Keith McCready story

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
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In the late 60's and into the 70's, there was a lot of great one-pocket action at a well-lit upstairs room: Celebrity Billiards on Vine St. in Hollywood. I lived two blocks away at the time. Saw a very long session with Ronnie Allen giving Ed Kelly 9-8. Other top players seen there that I enjoyed talking to, during breaks in the action, included Richie Florence, Jack "Jersey Red" Breit who I knew from NYC, Danny Diliberto (very frequent "visitor"), Lou Butera, and Joe Balsis. Endless stream of lovely pool groupies/actress wannabes "decorated" the place -- I enjoyed "talking to" them as well. Cecil Tugwell was a regular who played many of the top one-pocket and bank-pool players. I played a lot in Tiff Payne's N. Hollywood Billiards later on, in Burbank (later acquired by retired 14.1 pro, Harold "Red" Baker who had one of the most beautiful strokes of all. He was a longtime friend of Mosconi and also "Cowboy" Jimmy Moore. Both of them came in every time they were near L.A. over the years. I've still got the #5 1965 "A-Series" original Palmer that Willie sold me, literally out of his car trunk. Replaced the worn, original Irish linen wrap a couple years ago.

Arnaldo

Great story! I spent a lot of time at Celebrity, just a couple miles from the Billiard Den. I played my first $100 One Pocket game there against Black Rudy, a high line pimp who loved to play pool. He was a decent player who asked me what game I thought I could give him. I told him 8-6 and he said okay we can play if you bet $100 a game, big money in the late 60's. My entire bankroll might have been seven or eight hundred bucks, but I knew I could win so I agreed to play him. He only wanted to play at Celebrity, but they had Gold Crowns so I said okay to that too. We scheduled a meet up for a couple of days later at 8 PM. I went early and practiced for thirty or forty minutes before he got there. He hit balls for a few minutes and then we played. I won four games in a row but it was not easy. Every game was close. He quit then but I felt great. I had made a nice score ($400) and found out I could stand up for a big bet. Once the game began I forgot about the bet and just played the best One Pocket I could. Rudy was a cool dude though and paid me off without a whimper and congratulated me afterwards for playing so good.
 

jay helfert

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So many of you guys stopped in on my old stomping grounds in Hollywood and nearby vicinities. I must have seen some of you and maybe we even played a game or two. I would play anyone I didn't know! Yes, I avoided all the top players, didn't even ask them for a spot. I always liked to play even up with any stranger until I saw how he played. My attitude was that I played good enough to protect myself.
 

Baby Huey

AzB Silver Member
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Hollywood was alive during those days. To get to the Billiard Den you had to pass Whiskey A Go Go and other famous night clubs. A road trip for me was going up Western Avenue from the Mr. Pockets at 6th and Manhatten to Hollywood Billiards, over to Penthouse Billiards, swing by Celebrity Billiards and then to the Ye Billiard Den. At 2AM I'd drive over to Tournament Billiards for the late after hours action. Not like today. Today you have to fly to another town to look for action. Pool has certainely changed.
 

arnaldo

AzB Silver Member
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Great story! I spent a lot of time at Celebrity, just a couple miles from the Billiard Den. I played my first $100 One Pocket game there against Black Rudy, a high line pimp who loved to play pool. . . .
Jay, if it wasn't too far before your time there, you undoubtedly saw some of Cecil Tugwell's one-pocket games at Celebrity (and at Tournament Billiards in Culver City) and were smart enough not to even think about playing him. In any case, here's a wonderful, very laudatory, multi-page "onepocket.org" thread that was posted when everyone was first apprised of his passing; it speaks volumes about the unique nature of Cecil's skills and his life struggles:

https://onepocket.org/forum/index.php?threads/cecil-tugwell-passes.5354/

A fascinating, quite sad story, but he did get about as much as he possibly could out of his too-short life.

Arnaldo
 

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
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Hollywood was alive during those days. To get to the Billiard Den you had to pass Whiskey A Go Go and other famous night clubs. A road trip for me was going up Western Avenue from the Mr. Pockets at 6th and Manhatten to Hollywood Billiards, over to Penthouse Billiards, swing by Celebrity Billiards and then to the Ye Billiard Den. At 2AM I'd drive over to Tournament Billiards for the late after hours action. Not like today. Today you have to fly to another town to look for action. Pool has certainely changed.

We made much the same rounds and you and I did meet up on more than one occasion. I just had to play you every time i saw you. I was sure i could beat you but it never seemed to work out that way. :)

I don't think I ever got a game at Penthouse (maybe once) and gave up on that place. The owner was a good guy who came to all the tournaments.
 

Black-Balled

AzB Silver Member
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I was in long beach in the late 90s for a week and when we arrived, the girl we were visiting was working, so my girlfriend and i went to a sports bar that had 4-8 bar tables in a side room. Unlike the alcoholic girlfriend, I was not content to sit around and drink very often, so I wandered over to the pool end, which was empty.

I was looking at the tables and the stuff on the walls and a guy asked me if I played and I said I hadn't recently. He asked me if I wanted to play a couple games and I said sure. He got the balls and asked if I wanted to play for a drink...I was already buzzed...told him so and suggested we play for a couple bucks. He agreed.

I won like $30 and paid for his 2 drinks. He said he wanted to play more and asked if I played 9b. I said I did and he said he would be back in a couple nights and hoped I'd come back and play some for at least 20/rack.

