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.....Billie-isms, are my thoughts about people and aspects of the billiard world that are essential in my mind for others to know about. Perhaps no one else is going to recognize their significance, but nonetheless I felt the urge to showcase these people, events and my beliefs on certain topics within these pages. Please keep in mind I have a reputation for being controversial, a moniker I treasure.

Mike Lebron "Spanish Mike"

Tale of a Shrimp

....."Spanish Mike" is pictured here using the v-bridge at the PPPA World Open. Check out my 'V for Victory' Pointers page to find out more information about this practical hand bridge. Mike did Belinda Calhoun and me a solid every year we went to or thru the Chicago airport during the 1980s tournament trail. There was an Oyster bar in the airport that sold jumbo shrimp cocktail. Belinda and I used to look longingly at the shrimp but we couldn’t afford them. Being women players back in the days when the prize funds were very low we were always on a tight budget. Being on the tour was a labor of love rather than a real profession. We used to sweat just paying the transportation and housing costs. I’m not sure how it happened but one day Spanish Mike saw us looking in the restaurant window at the shrimp and took pity on us. He offered to treat us each to a shrimp cocktail! Wow. There were five delicious shrimp. After that first time, Mike would schedule us all to hook up at the Oyster Bar when we were leaving Chicago for the extravagant delicacy. Thanks Mike. I’ll always remember your generosity as a highlight episode in my pool playing days.

Arrrrgh! There Yee Hav It Room Matey. Arrrrgh!

I don't know how it is to be on the tour these days. It seems like it's a lot more lucrative what with the larger prize funds. Admittedly, the expenses are much higher too. In my day there were little to no sponsors even for the best players.  A number of today’s players enjoy sponsorship; a benefit I worked hard to establish during my days as WPBA President. Because of the lack of funds, it was markedly crucial to have a tour partner that you could trust as a roommate. Your associate had to pay her portion of the hotel and any expenses she charged to the room (rented movies, phone calls, room service, etc.). You both had to run the potential gamut of competing with each other and be a gracious loser or winner. It was difficult to find an honorable and principled flat mate. Many a time I would win a match over my roomy and she would skip out on part of the hotel bill. The irritating thing about it was that the player would afterwards act indignant when you approached her for reimbursement; as if she was some how justified with sticking you with the bill because you had won your match over her or finished further in the tournament. Some times you would be stuck paying other players bills that finished better than you. Ouch!

.....And then there were the travel mates that merely couldn’t take losing. I see losing simply as part of the game. Yes, it hurts. And I endeavored to learn a lesson from the experience and moved forward. Ironically, when I learned how to lose I started winning.
But I digress…

.....I was lucky enough to have a few great roommates, but no one could match the awesome relationship I have with Belinda Calhoun. Not only did we have a lot of fun, we shared resources. And that didn’t stop us from being fierce competitors.

A Friend Is Someone You May Not See for Years And Yet You Feel Like They Never Left

.....Being in New York City, opportunities to see various types of billiard games abound: pocket billiards, snooker and 3 cushion billiards. Since I was hungry for knowledge about any billiard game, I went to as many events I heard about and could afford the admission fee. I scored for many tournaments in order to get in for free. In 1977, I was invited to a 3 cushion billiard tournament being held at the University Club on West 54th Street in the City. Since I knew little about that genre of our sport I was anixous to go. It was the first time I saw Allen Gilbert play and I also saw Jimmy Catrano who I already knew. What surprised me the most was that a lot of the billiard players asked me to play 8 ball with them in the next room. They already knew me as a top woman pool player and were excited about playing me. I couldn't understand that but I had a great time playing everybody. As a matter of fact, I only got to see a few billiard matches because I was so caught up with the intense racks of 8 ball. But, I digress...

.....The most important and memorable outcome of going to that tournament was that this is where I met Louise Hyde Brown. A spectator at the 3 cushion billiard tournament, she had gravitated into the room because she heard there was a woman player beating all the billiard players on a pool table. We talked in between racks about the newly formed WPBA of which I was then President. Louise and her husband, Marc, owned Play Room Billiards in Greensboro, NC. Besides pool, we had a lot of common interests and became fast friends.

.....Eventually, she and Marc invited and sponsored me to play in one of the men's tournaments held in their room. And we regularly wrote to one another by snail mail since there was no such thing as the internet. Our friendship finally led to Louise playing in a number of WPBA tournaments over several years. I will tell you that she is one of the best writers I've had the pleasure to know. To this day, I love getting her 'New Years end' letter outlining how things are going in her and her family's life. Absence does make the heart grow fonder as I miss seeing and talking with her, especially after all these years. I already know our friendship will pick up just where we left off; almost like it was just yesterday that we saw each other. Please keep your letters coming, Louise. I really enjoy reading them.


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