My Mea Culpa

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
Gold Member
Silver Member
I don't know where else to address this but here. I missed an opportunity years ago to salute one of my very important mentors. It was on the occasion of his funeral, and his name was Richie Florence. He was very well known in pool playing circles in the 60's and 70's as "Little Richie" from Torrance and California Richie.

To say Richie was a great player is an understatement. He was considered the absolute best 9-Ball player on the West Coast at that time, a reputation that went unchallenged until first Keith, then Swanee and finally Kim came along. The only man on the West Coast who could actually challenge Richie in his prime was Denny Searcy and they did battle a few times at the Billiard Palace in Bellflower, CA, long before there was a Hard Times. As good and fearless as Denny was, at some point he gave up trying to beat Richie at 9-Ball. Richie was maybe the only man I ever saw hang with Denny back then, who made mincemeat out of everyone else who dared to gamble with him. I will only add that Sigel and Hubbart avoided Denny and Louie got creamed when he tried him out.

Richie was in the top three or four players in the nation when talking about 9-Ball for a good ten to fifteen years. 9-Ball was definitely his specialty since that was the gambling game of choice back then to assert dominance on the pool table. Richie did not turn down a game with ANYONE, and the other top guns of his era (Billy Incardona, Bernie Schwartz, Wade Crane, Ed Kelly and Greg Stevens) were not anxious to tangle with him either. One time they snuck Jimmy Moore in on a young Richie and it backfired on them. When the top road men visited Los Angeles (Jimmy Marino, Larry Lisciotti, Jimmy Reid, Jimmy Fusco etc.) they gave Richie a wide berth. To even play him was to kill your action everywhere.

All that said, Richie grew tired of the pool hustling life and decided to become a promoter of professional pool and make it a respected sport with commensurate prize money. He started RDF Productions which quickly became the mast head for the biggest and best tournaments of the late 1970's and early 1980's. He was producing $100,000 plus events when the next biggest tournaments might guarantee $25-30,000 in prize money. Richie changed everything! He got major sponsorship from major casinos (most notably Caesar's World) and beer companies like Budweiser also got onboard. He convinced ESPN to cover the events and thus make it attractive for the sponsors. Richie was a world class salesman for Pool!

Earl's first big win was at Caesar's Tahoe in 1982, when he defeated a field of 128 players, beating the legendary Steve Mizerak in the finals in the first event televised nationally by ESPN. Earl won $35,000 plus a new car valued at $14,000. That's almost forty years ago and it would still be a big prize today! Richie went on to stage several other events at Caesars properties, both in Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. He was well on his way to making pool a mainstream sport on TV.

Then along came Bill Cayton, the promoter of the Legends of Pool Series that was also shown on ESPN. He saw Richie as a threat and convinced the players to refuse to sign the standard television releases at Richie's next big tournament at Caesars Palace in 1984. Cayton told them they should be getting residuals for the repeated airings of the matches on ESPN, and they believed him. There never has been residuals for athletes in any sport and he misled them. At the time I was advised by a prominent television director (Jim Davis, who directed the Oscar telecasts among others) that the absolute best thing for our sport was the repeated airings of the matches. He said this is how you build stars and that will be what drives the game forward.

Unfortunately the players who were to appear that day in the final matches (Earl, Dallas West and Terry Bell) all refused to sign the releases and the matches (which were great) never aired on ESPN. By the way Earl won the tournament, beating Bell in the finals to the tune of $25,000! Everyone got paid but Richie lost his sponsorship and he never produced another major tournament. Cayton had succeeded in putting him out of business and he (Cayton) never produced the events he had promised to the pro players! Professional pool got a setback that it has never recovered from to this day! The players had turned their back on one of their own who was doing great things for them; a costly error they would make over and over again. Coincidently the same thing was to happen to me years later when the players boycotted my Los Angeles Open in 1993 at the behest of Don Mackey. I had produced the first LA Open in 1992 with a total purse of $140,000. Earl had won that one as well in front of crowds of well over 1,000 people. He pocketed $21,000 that year and Mark Tadd won $26,000 the following year ($160,000 purse!). Thanks to Mackey and the poor decision making by the players there was never another LA Open.

