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ESPN Films Announces 30 for 30 Documentary on “The Black Widow” Pool Legend Jeanette Lee

Jeanette Lee

ESPN Films today announced that production has started on a 30 for 30 documentary on professional pool player Jeanette Lee, with Ursula Liang (“9-Man,” “Down a Dark Stairwell”) on board to direct and Cora Atkinson (“Summer of Soul”) producing. Lee is better known as the Black Widow, a persona more intriguing and deadly than the moniker itself. She is an Asian-American icon and top billiards player who brought strength, sex appeal and skill to pool halls around the world. After dominating the 90s and early 2000s and her recent cancer diagnosis, Jeanette Lee looks back on her storied career and opens up about her life and legacy like never before.

The documentary will be executive produced by ESPN Films in association with Words + Pictures, founded in early 2021 by Connor Schell.

From Words + Pictures, Schell and Libby Geist are executive producing. This is the second collaboration between ESPN Films and Words + Pictures as part of an ongoing deal between the two companies. Phil de Picciotto, Jason Weichelt and Tom George are also serving as executive producers.

Further details will be announced at a later date.

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Jeanette Lee’s Medical Condition Update: Official Statement

Jeanette Lee

It has been roughly fifteen months since Jeanette Lee, The Black Widow, was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.  The public response to her condition has been amazing.  Her fans and the billiards and sporting public has been unbelievably helpful and supportive throughout her journey.

It has been a long process with many setbacks.  Jeanette feels that it is the appropriate time to give her supporters a full update on her medical issues and, as much as is possible, a prognosis for her future.

In the spring of 2021, Jeanette underwent a very aggressive regimen of six separate chemotherapy sessions.  The chemo was rigorous and Jeanette fought through them all and successfully completed the regimen last summer.  The great news is that the chemotherapy was extremely successful.  For all the patients that successfully complete this chemotherapy, Jeanette’s results against her cancer were in the top 5%!  The chemotherapy did its job.

Jeanette felt good enough to enter a professional tournament in September in Aiken, SC.   Finishing seventh, Jeanette did admirably in the event.  This result continued her amazing streak of finishing in the prize money in every tournament the Black Widow has ever played as a professional billiards player.

However, her participation in the event was more for therapeutic reasons than competitive ones.  Jeanette wanted to be among her fans and to feel normal doing something, playing competitive billiards, that she has always done.  It made her feel better though her recovery time from her effort was extensive.

Following tests last fall, Jeanette was considered to be in remission from her cancer.  It was fantastic and encouraging news.   However, ovarian cancer is particularly insidious.  Being “in remission” means that there is no visible or measurable evidence of the cancer.  Even though many stage four patients now achieve remission with current state of the art treatment, they typically still have microscopic amounts of the cancer in their system.  The maintenance chemotherapy that Jeanette takes daily is designed to keep the presumed microscopic disease from becoming a problem. The median prognosis for a patient, that successfully completes this type of chemotherapy, is roughly eighteen months of survival.  Her medical advisor, Dr. Don Wardell M.D. explains, “ While no one can predict the future, there is every hope that she can have years of quality time ahead of her.  She has a true warrior’s approach to fighting her disease, and if anyone can defeat stage four ovarian cancer, it will be her!”

Jeanette’s condition was complicated by a serious accident in December, 2021.   Jeanette and her family were driving north in a motor home from her home in Florida to visit her family in New York.  Outside of Charlotte, NC, Jeanette arose from the passenger seat to go lie down when, inopportunely, the driver of the motor home had to swerve hard to avoid hitting another vehicle.  The swerve caused Jeanette to fall hard down the stairs of the motor home into the door of the passenger side stairwell.

A fall of this type is particularly damaging for Jeanette.  Her spinal column has been completely fused for several years as part of her well-publicized, lifelong battle with scoliosis.

After a few days of tests and treatment at local hospitals in Charlotte, Jeanette was released and continued the trip to New York.  However, her condition worsened and after a few subsequent falls at home, Jeanette was rushed to a hospital where she underwent emergency spinal stenosis surgery.  

The surgery was successful though there have been several subsequent procedures, many of them designed to help relieve the severe pain.  

Jeanette has now endured approximately 25 surgeries in her lifetime.

