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Ladies of the Cloth

In a sport with few financial rewards, professional pool players play for the love of the game.
Alejandro Benes
From the Print Edition:
Jimmy Smits, May/June 2005

(continued from page 4)

Fisher always seems to be on TV. In Florida, Fisher runs into Jeanette Lee, who has got serious game. Both Fisher and Lee, ranked third, have been playing well in Florida. Theirs becomes the premier match of the tournament now that Karen Corr has been eliminated. Fisher, no matter the outcome, will end the year ranked number one. Lee has not yet won a tour 9-ball event in 2004, though she did defeat Laurance at the 2004 Women's Trick Shot Challenge. Lee is hungry.

Lee enters the arena smiling, looking at her husband and their six-month old baby girl, Cheyenne. Lee is married to George "The Flame Thrower" Breedlove, formerly ranked number six among professional male players. Lee looks over at Fisher, who enters with much less fanfare. Prodded by the tournament director to spice things up, Lee says playfully, "She's going down!" Fisher smiles.

The crowd is pumped up and pulling for Lee. Quickly, Lee goes up 5-0. Fisher has "gotten out of line"—played bad position—on some key shots, missed a couple with ball in hand and left Lee easy tables. In rack six, Lee breaks and is cruising until she gets to the 4-ball. It's sitting next to the 9-ball, but a shade farther down the table. The cue ball is up-table and slightly to the right of the 4. Everyone senses what Lee is about to try. Fisher seems resigned to it. The tournament director moves closer to the table to make sure that the cue ball hits the 4-ball first. Lee plays a "billiard," meaning, that she hits the 4-ball with the cue ball, which then caroms into the 9-ball and sends it into the corner pocket. Lee takes a 6-0 lead. A big roar goes up as Lee pumps her fist.

In rack seven, Fisher breaks and sinks nothing. Lee promptly shoots the 1-ball and as the cue ball bounces she yells, "Don't do it!" But it does. The cue ball drops into the pocket and Lee scratches. The crowd moans in sympathy. Fisher, out of her chair, jokes, "What a shame." The crowd laughs. Lee lifts her cue and pretends to bash Fisher over the head. Not exactly trash-talking, but the fans get into it.

Fisher misses a relatively easy 7-ball, all but surrendering. Lee stands and says, "I won't say it," but she does: "What a shame." Fisher gives a dour smile. Lee ultimately wins 7-0. It's a resounding victory over Fisher, arguably the world's best player. Lee celebrates by kissing her husband and daughter in front of the ESPN camera, then waves baby Cheyenne's arm to the viewers at home. Jeanette Lee, nicknamed and marketed as The Black Widow, has beaten the Duchess of Doom. She goes on to defeat Julie Kelly, gaining her first 9-ball victory of the year and elevating her to number three entering 2005.



Early on, Jeanette Lee, like Fisher, did not fancy her nickname. Lee got it before she turned pro, even before she became known for her all-black wardrobe.

"Well, it started as a joke," Lee, who is Korean-American, remembers. "I was playing pool at the then Howard Beach Billiard Club [in Queens, New York] and we were reminiscing around 3 a.m., closing time. And Gabe [Vigorito, the owner] said he remembered when I first used to walk into the room. 'You know, this little Asian girl walking in all cute.' And I just walked over and looked at the tables and I seemed just kind of sweet. But then I got a rack of balls and my eyes changed and my demeanor changed and I started whacking all the balls in and the first thing he thought of was that I reminded him of the black widow [spider]. And from that day forward, everyone would be, like, 'Hey, Black Widow.' And I'd say, 'Shut up!' It didn't bother me until it started getting known because I was getting good very quickly."

Lee turned pro in 1993 and became No. 1 a year and a-half later. Fans and the media started to use the nickname. The family wasn't crazy about it.

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