Always a joy to read your memories and how you paint their pictures Jay. One of my Keith stores - I was sittin' in my home pooI room back in the early 70's making pretty good money there and elsewhere at the time. I was a young up and comer in the Detroit area and got word from friends that Keith was putting beatdowns on the guys out at the Rack. A buddy warned me to stay away from a 17 year old kid wearing tennis shoes. Well ...... I walked into the local action bar at the time - Sullivans on Harper in Detroit - and sure enough there were those scary tennis shoes staring me in the face - with their stake horse. Pretty sure they had their soles on me. I was quickly offered the call 7 in a 7 ahead set for a couple hundo. I just couldn't resist the temptation. I loved that big cue ball. Got up 3 or 4 games, missed a ball (maybe two) and sat down to be obediently mesmerized. Keith started breaking squatting that big cue ball perfectly like a rubberband - center table. You know the rest. After running the last I don't know how many racks, I handed over the cash as he continued to stand at the table hitting the cue ball. To this day I still vividly remember him say (like Keith does with a smile) "Man I feel like I could run these tables ALL night". I think he could have. LOLI was right there with you, scrambling around to make my little scores.
I had a regular game with Jimmy Caan (the eight ball) and another with Jack Ackerman (also the eight ball), the famous composer. Played Crazy Bruce several times with the understanding that as soon as he went off it would be the last game. He was on good behavior until he got stuck and then the fountains would open up and he would erupt.
Marvin was a good friend of mine and he was one cool cat, sitting back in the corner with his shades on watching everybody. Pancho was center stage meanwhile, constantly working the room, trying to generate something. He had more cons than all the rest of the hustlers combined. Brooklyn Butch looked out for me and took care of things if someone tried to stiff me. One word from him and I got my money plus an apology.
Cecil was the best young black player I ever saw, but his bad attitude got him crippled at a young age. He and Butch had a blood feud and they both tried to kill each other, more than once! Preacher Red was also known as Low Down Dirty Red, a name well earned! Lenny Moore was all mobbed out, and no one ever messed with him. Even Danny gave him a lot of respect, and Danny wasn't afraid of anyone, not even Butch.
I was also buddies with Arizona Sean, a high line cat burglar who was so handsome and charming he had famous actresses swooning at his feet. My other buddy there was Leon from Louisiana, an avowed bank robber. He got killed in a shootout with the cops after robbing Pinks, the famous hot dog stand. Leon always had a .45 stuffed under his shirt!
I first met Freddie in there in the late 60's. He was probably the most intelligent pool hustler I ever met. Ye Billiard Den was my home room in the late 60's to early 70's and it was a slice of life I will never forget. By far the most interesting poolroom I ever hung around.
P.S. JJ is right, Keith did come in there with his backer in about 1973 or 74 and challenge the whole room to empty out. Too bad Marvin or Ronnie wasn't around that day, but there were always good players in there and Keith got action. No one in L.A. could beat Keith by the time he was 17 except Richie Florence. And Richie was one of the top 9-Ballers in the country with a nationwide rep.