by: Don "Cheese" Akerlow
January 14, 2005
I caught up with Jeanette Lee in Los Angeles filming a show for the Bravo Channel called “Celebrity Pool”. The premise of the show is similar to “Celebrity Poker” where eight celebrities will square off in head-to-head competition. Jeanette will be hosting the show and offering expert coaching.
Jeanette said, “There are so many celebrities out there right now that just love pool, that play really got to a pretty good level.”
The show will not feature any professional pool players. The participants will be celebrities from the entertainment and sports fields.
“This is about the celebrities, not about professional pool. We have enough professionals on TV. What we’re looking for are some entertainment celebrities that love pool. We’re trying to show that it’s not just the avid pool players; it’s not just the professionals that love pool and love to watch ESPN, but there’s millions of people out there that love pool on a social level. And that you don’t have to be a top professional to love pool and to be competitive. I’m talking about bringing more amateurs and showing celebrities playing good pool socially. The fun side of pool, not just the hard core serious regular league or tournament player. It’s refreshing. It’s different. We want to say, ‘Hey look how fun pool is. Pool is for everybody. Get out there and play some pool.’ It’s a broader audience and getting new eyes on the sport and even if you don’t want to be a professional, or you don’t want to commit to a league every week, it’s still fun to get out there – get the bug!”
The Black Widow Experience (BWE) coming up March 17th – 20th in Las Vegas at the Plaza will be the first of an ongoing education for pool enthusiasts all across the country. The instructors for this event will be Jeanette Lee, Jerry Briesath, Mark Wilson, George Breedlove and Helena Thornfeldt.
“As players get better they’ll become more enthusiastic about pool and hopefully the BWE will be something that can grow into something big. Basically what we want to do is take some billiard enthusiasts, spend the weekend, give them top instruction, a lot of entertainment, memories for a lifetime and just really try and see if we can improve their game.”
“The Experience” starts out with a reception Thursday evening, so that students and instructors can get acquainted. Jeanette, Jerry, Mark and George are putting together a program of high intensity billiard instruction for the Friday and Saturday clinics. Sunday will have competitions and awards ceremonies. It’s a complete package of instruction, room and some meals, to take your game to the next level and learn the secrets of the pros.
Jeanette remarked, “I’d love to have Black Widow Experiences all over the place, with good instructors everywhere. We can provide more viable opportunities for our professionals to be not just players but instructors. If this goes well then it might be something that becomes a lot more popular.”
You can get more information about the Black Widow Experience on Jeanette’s website www.jeanettelee.com. The information will be updated as it becomes available.
I thought I would ask a question about what might be learned at the BWE. Something you experience no matter what level of player you are, that is jumping up, moving before your cue makes contact with the cue ball. Jeanette responded, “I think that staying down and not jumping up all has to do with confidence. It has more to do with confidence than it has to do with anything technical, physical. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, do this to stay down or do that’. The more you play, the more you practice, the more confident you are, you’re going to give it a true swing. When you get above it you’re going to go, ‘Did I hit the shot?’ ‘Did I miss it?’ ‘How did I hit?’ You know you’re not sure what happened. If you go down and make that ball, and believe that you can make that ball and say, ‘I’m not going to get up until that ball goes in the hole. Until I see the cue ball crash into the object ball, at that exact point and I’m going to watch that ball go in the hole.’ That’s true commitment to the shot. And when you can start focusing on doing that, the more you do that, the more consistency. That’s what is going to get you to stay down more.”
Jeanette’s explanation made a perplexing problem simple, easy to understand and capable of being solved. The players attending the BWE will be coming away with an abundance of knowledge that if followed, will surely change their game.
Our conversation then turned to a more personal note when I asked Jeanette about the inclusion of Cheyenne in her life and how that impacted her. She responded, “Oh, I love being a Mother! Cheyenne’s great! She’s not only beautiful and constant entertainment but she’s so satisfying to be around. She’s very calming, whatever’s going on. I tend to have a stressful life, constantly traveling and she just makes it really easy to just take a breath and enjoy what I’m doing.”
“I didn’t have Cheyenne not to spend time with her. The choices are either I quit and stay home with her or I work and she comes with me. I wasn’t going to continue working and not be with my child. For right now, as long as I continue to work, she’s going to have to come with me.”
