’ Strickland. Mike Panozzo told me that you weren’t feeling well, so I’m here to cheer you up, although nobody respects me, so I don’t know why I was asked. If I was a professional golfer and sent you a message, you’d feel better right away.”

Emily Frazer: The Matchroom pool czar is all over social media and her great British accent and quick wit would make her a Pool Cameo best-seller.

“Hi, Joe, this is Queen Emily wishing you a happy birthday from your friends in the Friday Night Pool League. I could make this message even better, but I see you’re not currently on Instagram or Twitter, you useless sod! You’re never going to get your birthday noticed if you’re not more active on social media! Cheers!”

Joshua Filler: As tenacious and effusive as he is at the table, the reigning U.S. Open 9-Ball Champion is just as quiet and subdued away from it. Not to worry. The adorable Pia Filler fulfills all Josh’s Cameo requests.

“Congratulations, Susie, on your engagement. This is Pia Filler. Josh is right here, and he’s delighted that you and Max have decided to tie the knot. And when Josh wishes you well, that’s important because Josh is the king!”

Karl Boyes: Boyes’ good humor and self-deprecating approach is perfect for those occasions on which you want to tweak a friend’s nose just a bit.

“Tony! This is ‘Box Office’ Karl Boyes. Your friends told me you dogged the 8 in a recent tournament, costing your team first place. No worries, mate. I dogged a two-foot 8 ball on the hill on live television! That’s massive, pal. So, keep your head up. Chances are it won’t be the last time you dog a ball.”

Shane Van Boening: If you want a Pool Cameo from America’s No. 1 player and fervent angler, you’re going to have to hope he’s getting reception from whatever lake he’s on, summer or winter.

“Shane Van Boening here. Your friends at work tell me that your fishing for compliments on your big promotion. From what they tell me, though, your new boss is likely to catch and release, so enjoy the corner office while you have it.”

Cuemakers: I thought about adding a few cuemakers but they would likely promise to have a message ready on your birthday, then actually deliver it nine months later.

I’m here all week. Try the fish.

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