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In the Black

Despite the emphasis on marketing, Lee continues to develop her game.

In an unusual turn, Lee now only has one major endorsement deal inside the billiard industry - a multiyear arrangement with fledgling cue manufacturer and media promotions firm LiquidWick Pool Cues, which also is planning a Widow Master signature cue.

An endorsement deal with a table manufacturer typically is the Holy Grail for pool players, but Lee now has the luxury of waiting while she and George develop a plan to create Black Widow-themed billiard parlors.

"Eight years ago, if she didn't have a table deal, I'd be scrambling to get her one," George says. "But now we don't have to worry about it. We can wait for the right timing and the right one."

Lee has long been criticized within some circles of the billiard community as being self-serving. Her preponderance of marketing deals outside of pool might beg the question of whether billiards benefits from her stardom.

Rob Johnson, CEO of the Billiard Congress of America, believes so. Before he joined the BCA, his impression of the industry was largely fueled by the Black Widow.

"She was why I stopped on pool while I was channel surfing," Johnson says. "I knew that name. I knew that personality. And there were a lot of people like me.

"I think she is an awesome ambassador for the sport. We want her to get out and promote outside the industry. I think she's fabulous at it. If she can take the sport to other people and expose them to it, that's a great role she can play."

Lee in fact has reached the level of self-sustaining celebrity, where she's no longer dependent on billiard events to maintain her image. Would it matter at this point if she ever played in another pool tournament?

"It matters to LiquidWick that she's still a viable player," George says. "Does it help if she's playing tournaments on TV? Sure it helps. Does it help if she wins? Sure it helps. Is it required? No."

Fortunately for pool, Lee still has a hunger to compete and excel.

"It's my oxygen," says Lee, who is ranked 12th on the Classic Tour. "I know I can get better. I've always been held back by my physical disabilities, and on top of that my responsibilities. But that love has never gone away."

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