“I really think that when you have something as time consuming as a baby, if you’re smart you’re going to take a look at your life and really prioritize what you do and how you spend your time. My two priorities are my family and my career. It’s not going out shopping. It’s not catching up with different things. It’s easy to get caught up doing that. Going out socializing, going to this event, going to this party and I’m just not interested in that anymore. I want to spend time with Cheyenne so much that if I have spare time I’m going to go and practice and put in a really good workout. I’m just not going to waste time anymore.”
“I’m just determined. I feel like I have new energy. Cheyenne wears me out but I’m fortunate enough to have some very good friends and a very good husband who really helps so much. I have a girl friend, Marlene Wilson, who travels with me and she just helps me so much with the baby. When I’m with Cheyenne I spend all the quality time with her, when I’m not, I know that she’s in good loving hands. It’s not just holding Cheyenne and loving her and playing with her but Marlene allows me to do that and to bond with her while she helps with the other stuff. When I’m home, George is just such an involved Dad. Not just in playing with her, which is what a lot of Dads do. He actually gets up, heats the bottle, changes the diapers, does the laundry and washes the bottles. He’s just very, very involved and very helpful so again that alleviates a lot of my stress and pressure when I come home.”
Cheyenne is a lucky little girl, with both parents so involved in pool, it is inevitable that she’ll be interested as well. Along these lines Jeanette commented, “I don’t plan to put any pressure on her. The only kind of pressure that I’m going to put on her is to believe in herself and to give 100% when she does things. And to have a passion to learn and to discover and to try things. And when she finds something that she loves or when she makes a goal, to work hard at it. What it is really doesn’t matter to me.”
I then asked Jeanette how she prepared for a tournament and she said, “I just try to play as much as possible nowadays. I compete against a lot of good friends that play pretty well. I try to take some time. I try to focus on my stroke. I like to get real consistent, steady, make sure that I really bear down in my practice. It’s all about quality now, when you don’t have a lot of time. Staying limber, staying in shape, makes a big difference to me in terms of my endurance and how I feel at the table.”
Besides being a champion, Jeanette is involved in a lot of projects like the Jeanette Lee Foundation. The purpose of the foundation was to establish a way for Jeanette, her friends and fans to band together and do something positive. She is very involved with charities, especially the Scoliosis Association, the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Billiard Education Foundation. Donations to the Jeanette Lee Foundation will go to causes that she believes in as a way of giving back from her success. If you are interested in joining with Jeanette to help these worthy projects donations can be made through the Jeanette Lee Foundation or directly to the Scoliosis Association, Inc. based in Florida or the Women’s Sports Foundation based in New York City.
Jeanette grew up in Brooklyn, New York and started playing pool in Manhattan at the age of 18. She fell in love with the game and first started playing at Chelsea Billiards (which is now Slates New York). From there she moved on to several other pool rooms spending most of her time at the Amsterdam Billiard Club in New York City and still frequents the club when in New York. Jeanette fondly remembers Gene Nege who is both a mentor and a father figure, who still lives in New York.
When I asked her who she admired she remarked, “As a professional, when I started, Tony Robles always impressed me, as a player, as an ambassador and as a role model.”
Jeanette has endorsed several products such as The Black Widow cell phone game and the Spider. She has her own line of Black Widow merchandise, T-shirts, awesome posters and a Black Widow pool cue available at major retailers. Jeanette’s sponsor is Mosconi Billiards based out of Evansville, Indiana.
In closing I asked Jeanette what’s next? “I’m really excited about the upcoming year. We’ve got a lot of new things going on. It’s only going to get bigger. Tom George, my manager, is doing a great job for me in terms of managing me, so that I can focus more on my pool game and my family and that gives a lot of comfort to me. I’ve always been very hands on in managing my own marketing and things like that. He’s given me some peace and taken it to a higher level than I would have been able to do on my own. I’ve got a great family that supports me. I’ve got solid friends. I’ve got a beautiful new daughter. I’ve got a few products getting bigger and better and hopefully, if I can get over this cold, I’ll have a healthy body. My number one goal is to be #1 again and to really find that balance. I think that that by itself is a lot to focus on, the balance between family and career.”
I enjoyed talking to Jeanette, who granted me this interview despite feeling ill. She is a true champion and ambassador of the game. It is easy to see why she has become such a force, not only in pool but in all aspects of her life. There is a passion and force that comes through in every word, stroke and commitment, whether playing on the WPBA Tour, being a Mother or giving lessons.
The Break would like to thank Jeanette Lee and Tom George of Octagon for their help and the photographs provided.