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My fascination with pool was height- ened in the early ’60s when I happened upon the fabled Jansco brothers’ tourna- ment for hustlers in downstate Johnston City, Ill. After a trip to Memphis to ar- range the 1963 Bowlers Journal Women’s Tournament, I drove north through the desolate fl atlands of southern Illinois to try to locate this peculiar competition that had been featured in a Sports Illus- trated story.

I was leaning against the side of my Buick Electra convertible outside of the infamous Cue Club, wondering if I dared to invade this questionable sanctuary, when a very fat man walked up to me and said, “Wanna see some pool?” It was Rudolph Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats. He intro- duced me to Wimpy, Tugboat Whaley, The Butcher, Weenie Beanie, Cornbread Red, Peter Rabbit, Handsome Danny and all the rest. It was the fi rst of my many adventures in Johnston City. I’d walk around the golf course with the players all afternoon (being nocturnal creatures, they slept until noon), taking notes and shooting pictures with my prized Leica on warm Indian summer days. Dozens of stories resulted.

Gradually, the notion of a separate billiard magazine began to percolate. My bowling readers resented the fi ve or

six pages we devoted to pool in Bowlers Journal. Our billiard readers resented the fact that we ran so little about their game. Creating a separate billiard magazine would satisfy both camps, I reasoned.

I began talking up the idea of a pool magazine at trade shows and conven- tions. I had an artist prepare a couple of dummy issues, one in standard-sized format, the other in a smaller version I dubbed “jumbo digest.” I traveled around the country, calling on potential billiard advertisers. Every single soul loved the idea. When I called on Delmo Billiards in a gritty industrial park in south Los An- geles, the owner pulled a bottle of bour- bon out of his desk and said, “I’m going to buy you a drink. We’ve needed this magazine for a long time.”

As much as they cherished the con- cept of a national magazine, billiard sup- pliers hated the idea of a small format. After all those years in media seclusion, they felt their industry deserved the full treatment. Thus, Billiards Digest be- came a full-sized magazine despite its small-sounding nameplate.

I hired a former Professional Bowlers Assn. public relations man as the fi rst editor. I knew him as a pleasant young man with a knack for words. Besides, he lived just a few miles from the offi ce. He

Rudolph Wanderone — better known as “Minnesota Fats” — helped open the door to the sometimes shadowy world of billiards, which led to dozens of stories and, eventually, a separate magazine.

lasted two issues. Billiards Digest editors came and went like the No. 151 bus on Michigan Avenue. I wrote and called the placement bureaus at several universities. I stole some time from Bowlers Journal to put out a few issues by myself.

Finally, Mike Panozzo showed up at our doorstep. He had just graduated from Milwaukee’s Marquette University with a degree in journalism. After all the recent unsuccessful forays with editors, however, I decided to give him a test as- signment. He accepted my request to do a freelance feature on pro bowler Patty Ann. His story was less than stellar, but we were able to fi x it. I hired him. Mike blossomed into a fi ne writer

and editor, and now is half-owner of the


company. His equal partner in Luby Pub- lishing Inc. is Keith Hamilton, who start- ed with us at an even more tender age. During the company’s brief stay in

Lincoln Park, we bought a townhouse around the corner from the offi ce. We purchased it partly as an investment, partly as a guest house for visitors, and partly as a depository for all the excess stuff we couldn’t fi nd room for in the offi ce. I even lived there for a while. With little attention or maintenance, the place was soon a mess. I complained about this to one of my neighbors in the Hancock Center, Patty McDaniel. “No problem,” said this most ebullient

soul. “I know this high school kid who needs some summer work. He’ll have that dump picked up in no time.” She was talking about Keith Hamil-

ton, who soon graduated from his job as trash compiler to a new role with the summer offi ce staff . (In those days, we’d hire a few students every July to han- dle the added burden created by our just-fi nished springtime tournaments.) Later, we helped fi nance Keith’s stint at Notre Dame and his eventual MBA. After longtime business manager Ed

Daugherty retired, my son-in-law, Grant Nyhammer, pitched in for a while. When Grant decided to resign because of an onerous commute, Keith segued into his job. Next month: The dumbest decision of

my career, and new faces at the helm of Luby Publishing Inc.

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September 2013

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