My failure at the funeral was not to acknowledge Richie for what he had done to better our sport, and how he was thwarted in his efforts. I had been his tournament director in every event from 1982 until 1984 and it was his mentoring that got me into promoting pool tournaments a few years later.

I owe Richie a great debt and so do all the pool players of my era. We failed him! He did not fail us!
 
Last edited:

mnb

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Earl's first big win was at Caesar's Tahoe in 1982, when he defeated a field of 128 players, beating the legendary Steve Mizerak in the finals in the first event televised nationally by ESPN. Earl won $35,000 plus a new car valued at $14,000. That's almost forty years ago and it would still be a big prize today! Richie went on to stage several other events at Caesars properties, both in Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. He was well on his way to making pool a mainstream sport on TV.
To put things in perspective about how big these tournaments were.... $35,000 in 1982 would be about $95,000 today
 

Chip Roberson

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Thanks for making this known Jay. A shame that it cost everyone , the players, and the fans might have had regular events to enjoy , for years to come.
 

slayer

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I must say Jay you have done a lot for this sport we all need to Thank You love your post as you can see I don't post much but when something like this comes along I have to Thanks Jim
 

overlord

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
Really great copy Jay. Very interesting history. I am always amazed how much you know about the history of the game.

If there is a lesson in this cautionary tale, it's that; pool players would piss on paradise.
 

jrhendy

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I don't know where else to address this but here. I missed an opportunity years ago to salute one of my very important mentors. It was on the occasion of his funeral, and his name was Richie Florence. He was very well known in pool playing circles in the 60's and 70's as "Little Richie" from Torrance and California Richie.

To say Richie was a great player is an understatement. He was considered the absolute best 9-Ball player on the West Coast at that time, a reputation that went unchallenged until first Keith, then Swanee and finally Kim came along. The only man on the West Coast who could actually challenge Richie in his prime was Denny Searcy and they did battle a few times at the Billiard Palace in Bellflower, CA, long before there was a Hard Times. As good and fearless as Denny was, at some point he gave up trying to beat Richie at 9-Ball. Richie was maybe the only man I ever saw hang with Denny back then, who made mincemeat out of everyone else who dared to gamble with him. I will only add that Sigel and Hubbart avoided Denny and Louie got creamed when he tried him out.

Richie was in the top three or four players in the nation when talking about 9-Ball for a good ten to fifteen years. 9-Ball was definitely his specialty since that was the gambling game of choice back then to assert dominance on the pool table. Richie did not turn down a game with ANYONE, and the other top guns of his era (Billy Incardona, Bernie Schwartz, Wade Crane, Ed Kelly and Greg Stevens) were not anxious to tangle with him either. One time they snuck Jimmy Moore in on a young Richie and it backfired on them. When the top road men visited Los Angeles (Jimmy Marino, Larry Lisciotti, Jimmy Reid, Jimmy Fusco etc.) they gave Richie a wide berth. To even play him was to kill your action everywhere.

All that said, Richie grew tired of the pool hustling life and decided to become a promoter of professional pool and make it a respected sport with commensurate prize money. He started RDF Productions which quickly became the mast head for the biggest and best tournaments of the late 1970's and early 1980's. He was producing $100,000 plus events when the next biggest tournaments might guarantee $25-30,000 in prize money. Richie changed everything! He got major sponsorship from major casinos (most notably Caesar's World) and beer companies like Budweiser also got onboard. He convinced ESPN to cover the events and thus make it attractive for the sponsors. Richie was a world class salesman for Pool!

Earl's first big win was at Caesar's Tahoe in 1982, when he defeated a field of 128 players, beating the legendary Steve Mizerak in the finals in the first event televised nationally by ESPN. Earl won $35,000 plus a new car valued at $14,000. That's almost forty years ago and it would still be a big prize today! Richie went on to stage several other events at Caesars properties, both in Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. He was well on his way to making pool a mainstream sport on TV.

Then along came Bill Cayton, the promoter of the Legends of Pool Series that was also shown on ESPN. He saw Richie as a threat and convinced the players to refuse to sign the standard television releases at Richie's next big tournament at Caesars Palace in 1984. Cayton told them they should be getting residuals for the repeated airings of the matches on ESPN, and they believed him. There never has been residuals for athletes in any sport and he misled them. At the time I was advised by a prominent television director (Jim Davis, who directed the Oscar telecasts among others) that the absolute best thing for our sport was the repeated airings of the matches. He said this is how you build stars and that will be what drives the game forward.

