National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – January 15 – Minnesota Fats (the real one!)

0 Comments 15 January 2013


Boy do we have a treat for you to kick off this week’s DPDs.

A true American hustler – Minnesota Fats. Bam – hold your ankles and eat a Wheat Thin!

While this is a great obit, its an even better story.

Fats spent the 1920s and 30s crisscrossing the country fleecing stiffs in every pool hall from here to Jackson Hole and back again. NOR inquiries to the Scranton IHOP regarding Fats as the possible inspiration behind their 3 Meats Minnesota Fats omelet were not returned. But we can only wonder.

Fats lived in relative obscurity until 1961 when ‘The Hustler’ hit movie theaters. With Fats, who insisted he was the prototype of the fictional character portrayed by Jackie Gleason in the movie the only certainty was that you could never know for sure.

In a career in which he may or may not have sailed around the world six times, survived two shipwrecks and hobnobbed, as he claimed, with the likes of Clark Gable, Arnold Rothstein, Damon Runyon and Al Capone, his age was as slippery as his moves around a pool table.

At 5 feet 10 inches and weighing close to 300 lbs – I’m not sure how slippery one can be.

There are 3 very important takeaways from Fat’s story.

1. Fats, who did not drink but was famous for his love of ice cream, pies or anything sweet, never apologized for his appetite. So, be yourself and never apologize. The more obnoxious the better. Its the American way!

2. Early pampering perhaps explains why Fats, who once said he never picked up anything heavier than a silver dollar, grew up with a fierce aversion to physical labor, so much so that on their cross-country trips his wife was expected to do all the driving, carry all the luggage and even change the flat tires.

“Change a tire?” Mr. Wanderone once exclaimed. “I’d rather change cars.”

If a woman wants to hitch her wagon to your star for the journey of a lifetime….thats fine but she’s driving and carrying all my shit.

3. Fats was in fact a master hustler who tended to be just as good as he needed to be when he needed to be – nothing more, nothing less.

Obits on a Tuesday. Grab your hot cocoa and sit over there!

Minnesota Fats, a Real Hustler With a Pool Cue, Is Dead

Published: January 19, 1996

Rudolf Walter Wanderone, the charming, slick-talking pool hustler who labored largely in obscurity until he reinvented himself in the 1960’s by claiming to be Minnesota Fats, died yesterday at his home in Nashville. He was 82, or perhaps 95. Continue

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