The necessity of the spinal surgery puts additional stress on her system, making her fight with cancer all the more difficult and problematic.  She spends much of her time resting between doctors’ appointments, rehabilitation and physical training.

  However, in the past few weeks, Jeanette’s overall well-being has improved and she remains upbeat and resolute.  “I truly do believe that I’m going to be here for a while.”  Jeanette wrote recently.  “I’ve prayed to God for more time on this earth but I also believe that God wants me here, to do more work for Him.  My prayers to Him have certainly has helped relieve my pain.  “I also think I have a lot more parenting to do, Jeanette continued, “I want my daughters to work hard and to be the kind of person of which their family and our God, and themselves can be proud. “

We will continue to periodically provide updates on Jeanette’s condition and prognosis.

–Friends of Jeanette Lee.  

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Jeanette Lee NFT’s Released

Jeanette Lee

Jeanette Lee has partnered with Lympo to release a series of non-fungible token (NFT) digital collectible cards featuring her and her achievements playing pool. The Jeanette Lee card collection consists of 1630 cards that are custom-designed and animated. The collection is split into 5 rarities: common, uncommon, rare, epic, and legendary. Each rarity tier has a different amount of available cards and yields higher bonuses for the collector. Apart from collectible value, the Jeanette Lee Lympo NFTs will be used in upcoming blockchain games and can be utilized on the Lympo website.

The collection goes public on the Lympo NFT Minting platform on 2021, December 14th at 13:00 UTC. People that wish to obtain a collectible card can do so by participating in the Lympo NFT ecosystem and minting their NFTs before other users have the chance.To mint a Jeanette Lee NFT collectible, users need to stake $LMT, a Lympo native cryptocurrency token, in the Lympo Athlete Pool and generate daily credits that they can spend to acquire the card. The pool is open at this address – https://nft.lympo.io/pools/athletes/Once a user has enough credits, he can mint the card and retain full control and ownership, being able to trade it on open markets or use it on various platforms.

In 2022, a one-of-a-kind (GOAT) Jeanette Lee collectible card is planned to go on auction – allowing users to bid for the chance to be the only person in the world that owns one. Lympo is constantly adding new activities for NFT cardholders to deepen the connection between athletes and fans through digital collectibles.

About Lympo
Lympo, a subsidiary of Animoca Brands, is building a sports NFT ecosystem based on world-famous athletes and sports clubs. The Lympo ecosystem will include sports stars, clubs, and custom sports characters created by various artists and sports influencers. Users can mint NFTs using LMT and partner tokens. Learn more at www.lympo.com or get updates on Twitter or Telegram.

Fisher downs the Black Widow in winners’ side quarterfinal at Omega Billiards Diamond Open

Jeanette Lee and Allison Fisher

As it turned out, if you didn’t know, you likely didn’t learn it or even suspect it, as the match progressed. In her third match of the $5,000-added, Hanshew’s Ladies 9-Ball at The Rack & Grill III in Aiken, SC, Jeanette Lee, returning to the tables seven months after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, ran into long-time rival Allison Fisher in a winners’ side quarterfinal, which played out live on Omega Billiards’ Facebook page.

Aside from a frailty of movement, an indication of some struggles with pain, Lee competed with all the verve and skills that have been a part of her game for as long as she’s been carrying the moniker of the deadly Black Widow. In fact, the match played out, virtually without any unforced errors; Lee scratched twice, in the second and third rack of the 9-game contest, but she did so shooting at a difficult shot from a position in which Allison had placed her. Fisher rattled a couple of balls in their intended pockets, but they were tricky shots to begin with.

As they bent to lag, Lee put on a mock-serious, ‘I’m gonna get you’ face and shook her fist at Fisher, which set the tone for the entire match. From beginning to end, as they spoke to each other during the match, it was the clearest indication that the match and the people playing it were completely separate aspects of the single experience.

Fisher dropped three balls on her opening break and ran the rack from there to take the lead that she’d never relinquish. Jeanette’s break left her with a long, short-rail to short-rail shot at the 1-ball, off of which she scratched. Fisher dropped the 1-ball, before rattling the 2-ball in a corner pocket, allowing Lee to run to the 7-ball. She couldn’t ‘see’ the 8-ball, but while she successfully touched it, she left Fisher the opening to make it 2-0.