Unfortunately the players who were to appear that day in the final matches (Earl, Dallas West and Terry Bell) all refused to sign the releases and the matches (which were great) never aired on ESPN. By the way Earl won the tournament, beating Bell in the finals to the tune of $25,000! Everyone got paid but Richie lost his sponsorship and he never produced another major tournament. Cayton had succeeded in putting him out of business and he (Cayton) never produced the events he had promised to the pro players! Professional pool got a setback that it has never recovered from to this day! The players had turned their back on one of their own who was doing great things for them; a costly error they would make over and over again. Coincidently the same thing was to happen to me years later when the players boycotted my Los Angeles Open in 1993 at the behest of Don Mackey. I had produced the first LA Open in 1992 with a total purse of $140,000. Earl had won that one as well in front of crowds of well over 1,000 people. He pocketed $21,000 that year and Mark Tadd won $26,000 the following year. And thanks to Mackey and the poor decision making by the players there was never another LA Open.

My failure at the funeral was to not acknowledge Richie for what he had done to better our sport, and how he was thwarted in his efforts. I had been his tournament director in every event from 1982 until 1984 and it was his mentoring that got me into promoting pool tournaments a few years later.

I owe Richie a great debt and so do all the pool players of my era. We failed him! He did not fail us!

Thanks Jay, I knew a little about it, but know I know the rest of it.

I owe Richie quite a bit myself. In 1960 this kid busted me at the Wonder Bowl in Anaheim. I went home busted to a pregnant wife and went out and got a job. Richie and I laughed about it almost 30 years later at Hard Times, Bellflower when he was coming around a bit again.
 

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
Gold Member
Silver Member
Wasn't Richie fairly young when he passed away?

He was 59 or 60 when he died in 2003 or 2004 (I don't remember the exact date). He had a stroke a few years earlier and was partially paralyzed, and had to walk with the aid of walker. He used to come visit me in my last pool room at Hollywood Park to reminisce about the old days and also place some bets on the ponies. It was sad to see this once vibrant man reduced to a near cripple. His mind was still intact though and he usually had a hot tip on a horse for me (they always lost!).
 

ShootingArts

Smorg is giving St Peter the 7!
Gold Member
Silver Member
Nicely Done!

Jay,

You did a fine job here and in truth it was already too late at his funeral. You either thank people while they are living or you miss the bus. I have had it go both ways, hate that I missed talking to some people, very glad I did talk to others.

You did what you could and there will probably be more pool people see your words here than would have heard them at the funeral anyway.

Rest in Peace Richie, or give them hell wherever you are at if that is your inclination!

Hu
 

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
Gold Member
Silver Member
Jay,

You did a fine job here and in truth it was already too late at his funeral. You either thank people while they are living or you miss the bus. I have had it go both ways, hate that I missed talking to some people, very glad I did talk to others.

You did what you could and there will probably be more pool people see your words here than would have heard them at the funeral anyway.

Rest in Peace Richie, or give them hell wherever you are at if that is your inclination!

Hu

Thanks Hu. I'll share something with you. Up until he had his stroke in the early 90's, Richie still had dreams of making a comeback as a promoter. He would call me to come visit him at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes and outline his plans for another major tournament. None of it ever came to fruition though. I never realized how much I cared for him until he was gone. Shame on me.
 

JoeyInCali

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
He was 59 or 60 when he died in 2003 or 2004 (I don't remember the exact date). He had a stroke a few years earlier and was partially paralyzed, and had to walk with the aid of walker. He used to come visit me in my last pool room at Hollywood Park to reminisce about the old days and also place some bets on the ponies. It was sad to see this once vibrant man reduced to a near cripple. His mind was still intact though and he usually had a hot tip on a horse for me (they always lost!).
I saw at The Commerce Casino in 1995 Legends of 9-Ball ( iirc ).
The year Efren won it.
He was just recovering from stroke. He had a cane.
Roy Yamane and he were walking together iirc.
Richie was very personable. People liked approaching him.
 

book collector

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I don't know where else to address this but here. I missed an opportunity years ago to salute one of my very important mentors. It was on the occasion of his funeral, and his name was Richie Florence. He was very well known in pool playing circles in the 60's and 70's as "Little Richie" from Torrance and California Richie.

