Our own JimInks interview on PipesMagazine podcast got me thinking about interesting people I knew who smoked a pipe. Please share your stories and thoughts about interesting people who are (or were) pipe smokers too. I kicked this off and titled the thread about Gene.
Gene Nagy Dies at Age 59
Jul 14, 2006, 5:34 PM
Gene Nagy, legendary straight-pool player and longtime coach and mentor to many players including Jeanette Lee, passed away yesterday, July 13, at age 59.
I found out about Gene’s passing several years after the fact and it saddened me greatly. I knew Gene from the time that I spent at the Rack and Ball Club on Queens Boulevard (in Queens, NYC of course).
I was a lousy pool player. I didn’t say that I lacked knowledge about playing pool for I learned from Gene and I was able to refine technique in friends who would then promptly trounce me. I could make some difficult shots but the fact is I couldn’t shoot straight and as brilliant a player and teacher as Gene was this couldn’t be fixed.
I write about Gene as a pipe smoker. He was always smoking something and often it was a pipe in his mouth and I was naturally interested since I’d worked in a pipe shop since childhood. I remember the year, not because that memory is clear but the time overlapped the Son of Sam Murders from 1976 to 1977.
Gene and I talked pipes, tobacco and pool while we played, actually he played and I watched because unless he wanted me to take a shot he rarely missed and I saw him run over 100 balls on many occasions. He introduced me to several other great players like Mike Euphemia and Dave The Lizard.
Charatan was the best pipe in the world according to Gene. At least that’s what he’d heard and he was impressed that I owned a straight Charatan Belvedere, even if the nomenclature was barely visible. He thought that made me a great pipe smoker and based on that fact alone he was willing to practice with me. He was surprised that I didn’t smoke exclusively Lane’sCrown Achievement in the Belvedere.
“They made that pipe precisely to smoke that tobacco, so why would you smoke anything else in it?”
I tried to explain but Gene was a guy that could set his mind on something rigidly. As I remember he liked Latakia mixtures and mostly smoked bents.
I don’t know where fact merged with fiction with Gene. He told me of his mother making his lunch and giving him a dime for the bus so that he could get to the pool hall and sweep for table time and that they’d give him two dimes, one for a soda and the other for the bus home. His obituary tells a different story.
I told Gene that Son of Sam had shot a girl from Bellerose who lived a couple of blocks from where my girlfriend lived. The next time I saw him he told me that he’d gone to the police and volunteered to act as a decoy but they’d turned him down.
“Better me than another innocent girl”, he explained. “I could have worn a wig!”
I bought a business in mid 1977 and knew that I’d not be back at the Rack and Ball Club so I made a final trip and gave the Belvedere and a tin of Crown Achievement to Gene and said goodbye. He was touched and told me that I finally knew how to get the pipe to smoke right, with Crown Achievement and him smoking it.