Lee’s scratch in the third rack allowed Fisher to make it 3-0. Lee’s subsequent break forced her to ‘push,’ out of which Fisher made a commanding, forceful shot at the 2-ball and then, ran the table from there to make it 4-0. Another break and run for Allison pushed it to 5-0 quickly.

Nothing, at this point, about Lee’s posture, movement or execution of the basics gave any clue to the pain that was dogging her from the opening; good decisions, clean stroke, and most importantly, maintenance of a sense of humor, which flashed briefly in the 6th rack.

Lee dropped three balls on her break and then promptly rattled the 2-ball in a pocket. Fisher returned the favor moments later, rattling the 4-ball in a pocket. Jeanette missed the chance she was given but nestled the cue ball right up against the 9-ball, forcing Fisher to make a strong shot just to hit it, but ultimately, giving Lee the chance she needed. She finished the rack, to general applause from the gathered crowd, raised her arms in the air as she stepped away from the table and said “Yay!!”

“Here I come!!” she added, to a burst of laughter from the crowd, as she moved to sit in her chair.

In the seventh rack, Fisher dropped a ball, but couldn’t see the 1-ball well enough to risk taking a shot at it, and she pushed. Looking at the 1-ball, tucked behind the 7-ball at the opposite end of the table, Jeanette gave the table back to Fisher, and as Fisher paused to consider her options, Lee spoke up to clarify her decision.

“I’d shoot it,” she told Fisher, “but I don’t want to show off.”

Fisher laughed along with everybody else on the perimeter of the TV table, smiled a ‘thank you’ at Lee for ‘not wanting to show off.’

“I’ll show off for you,” she told her, Lee laughing with the rest of the crowd.

And she almost did. She bounced the 1-ball off the far short rail and it traveled to the other end of the table, looking for all the world like it had a notion to drop into the corner pocket, but it didn’t. They battled back and forth over issues related to the 7-ball, until Fisher had the chance to run them, and she did, to reach the hill first. Jeanette followed up with her first and only break and run to chalk up her second rack.

Fisher followed Lee’s first break and run with her first dry break, out of which Lee chose against taking a poke at a fairly hidden 1-ball. Allison gave the table back to her. After some initial struggles, Fisher broke the ‘logjam’ and finished the rack to win it.

They hugged generously at the end, long enough to give Jeanette the post-hug opportunity to put the match in perspective. 

“I want you to know,” she told the crowd, “I still hate her,” thus, exiting the arena in the way she’d entered it at the beginning, giving those who’d gathered to watch, something to laugh about. 

Jeanette Lee Enters Inaugural Diamond Open Just Seven Months After Cancer Diagnosis

Jeanette Lee has entered the Inaugural Omega’s Diamond Open Tournament to be held this week in Aiken S.C. Lee’s decision to enter the tournament comes just seven months after her diagnosis with Stage Four Ovarian Cancer. It will be the Black Widow’s first public appearance since her diagnosis. Jeanette Lee, “The Black Widow,” finished six rounds of cancer chemotherapy, over five months, this past June. She also had major cancer surgery during that time-period. The relative success of those treatments were assessed as being, “As good as could be expected,“ by Lee’s medical team.

Though Lee has been playing recently, her condition and the effects of the therapy, has obviously, not allowed her to prepare for the tournament as she normally would. Lee decided to enter for more therapeutic reasons than professional ones. “Playing and competing in tournaments is what I love to do,” explains Lee. “I wanted to feel that feeling, again and connect personally with my fans, again. They have been so overwhelmingly supportive, I want to be out there among them.” Lee continued, “The cancer and the chemo has affected my stamina and preparation so I have no idea at what level I can perform. However, I guarantee that I will compete with everything I have.”

Details on the Diamond Open and match streaming can be found at www.OmegaBilliards.com

For further information contact Tom George at tk.george@comcast.net

Jeanette Lee Honored with Billiard Congress of America 2020 President’s Award

Jeanette Lee

Each year the chairman of the Billiard Congress of America Board of Directors recognizes an outstanding individual who has made significant contributions to the billiard industry with the presentation of the BCA President’s Award. 2020/2021 BCA Chairman Ivan Lee has chosen to recognize Jeanette “The Black Widow” Lee with the 2020 BCA President’s Award.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Lee is arguably the most recognizable pool player in the world. Her ability to shine a spotlight not only on the herself as a player but also the entire sport of pool and billiards is unparalleled.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Jeanette Lee. “I have always worked hard to be both a serious player and a great role model. To be recognized like this means so much to me. I really hope to continue in this sport and stay deserving of this honor. Thank you, thank you!”

