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Billiards Digest: The Hustler and Minnesota Fats
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skip100
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Billiards Digest: The Hustler and Minnesota Fats - 11-11-2019, 11:30 AM

The new Billiards Digest has a cover story arguing that there is now "proof" that Rudolf Wanderone was actually the model for Minnesota Fats in The Hustler.

After a long buildup, the totality of the evidence presented in the article seems to be that an early draft of the novel used the nickname New York Fats, which Tevis crossed out by hand and changed to Minnesota Fats.

This seems like pretty weak proof. Never mind that Wanderone was apparently one of the loudest, most boisterous characters in 20th century public life, while the book's Minnesota Fats was an even-keeled and quiet presence. Also never mind that Wanderone went by a number of other names: New York Fats, Broadway Fats, Chicago Fats, Triple-Smart Fats, and so on. It's not as if nobody else was using the name Fats - Fats Domino, Fats Waller, Fats Navarro come to mind.

What are people's thoughts on this? At the very least, I'm surprised they made it the cover story and presented the new evidence as something much more authoritative than it actually seems.
  
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11-11-2019, 11:33 AM

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Originally Posted by skip100 View Post
... What are people's thoughts on this? ...
I'll trust Tevis to have told the truth.


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11-11-2019, 11:36 AM

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Originally Posted by Bob Jewett View Post
I'll trust Tevis to have told the truth.
Same here. Case closed. This horse has been beat to death.
  
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11-11-2019, 11:45 AM

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Originally Posted by garczar View Post
Same here. Case closed. This horse has been beat to death.
" I read some where,
the characters were inspired from actual pool players-
" The best in the country player-called Minnesota fats I think was really based on a renowned greatest player in the country-also a pretty hard drinking quiet guy like Eddie Taylor....

Eddie Felson I think was the likes of Ed Kelly-
that's what Jim Whitman told me once at the Palace"


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Last edited by Duane Remick; 11-11-2019 at 11:48 AM.
  
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11-11-2019, 11:45 AM

Tevis said: "I made up Minnesota Fats—name and all—as surely as Disney made up Donald Duck."
  
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11-11-2019, 11:53 AM

Delighted to hear mention the name of the great jazz trumpeter Fats Navarro in this thread.

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11-11-2019, 03:36 PM

I think itís feasible Tevis heard of a player named New York Fats to be known as the guy to beat in certain circles and built a story around that idea. If so, I think he based an idea off Wanderone but developed it purely into his own direction, personality and all.


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11-11-2019, 03:51 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattPoland View Post
I think it’s feasible Tevis heard of a player named New York Fats to be known as the guy to beat in certain circles and built a story around that idea. If so, I think he based an idea off Wanderone but developed it purely into his own direction, personality and all.


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This is closer to the truth. Walter told me on more than one occasion he had never seen New York Fats in his life. It's possible he heard that name and rather than face any kind of lawsuit from Wanderone he changed his character's name to Minnesota Fats. It turned out he was right to be careful as New York Fats (Wanderone) sued him anyway.


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11-11-2019, 04:09 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by skip100;6517261 What are people's thoughts on this?
There is no way an author, like Tevis, would suddenly make up a pool character, named Fats, pretty big guy, without hearing of New York Fats, Double Smart Fats, then, Triple Smart Fats. That guy was Wanderone.

Not saying Tevis went to great lengths to research Fats. I'm given to believe he was working a pool script, and had heard of Fats more than one time. He changed the name to Minnesota.

Tevis benefited. Wanderone also benefited, by taking the name. Sometimes, the world is in balance. But, I think Tevis and Mosconi should have been a bit more honest on this.

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11-11-2019, 05:45 PM

Having read everything I've read over the years, Tevis' account of how the Fats character in his book had no relation to RW always sounded a little thin to me.

There is a side of me that says Tevis was just enjoying the success of his stories being published and then ultimately being turned into a major motion picture starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason -- and he wanted sole creative credit for coming up with the story and characters. Certainly, in Tevis' wildest dreams, he never thought that a pool player would have the audacity to claim inspiration for one of his characters.

But then there was Fats.

So, on the balance, I think R.A. is right and this is the smoking gun that pretty much proves RW was the inspiration for Minnesota Fats in "The Hustler."