To say Richie was a great player is an understatement. He was considered the absolute best 9-Ball player on the West Coast at that time, a reputation that went unchallenged until first Keith, then Swanee and finally Kim came along. The only man on the West Coast who could actually challenge Richie in his prime was Denny Searcy and they did battle a few times at the Billiard Palace in Bellflower, CA, long before there was a Hard Times. As good and fearless as Denny was, at some point he gave up trying to beat Richie at 9-Ball. Richie was maybe the only man I ever saw hang with Denny back then, who made mincemeat out of everyone else who dared to gamble with him. I will only add that Sigel and Hubbart avoided Denny and Louie got creamed when he tried him out.

Richie was in the top three or four players in the nation when talking about 9-Ball for a good ten to fifteen years. 9-Ball was definitely his specialty since that was the gambling game of choice back then to assert dominance on the pool table. Richie did not turn down a game with ANYONE, and the other top guns of his era (Billy Incardona, Bernie Schwartz, Wade Crane, Ed Kelly and Greg Stevens) were not anxious to tangle with him either. One time they snuck Jimmy Moore in on a young Richie and it backfired on them. When the top road men visited Los Angeles (Jimmy Marino, Larry Lisciotti, Jimmy Reid, Jimmy Fusco etc.) they gave Richie a wide berth. To even play him was to kill your action everywhere.

All that said, Richie grew tired of the pool hustling life and decided to become a promoter of professional pool and make it a respected sport with commensurate prize money. He started RDF Productions which quickly became the mast head for the biggest and best tournaments of the late 1970's and early 1980's. He was producing $100,000 plus events when the next biggest tournaments might guarantee $25-30,000 in prize money. Richie changed everything! He got major sponsorship from major casinos (most notably Caesar's World) and beer companies like Budweiser also got onboard. He convinced ESPN to cover the events and thus make it attractive for the sponsors. Richie was a world class salesman for Pool!

Earl's first big win was at Caesar's Tahoe in 1982, when he defeated a field of 128 players, beating the legendary Steve Mizerak in the finals in the first event televised nationally by ESPN. Earl won $35,000 plus a new car valued at $14,000. That's almost forty years ago and it would still be a big prize today! Richie went on to stage several other events at Caesars properties, both in Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. He was well on his way to making pool a mainstream sport on TV.

Then along came Bill Cayton, the promoter of the Legends of Pool Series that was also shown on ESPN. He saw Richie as a threat and convinced the players to refuse to sign the standard television releases at Richie's next big tournament at Caesars Palace in 1984. Cayton told them they should be getting residuals for the repeated airings of the matches on ESPN, and they believed him. There never has been residuals for athletes in any sport and he misled them. At the time I was advised by a prominent television director (Jim Davis, who directed the Oscar telecasts among others) that the absolute best thing for our sport was the repeated airings of the matches. He said this is how you build stars and that will be what drives the game forward.

Unfortunately the players who were to appear that day in the final matches (Earl, Dallas West and Terry Bell) all refused to sign the releases and the matches (which were great) never aired on ESPN. By the way Earl won the tournament, beating Bell in the finals to the tune of $25,000! Everyone got paid but Richie lost his sponsorship and he never produced another major tournament. Cayton had succeeded in putting him out of business and he (Cayton) never produced the events he had promised to the pro players! Professional pool got a setback that it has never recovered from to this day! The players had turned their back on one of their own who was doing great things for them; a costly error they would make over and over again. Coincidently the same thing was to happen to me years later when the players boycotted my Los Angeles Open in 1993 at the behest of Don Mackey. I had produced the first LA Open in 1992 with a total purse of $140,000. Earl had won that one as well in front of crowds of well over 1,000 people. He pocketed $21,000 that year and Mark Tadd won $26,000 the following year ($160,000 purse!). Thanks to Mackey and the poor decision making by the players there was never another LA Open.

My failure at the funeral was not to acknowledge Richie for what he had done to better our sport, and how he was thwarted in his efforts. I had been his tournament director in every event from 1982 until 1984 and it was his mentoring that got me into promoting pool tournaments a few years later.

I owe Richie a great debt and so do all the pool players of my era. We failed him! He did not fail us!

Thanks for sharing this with us.
 
Top