“Jeanette has elevated the visibility and the perception of the sport in ways not previously seen,” said BCA Chairman Ivan Lee. “She continues to be one of the most recognized pool players in the world, and throughout her journey, she has not only competed at the sport’s highest levels, she’s elevated the sport’s perception and provided unmatched exposure to pocket billiards. As one of the sport’s great ambassadors, Jeanette has been tremendously committed to giving back. Junior players have always held a special place in her heart and she has used that passion to assist the Billiard Education Foundation with its events, hosted team camps for rising junior players and assisted Team USA in the Atlantic Challenge Cup, just to name a few of her on-going contributions to the game.”

As a promoter and marketer, Lee parlayed her talent, her great looks and her natural appeal into a business empire that has resulted in untold amounts of exposure for both her and the sport. After boldly declaring her intention to become No. 1 in 1993, Lee wasted little time, winning three WPBA Classic Tour events, the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship and the WPBA Nationals in 1994. The incredible string of wins vaulted Lee to No. 1 and earned her Player-of-the-Year honors from both Billiards Digest and Pool & Billiard Magazine.

Lee won seven more Classic Tour titles from ’95-’99, and added two ESPN titles: the Tournament of Champions and the Ultimate Shootout. In 2001, Lee earned the gold medal at the World Games in Akita, Japan. She has won a dozen titles in the 2000s, including the WPBA Florida Classic and BCA Open Championship in 2004. Lee’s accomplishments at the table are all the more impressive considering the physical ailments (scoliosis, arthritis, bursitis and more) that have resulted in more than a dozen surgical procedures. Lee is currently battling stage 4 ovarian cancer that has metastasized throughout her body.

Off the table, Lee’s contributions and clout have been recognized in her 1998 selection as WPBA Sportsperson of the Year and her ranking as one of the industry’s most powerful people in the bi-annual Billiards Digest Power Poll in 2001, ’03, ’05 and ’07. She was featured in ESPN’s annual “The Body Issue,” magazine in 2010, and she has appeared in numerous movies, television commercials and has been a guest on countless national television shows. She served as National Spokesperson for The Scoliosis Association and on the board of the Women’s Sports Foundation. Lee was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Asian Hall of Fame in 2015.

About Billiard Congress of America
Founded in 1948, the Billiard Congress of America is a non-profit trade organization dedicated to growing a united, prosperous and highly regarded billiard industry through BCA leadership. The BCA seeks to enhance the success of its members and promote the game of billiards though educational, marketing and promotional efforts, annual industry trade shows, tournaments and other programs designed to encourage billiards as a lifestyle and make pool everybody’s game. For more information, visit bca-pool.com or call 303.243.5070.

About Professional Billiard Instructors Association
The PBIA (formerly the BCA Instructor Program, established in 1992) is the largest international organization of professional billiard instructors. Since its founding, the PBIA has improved it leadership position by growing cue sports through professional instruction, development of training products, contributing instructional articles to industry publications, participating in educational workshops and seminars, acting as certified referees or league officials, and directing some of the most notable billiard tournaments throughout the country. The PBIA’s mission is to provide quality billiard instruction to the general public, as well as offer training and certification programs for individuals wishing to become qualified billiard instructors. For more information, visit PlayBetterBilliards.com or call 303.243.5070.

Pool legend Jeanette Lee – The Black Widow joins LYMPO NFT platform

The Lympo family would like to welcome one of the biggest international stars in billiards history – Jeanette Lee, The Black Widow.

Jeanette Lee, now 49,  started playing pool professionally in 1989 at the age of 18. From day one, she impressed everyone around the world and was nicknamed the “Black Widow” despite her sweet demeanor, she would “eat people alive” when she got to a pool table. During her career, she won many awards including being ranked as the #1 Billiard player in the World.

Currently, Jeanette is suffering from an IV stage of ovarian cancer and as a LYMPO community, we are praying and doing our best to support her. Jeanette’s Lee Legacy Fund which fights against cancer will receive 2% from each traded card by Jeanette.

“I absolutely love the artwork!  I am honored to be selected to represent billiards in this exciting new category of collectibles.”