I came back and saw him...we got the balls and started $20 9b. It is more crowded in there this time- it is evening, not afternoon like the first meetimg- and I am winning more than he, I am maybe 100 winner and look around and the room is basically filled with dudes in white t-shirts and angry faces.

When I go to the bathroom again, a guy passes me on the way out, looks at me when we pass and bumps my shoulder with his. No words, but he comes into the room after that and now he looks happy.

I lost the money back and a couple extra games for a buffer. Next time I went to the bathroom, it was right after I hit the door and ran across coastal highway (edit- looking at map now, I guess it was rt1). Did not pay my tab!

Not sure what was up and didn't want to find out. I was glad to not have girlfriend with me that night.
 
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jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
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Jay, if it wasn't too far before your time there, you undoubtedly saw some of Cecil Tugwell's one-pocket games at Celebrity (and at Tournament Billiards in Culver City) and were smart enough not to even think about playing him. In any case, here's a wonderful, very laudatory, multi-page "onepocket.org" thread that was posted when everyone was first apprised of his passing; it speaks volumes about the unique nature of Cecil's skills and his life struggles:

https://onepocket.org/forum/index.php?threads/cecil-tugwell-passes.5354/

A fascinating, quite sad story, but he did get about as much as he possibly could out of his too-short life.

Arnaldo

I probably knew Cecil and spent far more time with him than any of the people who posted on onepocket.org after he died. He was my friend but one that I had to be careful with. He did have a hair trigger temper that got him in trouble more than once. Yes, he was a great player, the best black 9-Ball player I ever saw until Gabby came along. I never knew 100% for sure what happened to his right hand, other than Cecil told me he had shattered his wrist and it was too weak for him to stroke the ball anymore. He would still occasionally reach over with his right hand and shoot a very soft shot if necessary. He is also by far the best player I've ever seen switch hands, only John Morra is close.

He played a completely different style left handed than he had right handed. But it was still effective because he rarely missed a ball. I took him on the road around California to tournaments in the 1980's and he won several of them, beating guys like Ernesto, Cole Dickson and Lou Butera in the finals. They usually paid $1,000 and we would chop the money. That was when he got into smoking crack, which would prove his downfall. He told me once something I never forgot. He said, "Jay, don't ever try it even once. You will be addicted if you do." That was good advice and I thank him for that.

One last story. This was after he got hooked on crack. It was our last road trip together. He finished second in a tourney in Fresno and we got $600. He took his half and went out and got high. When he came back an hour or so later we took off for home. Cecil began to act very strange on the ride back and was talking about people he knew that had died and some that had gotten killed. He said that he could kill someone if he had to. This whole conversation was freaking me out. I stopped at a rest stop off hwy 5 and told Cecil we could both take a piss here. After we got out of the car and he walked to the restroom I got back in and drove away leaving him there. I did not want him in my car any more. He was scaring me too much. I knew he had money in his pocket and could find his way home. I didn't see him for a long time after that, until one day he showed up at Hard Times when I was there. He never said a word to me about what had happened and I didn't say anything about it to him either. It was almost like it didn't happen. When I opened my poolroom at Hollywood Park he used to come in there and I let him play pool for free. He never said a bad word to me again.
 
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wakuljr

AzB Silver Member
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Best match i ever played was with Keith. In the early 90's at Hard Times in belflower, Keith won the coin toss and hit me with a 5 pack. He popped the cueball off the table on his 6th break. I ran out and then ran 4 more racks. Popped the cue ball off the table on my 5th break an Keith ran 2 an out for the win(7). Neither one of us misseda ball, each had 1 bad break, mine was after his.
Best match i ever played I lost to Keith. I used to let Keith use my cue several time to gamble. He always brought it back to me(it was an ebony & ivory Perry Weston.
 

Ken_4fun

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Jay - Getting this thread back on McCready, did he play in all of LA or did he have a "base" room?

Secondly, did he go to all the spots or did everyone come to play the kid?

Ken
 

Island Drive

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When I first ran into em mid/late seventies, his home court was at Hard Times Costa Mesa...
The only pool room I've even been in that had a couch and fireplace.
Keith, could be found most anywhere there was action....he often played at the all night joints beatin' on the local players givin' up the nuts and outrunning' em.
 

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
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When I first ran into em mid/late seventies, his home court was at Hard Times Costa Mesa...
The only pool room I've even been in that had a couch and fireplace.
Keith, could be found most anywhere there was action....he often played at the all night joints beatin' on the local players givin' up the nuts and outrunning' em.

Later on he spent most of his time in Bobby Wallace's room in Anaheim. Bobby was like a second father to Keith. When he wasn't there he was at the track playing the ponies. Most people don't know that Keith was an exercise boy when he was a teenager. You are right though, if there was action he found it quick enough. The Orange County Sports Arena was a great spot for him in the early to mid 80's.
 

westcoast

AzB Silver Member
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Later on he spent most of his time in Bobby Wallace's room in Anaheim. Bobby was like a second father to Keith. When he wasn't there he was at the track playing the ponies. Most people don't know that Keith was an exercise boy when he was a teenager. You are right though, if there was action he found it quick enough. The Orange County Sports Arena was a great spot for him in the early to mid 80's.
sorry for the ignorance about the terminology, but what is an exercise boy?
 
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