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11-11-2019, 06:43 PM

Seems to me that Tevis probably sold more books because of Wanderone...
...and Mosconi made more money because of Wanderone....
...so all three of them were winners.....life can be strange


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11-11-2019, 07:15 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Duane Remick View Post
" I read some where,
the characters were inspired from actual pool players-
" The best in the country player-called Minnesota fats I think was really based on a renowned greatest player in the country-also a pretty hard drinking quiet guy like Eddie Taylor....

Eddie Felson I think was the likes of Ed Kelly-
that's what Jim Whitman told me once at the Palace"
The book was published in 1959. That same year Ed Kelly was an Arthur Murray dance instructor on the first floor days and played in Kleins on second story at nights in Baltimore Only out of Marines a year or two. So seriously doubt Fast Eddie was based on him.
  
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11-11-2019, 07:31 PM

if Fast Eddie was based on anyone, the general consensus is for Ronnie Allen...much more of a hustler than Ed Kelly could ever be.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buzzo80 View Post
The book was published in 1959. That same year Ed Kelly was an Arthur Murray dance instructor on the first floor days and played in Kleins on second story at nights in Baltimore Only out of Marines a year or two. So seriously doubt Fast Eddie was based on him.


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11-11-2019, 07:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattPoland View Post
I think itís feasible Tevis heard of a player named New York Fats to be known as the guy to beat in certain circles and built a story around that idea. If so, I think he based an idea off Wanderone but developed it purely into his own direction, personality and all.


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This is very likely. Back when Wanderone was hustling NY and got to being called New York Fats and Broadway Fats, I think it was in the 1930's. Tevis was a kid living in California. He moved from California to Kentucky in about 1939. He was only 11 then.

By the time Tevis was 15 New York Fats had already gotten married and moved to Illinois. But he did hit Newport News or Norfolk VA on occasion to hustle service members during the war. And Tevis did serve in the Navy at the end of WWII, so he could've witnessed the fat man hustling some of his navy buddies.

After the war Tevis ended up working in a poolhall throughout college, started playing a lot of pool. Then he graduating and became an English teacher, writing short stories on the side with hopes of making money as a writer. By the time he started writing pool stories he probably had enough experience with the pool hustling world that he had a good idea what type of characters he could create. It's likely he'd seen or heard of New York Fats, and used that name at first for his fat man character. But then, as Jay said, Tevis thought better of it and changed the name to Minnesota Fats.

None of it matters, because even if Tevis knew who Rudolph Wanderone was, or who New York Fats was, the only thing the real New York Fats had in common with the fictional Fats is that they were both fat pool hustlers. Lol. As far as character/personality/composure, there was no comparison. Rudolph Wanderone took the name Tevis created, Minnesota Fats, but never in his life (before or after taking that name) was Wanderone anything like the character Walter Tevis created.


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11-11-2019, 09:28 PM

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Originally Posted by BC21 View Post
This is very likely. Back when Wanderone was hustling NY and got to being called New York Fats and Broadway Fats, I think it was in the 1930's. Tevis was a kid living in California. He moved from California to Kentucky in about 1939. He was only 11 then.

By the time Tevis was 15 New York Fats had already gotten married and moved to Illinois. But he did hit Newport News or Norfolk VA on occasion to hustle service members during the war. And Tevis did serve in the Navy at the end of WWII, so he could've witnessed the fat man hustling some of his navy buddies.

After the war Tevis ended up working in a poolhall throughout college, started playing a lot of pool. Then he graduating and became an English teacher, writing short stories on the side with hopes of making money as a writer. By the time he started writing pool stories he probably had enough experience with the pool hustling world that he had a good idea what type of characters he could create. It's likely he'd seen or heard of New York Fats, and used that name at first for his fat man character. But then, as Jay said, Tevis thought better of it and changed the name to Minnesota Fats.

None of it matters, because even if Tevis knew who Rudolph Wanderone was, or who New York Fats was, the only thing the real New York Fats had in common with the fictional Fats is that they were both fat pool hustlers. Lol. As far as character/personality/composure, there was no comparison. Rudolph Wanderone took the name Tevis created, Minnesota Fats, but never in his life (before or after taking that name) was Wanderone anything like the character Walter Tevis created.
He was also NEVER called Minnesota Fats prior to the movie being released and his deciding to capitalize on it. It's all good though. I knew and liked both men for different reasons, and both of them had a huge impact on our game. That's enough for me!


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