Jeanette’s Career Titles:

Achievements:

NFTs

NFTs (“non-fungible tokens”) are one-of-a-kind tokens that signify a specific good or asset, such as digital trading cards. They can be sold on NFT marketplaces, minted, auctioned, or used as assets in play-to-earn games that are yet to be released.

Lympo Athlete NFT pool #1 edition consists of 5 Athlete cards arranged from common to legendary

One-of-a-kind GOAT type NFT will be put to the auction.

Athlete NFT Pool

Holders of our new Lympo Market Tokens (LMT) will be able to mint NFT collectibles of various real-life world-class athletes who will go down in history books as world champions, stars, influencers, or enthusiasts.

We will gradually reveal them one by one. Each and everyone is more colorful and unique!

What is Lympo?

Lympo is building a sports NFTs ecosystem including NFTs with IP rights of world-famous athletes and clubs. The ecosystem will also include custom sports characters created by various artists and sports influencers.

Want to know more?

Please join our Telegram or Discord channel.

Black Widow fundraiser to close down, having raised over $240K

Jeanette Lee

A GoFundMe campaign – The Jeanette Lee Legacy Fund – was launched on February 2 to help the pool’s most recognizeable icon, the Black Widow, by assisting her in covering medical bills as she battles stage 4 ovarian cancer and as a legacy to cover the day-to-day needs and college expenses of her children. The pool community responded quickly, with APA’s Jason Bowman and Billiards’ Digest publisher Mike Panozzo hosting A Night to Celebrate the Black Widow, which streamed live, three weeks after the creation of the Legacy fund. It was followed by a series of benefit tournaments, the first of which Lee was able to attend. The fund will come to a close on June 20th, having generated over $240,000 in donations.

Over 3,100 people have donated, including large donations from, but by no means limited to Johnny Morris, the owner of Bass Pro Shops, for whom Jeanette was a long-time celebrity spokesperson, donated $50,000, NASCAR legend Tony Stewart donated $10,000 and Chinese media personality Yue-Sai Kan gave $5,000. Most of the gifts, however, were of the $10 to $20 variety, and several donations were from ad hoc events and fundraisers around the country (Charlotte, NC/ Upstate NY/Muncie, IN and Montana, to name a few) that donated their ‘pooled’ contributions. The industry stepped up, as well; Cuetec created and donated 50 custom cues. Matchroom Billiards, Venom and others also contributed.

On the medical front, there is cause for optimism. According to her agent, Tom George, Lee is handling chemo very well and is “baldly beautiful.” The chemo has had an obvious positive effect on reducing her cancer burden and she also came through major surgery, (her 20th!!!) like a champ.  The surgeon’s commentary is that it went “as well as could be expected.”  All are hopeful for a period of remission after she completes her 6th round of chemo in early June.

Concern over Jeanette’s condition has spawned incredible press coverage.  The story was picked up by, among others, the NY Post, TMZ, Deadspin, Yahoo Sports and included a feature in the NY Times and an upcoming full feature in Sports Illustrated.  It got international coverage in the Philippines, India and Hong Kong, among others.

“The press coverage has been stunning,” said George, “and has led to some very interesting opportunities for Jeanette, including the possibility of a biopic on her life story.”

According to George, sports marketing juggernaut, Octagon will be developing and packaging the film.  A lot of options are under discussion including a documentary and a dramatic feature or limited series, something roughly analogous to a billiards version of “The Queen’s Gambit”.

“The market seems fertile for a true story of female empowerment in a male-dominated segment,” noted George. “It would be a powerful and compelling story of an Asian-American woman at a particularly poignant time.”

Lee has expressed her gratitude on a number of occasions, appearing live, once, at one of the fundraisers and audio-visually at others, and as the fund-raising campaign approaches its $250K goal, she has expressed it again.
“I am absolutely humbled and overwhelmed by the amount of support I have been getting.” she said. “As we approach our goal of $250,000, we have decided to end the campaign.  You guys have done enough.  I will be forever grateful.  I can now concentrate solely on fighting the disease secure in the knowledge that my girls, Cheyenne, Chloe and Savannah, will be well taken care of.”

