Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ned Polsky Interview: April 14, 1998

A little more than 10 years ago I interviewed Ned Polsky, the late author of Hustlers, Beats and Others. We spoke about the 7-11 and Jersey Red and where pool's been and where it was going. Polksy himself had spoken to Red up at the 7-11 pool hall, in Manhattan, and the two became fast friends. The 7-11, as you may recall, was then one of New York's great action rooms.

I started thinking about my interview with Polsky recently when I realized that it was the 40th anniversary of the publication of his book. So here it is -- or at least, here's most of it. This interview was conducted on April 14, 1998. It has never before been published -- although I used bits and pieces of it for Hustler Days.

The interview is somewhat lengthy, so I'll divide it up. Also, in my transcript, I never wrote down my own questions. That means the following comments are Polsky's only, with a bit of my explaining material here and there, which I denote with italics. Because the interview is so long, I'm only reproducing the first section in this blog. To read more, you'll have to jump to the separate "Pool and Pool Players" blog.

Also, forgive the typos. I'm go through and clean this up when I can. OK, here's the first part:


He (Jersey Red) was the player that was barred in the 1963 tournament because of his profanity. In 1963, he was at his peak. He was one of my main informants, back in 7-11. He was on the road (a lot) and he was based up here. The main action room was in 7-11, in '62 and '63. He (Red) would go on the road.

He was regarded, probably, as the top one-pocket player. People used to argue whether it was Red, or Ronnie Allen, or Mark Henderson. This was in 1962 or 1963. A lot of people said that Red was the top one-pocket player in the country. Red was the guy who was absolutely fearless. He would spot anybody to get a game."

Polsky says that his interviews with Red that were reflected in his book were before Red moved to Texas, where he became entranced with his future wife and settled for good. "I lost track of him when he moved in the early 60s," said Polksy.
He said he referenced Red two or three times in his book.

Polsky, a student of both pool and sociology, said there are big differences between the pool room culture at the time of the interview (1998) and during Red's heyday, in the 1960s.


"There is more of a middle-class clientele. There are more yuppie poolrooms. And one thing that is very important here, and in the Midwest and the West Coast -- has been terribly important -- is Asian immigration. ... The Koreans -- they're big on carom billiards. And of course, there's a big change in pool, largely made by television. 14.1 is pretty much dead, and it's all nine-ball and to some extent 8-ball. Everybody wants the short, fast game. The TV producers do. There is hardly ever a straight pool tournament.

"I did research in several pool rooms, the main research was in 7-11. That was the main action room in the East. He (Red) was the resident hustler, or was one of the resident hustlers. Red was there, and Boston Shorty, although Shorty was on the road a lot. Johnny Irvolino. Cicero (Murphy) was there. ... (But) Red was one of the main people. Everybody thought that he could play any pool game, but pretty much his main game was one-pocket. That was what he was known for."

To Read More, Jump to the "Pool and Pool Players" blog


Anonymous said...

Ned Polsky was a professor of mine in the late 1970s at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He made an impression on me that has lasted until this day, and he was very interesting.

Mark said...

Just now heard of him... Doing my research