Ball Breakers

They're cool. They're coifed. They're tightly wrapped. And they kick ass with a cue stick.

She won the WPBA National Championship less than a year after turning pro and became the number-one-rated woman player in the world. She wasn't, however, wholeheartedly embraced by all.

"She was the Black Widow the day she walked in the door here," Stauch remembers. "She took some criticism from some of the women because she was brassy and young and dressed more daring than some of them. Then there were others of us saying, 'Go, Jeanette.' She was bringing in, single-handedly, a whole new younger audience."

She considers her greatest strength to be her determination. "It doesn't matter what the score is -- if I'm behind or ahead, I want to beat this person," she says.

Colby Katz
Jeanette Lee, a.k.a. the Black Widow, is one of the main reasons men are tuning into women's pool.
Jeanette Lee, a.k.a. the Black Widow, is one of the main reasons men are tuning into women's pool.

And greatest weakness?

"Like I would tell you!" she teases. "My Achilles' heel... hmm. Cheyenne, maybe? Nothing on the table, really -- not that I can say. I have a well-balanced game."

Away from the pool table, she maintains a mellow life. "Generally between matches, I like to stay very relaxed," she says of touring. "I spend a lot of time resting. Pretty much, if I'm not eating, I'm lying down in the hotel room. I have a beautiful daughter who takes up a lot of my time. She goes everywhere I go, because I had a daughter so I could hang out with her."

That doesn't sound terribly exotic, someone opines.

"I'm sorry," she coos in a voice so sincere it could melt a 9-ball.

If you want to see what legacy the Black Widow hath wrought in women's pro pool, look no further than Jennifer Barretta. The 35-year-old dirty blond burst onto the pro scene last year, and during the first matches she played at the Hard Rock tourney, she could do no wrong.

"There's a maturing process for everyone who goes out on the professional tour," Tipton tells the audience as Barretta warms up for a quarterfinal game. "But I'll tell you, it's very obvious who's going to make it. Jennifer had something that most young players don't have: a calm confidence about her and a focus that was beyond her experience level." He adds that her website includes a diary of her tournaments, a biography and "other good stuff too."

"Photos?" a Southern male voice adds hopefully.

He's not going to be disappointed. The former bodybuilder and fitness competitor recently posed for FHM magazine in a gold bikini, crouching seductively on all fours upon a billiards table. She also addressed the issue of boobs and billiards in the magazine, noting, "Some female players say their breasts get in the way, but I swear it helps. If the cue is under my breast, rubbing a bit, I know I'm lined up correctly."

Barretta is up against Corr, who had earlier beaten Ng but hadn't eliminated her. Tipton hypes the match for the audience, saying it's "a classic David versus Goliath." Whatever Corr has on Barretta in the realm of experience and skill, however, the latter has the wholehearted support of the mostly male audience that hoots and hollers for her. Barretta has a wasp-like figure, accentuated by form-fitting black pants and a purple tank top. Her arms are finely sculpted, and even at a distance of 50 feet, the definition in her triceps is apparent. She approaches the table as if she's going to seduce it. Corr receives polite applause that sounds like a gentle rain on a tin roof.

"I'm the underdog," Barretta later tells New Times in a far-fetched attempt to explain the crowd's frenzy. "The underdog is always the crowd favorite." So it's not your...?

"No, I'm telling you," she pleads in her silky alto voice. "People like the underdog. If I'm out there, the number-one player some day, and some little rookie comes walking in, they're going to be rooting for her, no question."

"Is she always that serious?" Tipton asks as he turns his gaze to Corr. "Well, she's an Irish girl, and she's been known to tip a pint at times."

The sound men hook up Corr and Barretta in order to catch every sigh, groan, whoop, and comment either might make during the match.

It's certainly a world away from what women's pool was like back when the WPBA formed in 1976.

"Six of us weren't afraid to jump into a Volkswagen and drive 1,500 miles to play for $500 in an also-ran event," Stauch recalls. "There was no financial reward. Because of that, the skill level wasn't there. If you lose money, even if you win an event -- if it costs you $1,000 to go and you can only win $200 -- you're not going to put that much time into it."

A watershed moment for women's pool came in 1986 with the release of the film The Color of Money, which featured Paul Newman and Tom Cruise as pool sharks. "I grew up in a pool room -- my dad owned one -- and I was always the only girl in the room," Stauch says. "But within a week of that movie, there were 100 percent new faces in the pool room, and every single one of them was trying to shoot with her eyes closed."

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