“The billiards community really responded with an intensity that is both shocking and gratifying,” she added. “They say that a positive outlook helps you beat cancer.  The notes and well-wishes that came through GoFundMe were incredibly warm and encouraging.  They buoyed my spirits.  I am still dedicated to beating this thing and, if I do, the fans who responded will be a big part of the reason why.  How can I ever say thank you enough for that blessing?”

Black Widow benefit ‘train’ stops at Atwell’s Borderline Billiards and raises $16k

Rodney Morris and Jaiden Hess

Though unable to physically appear at the latest tournament that was organized and held for her benefit,  Jeanette Lee, the Black Widow, arguably the most recognizable name in billiard sports, did make a video-call appearance at Janet Atwell’s Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN on Saturday, April 17. In the latest of an ongoing series of Black Widow Legacy Tournaments, organized by her fellow professionals and legions of fans all across the country, Lee explained to those who had gathered in Borderline Billiards to help her as she battles ovarian cancer, that she will continue to fight and that efforts to help her and her daughters have not gone unnoticed.

“The support makes a difference,” she told the assembled crowd, who, as they had done a week earlier in Florida, stopped what they were doing to listen to her on the large screen that had been set up in Atwell’s room for the purpose. “You guys are just lifting me up and I will kick this cancer.”

Two days after undergoing a related operation, she explained to the crowd that she would have loved to be there in person, but that traveling on an airplane for her was just too dangerous.

“But I love you guys,” she said. “I’m so thankful and I’m looking forward to watching these matches.”

Lee, as well as those at the venue and any who watched the live stream were treated to a number of entertaining pool matches, not the least of which was a true double elimination set of final matches in which “Rocket” Rodney Morris, who came from the loss side, was defeated by a 16-year-old competitor by the name of Jaiden Hess. Earlier, he’d been sent to the loss side by a 14-year-old junior by the name of Precilia Kinsley. The event drew 106 entrants, including a number of strong area competitors like Kia Burwell, Reid Vance, Cole Lewis, Eric Roberts, Lisa Cossette, Ryan Fossum, Scott Howard and Corey Morphew (among others, Morris included).

“Rocket” was, of course, playing with an A+++ handicap and throughout most of the tournament was being required to win at least twice as many games as the opponents he ended up facing in individual matches. He got an opening round “bye” and won just a single winners’ side match before running into 14-year-old Precilia Kinsley, who sent him to the loss side. Nine matches later, he returned from the loss side and though he took the opening set of the true double elimination final against Jaiden Hess, Hess came back and fought to double hill in the second set, before dropping the final 9-ball and claiming the event title.

In spite of the handicap, “Rocket” was impressed by the youngsters he faced in this event.

“These kids are getting some good coaching, good teaching,” he said. “Of course, they have a long way to go, learning about the cue ball (among other things), but they have got the passion.”

“Somebody’s out there,” he added. “keeping them focused, instilling that love of the game. And then, that boy, Jaiden, ends up beating me in the finals, and we’ve got ourselves a couple of lifers now.”

Janet Atwell and Rodney Morris

Morris also had high praise for Atwell and the Legacy Tournament she’d organized to benefit her fellow professional.

“It was a very emotional weekend,” said Morris, who’d been able to speak to Jeanette just prior to her appearance on the big screen to talk to all of those present. “Everybody did a great job.”

“Janet was amazing,” he added. “She is top-notch, just a very genuine person.”

According to Atwell, she will be hosting another benefit for Lee in the future, at a date to be announced. She credited her landlords, Jeff and Terri Gregory, with donating $2,000, $1,000 of which will go towards added-money for the next event.

“Counting online donations, local donations and everything raised during the event,
 Atwell wrote later, “we raised $16,867.”

There will be another Black Widow Legacy Tournament in Florida on the weekend of May 8-9, the second to be organized by Jeannie Seaver and Sonya Chbeeb. The Black Widow Open Benefit Event will be hosted by Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL. 

“With the support of hundreds of people like you,” the Black Widow had noted before the event at Borderline Billiards got underway, “I don’t think this cancer has a chance.”

The stars came out in Florida to support the Black Widow Legacy Tournament, raise over $30k

Tommy Kennedy, Jeanette Lee and Mika Immonen

The pool community at large has always been good at coming out to support members of its own extended pool family. At pool tournaments large and small, coast to coast, when a player is in need of help, his or her fellow players, and usually, lots of them, come out in support. This was especially true last weekend (April 10-11), when the player in need was the Black Widow, Jeanette Lee, whose diagnosis of ovarian cancer had galvanized the pool community into a flurry of benefit events, designed to assist Lee and her daughters. Lee, in the meantime, who visited the benefit event on Saturday, had already begun a fierce and determined battle to beat the cancer, with much the same style and verve that has characterized her entire career.

She entered Brewlands Bar and Grill of Carrollwood in Tampa, FL on a wheelchair to (literally) thunderous applause from the hundreds assembled, who stopped shooting pool long enough to welcome her. She thanked everyone and proceeded to tell them that she had already undergone three of six scheduled chemotherapy treatments, and that she was scheduled for surgery on Thursday (April 15). 

“From there,” she explained, noting that the surgery was going to require some extra healing time, “each cycle is about three weeks apart, so . . . I’m supposed to turn the big five-oh on July 9th and am supposed to be finished with chemo the first week of July.”

“The goal,” she added, “is to make it to 50.”

No stranger to pain, having spent the latter part of her career battling scoliosis and becoming the national spokesperson for the disease, she didn’t need to tell people about her courage and strength. Many of the people in the room had been eyewitness to the pain she would occasionally endure during competition. She went on to tell them from where that courage and strength emanated.

“I’m as stubborn as all get-out,” she said. “I plan to be here for my children.”

She paused for just a moment, looking at the crowd that had gathered to support her efforts.

“I could never have imagined this kind of support,” she added, “and I am humbled by it. We’re going to get through this and thank you guys for being on my team.”

Among her friends in the Tampa, FL area where she and her family live, are a number of people quite familiar with the process of organizing pool tournaments. One of them, Jeannie Seaver (the APA’s 2020-2021 Women’s US Amateur Champion, as of March 20) has had experience with benefit tournaments and along with Sonya Chbeeb, jumped at the chance to organize this one. Having become close friends with Lee since she relocated to Florida, they didn’t hesitate to give back, in return for all that Lee had done for them over the years.

“She’s an icon and a legend,” said Chbeeb, “and inspirational in so many ways. (People) can relate to so many of her experiences, with their own; the life struggles she’s gone through can touch so many people’s lives that way. She has always been supportive and helpful to people who want to learn or advance their game, always there for them.”

“We’re doing this for her and her family,” she added. “She’s always been focused on everybody else and now it’s time for her to focus on herself and her family. We wanted to have this event to allow her time to just relax and let someone else take over, to let someone do something for her.”

Though experienced at running benefits, Jeannie Seaver was used to somewhat smaller-in-scale events and thanks, in part, to the pandemic, she hadn’t actually organized one in quite some time. When she heard of the need, signing on to help put it together was obvious to her, and she came to it with what she believed to be reasonable expectations.

“I figured we’d be making $10 to $15k,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be over $30k.”

But it was. Closer to $32k when all was said and done, and thanks to the efforts of the co-tour directors of the Sunshine State Predator Pro Am Tour (Janene Phillips & Bobby Garza), it went off smoothly. As Garza set up the streaming service that would broadcast throughout the event, Phillips, with the assistance of Rob McLaren, Leah Nusbaum and Cami Becker set themselves to the task of running not just one, but two tournaments. Having anticipated the large gathering that eventually did show up, they had decided beforehand to run two separate tournaments, one for higher-ranked competition (Open/Pro) and one for the lower ranks; A & B brackets, as it were. The Open/Pro competitors would compete on the venue’s 9-ft. tables, while everyone else would compete on 8-ft. tables. The A bracket held 63 players, while the B bracket had 89.

And now, as Jeanette likely thought, but didn’t actually say, ‘Let’s shoot some pool.’

Shawn Collie and the Iceman, Mika Immonen win B and A brackets, respectively

Shawn Collie, Carrie Vetrono and Allan Ellison

The competitor who won the larger tournament (the B bracket), Shawn Collie, had, until this weekend (according to our records), cashed in only four events since 2007. It looked as though he was going to struggle again, when he lost his opening match, in a double hill fight against Steven Krogh. Collie moved to the loss side and won 11 matches, concluding his loss-side run the way he’d started, in a double hill fight. He would go on to give up only a single rack in the finals and claim his fifth cash payout and his first-ever tournament win. 

With Collie already at work on the loss side, the eventual, mixed-gender hot seat opponents – Allen Ellison and Carrie Vetrono – advanced through the field. Ellison faced Kim Burbank in one of the winners’ side semifinals as Vetrono squared off against Anthony Rotenberry. Two double hill matches followed, with Vetrono and Ellison moving into the hot seat match, won by Ellison 4-2.

It was Rotenberry who had the misfortune of running into Collie, who was eight matches into his loss-side winning streak. Burbank drew Andrew Erb, who was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that was about to end. Collie downed Rotenberry 3-1, as Burbank was busy surviving her double hill match versus Erb. Collie took the quarterfinal match versus Burbank 3-1 and then cleared his last hurdle for the finals, a double hill win over Vetrono in the semifinals.

Collie would put an exclamation point on his loss-side run. As noted at the outset, he gave up only a single rack to Ellison in the extended race-to-6 finals to claim the title.

The Open/Pro segment of the tournament ended with two classic battles between two of the sports more recognizable personalities; the ever-ebullient Tommy Kennedy and the Iceman, Mika Immonen. Behind them both and finishing in third place was ‘young gun,’ Trenton White.

The Iceman got himself into a winners’ side semifinal against Les Duffy, having given up only nine racks over four matches, including a winners’ side quarterfinal, 6-2 win over Tony Robles. Kennedy, rather unceremoniously, dropped event organizer and APA Women’s Amateur Champion, Jeannie Seaver, 6-3 in the opening round and then went on to shut out Mike Sullivan. He then gave up two to Ken Black, before defeating Jeffrey De Luna 6-4. This set him up in his winners’ side semifinal against Ray Linares, who was, when he wasn’t playing, doing duty in the stream booth as a commentator.

Immonen downed Duffy 6-1, as Kennedy was busy sending Linares to the loss side 6-4. Kennedy took the first of his two against Immonen 6-4 and waited in the hot seat for his return.

Duffy and Linares didn’t last a round on the loss side. Duffy was defeated by the ‘young gun,’ Trenton White, double hill. Linares fell to Robles 5-1. White and Robles locked up in a double hill, quarterfinal fight that eventually sent White to the semifinals, where he was shut out by the Iceman. Immonen claimed the Open/Pro side of the Jeanette Lee Legacy Tournament with an 8-3 victory in the finals.

The list of people who brought this event together and saw to it that it ran smoothly is long, and though it’s likely that none of those who contributed in one way or another, were or are interested in being recognized for their efforts, that is exactly the reason that we’ll mention them; beginning with Jeannie Seaver and Sonya Chbeeb, along with Brewlands owner, Larry Wathal and venue manager, Sammy Hewett.

“Larry and Sammy outdid themselves hosting this event,” wrote Janene Phillips. “Larry added $1,500 to the two events, 20% of which went to Jeanette. Sammy was one of the event coordinators and worked around the clock to make sure this event was perfect.”

Phillips, too, was among those who contributed to the success of this event, along with the previously-mentioned Rob McLaren, Leah Nusbaum, Cami Becker and, running the live stream, Bobby Garza and commentators Ray Linares and Cheryl Baglin. With apologies to a number of contributors who stopped into the venue and donated a variety of different items like merchandise, cues and autographed items, noted sponsors included Mezz Cues, Molinari, Roy’s Basement, Predator Cues, Sterling Gaming, Bass Pro Shops, Dunnski Dungeon, Kamui Products, Shells Restaurant of North Tampa, Joss Cues, N the Zone, Tiger Products, Ladies Florida Tiger Tour, Bulletproof Break Tips, and Sammy Hewitt’s Crew – Sara, Bri, Jamie, Mika, Lollipop, Dee, Millie, Mary, Mark, Lauren, Tony, Stephanie, Marci, Nick and the Egnatowski’s. Thanks went out, as well, to all of those who competed in both of the tournaments, including, but by no means limited to, Lee’s fellow professionals Mika Immonen, Tommy Kennedy, Janet Atwell, Jeffrey De Luna and Tony Robles. 

There are two more Black Widow Legacy benefit events scheduled. This coming weekend (April 17-18), Janet Atwell (who competed in this recent event) will host the Black Widow Open at her room, Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN. Seaver, Chbeeb and company will be on hand for another Legacy event that will be hosted by Stroker’s Billiards in Palm Harbor, FL on the weekend of May 8-9.