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Professional pool player Jeanette Lee instructs Michelle Mcgrath and other servicemembers and civilians on how to shoot pool at the Enlisted Club on Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Saturday.
Professional pool player Jeanette Lee instructs Michelle Mcgrath and other servicemembers and civilians on how to shoot pool at the Enlisted Club on Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Saturday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Professional pool player Jeanette Lee instructs Michelle Mcgrath and other servicemembers and civilians on how to shoot pool at the Enlisted Club on Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Saturday.
Professional pool player Jeanette Lee instructs Michelle Mcgrath and other servicemembers and civilians on how to shoot pool at the Enlisted Club on Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Saturday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Jeanette Lee watches as Staff Sgt. Peter Glassberg lines up a shot.
Jeanette Lee watches as Staff Sgt. Peter Glassberg lines up a shot. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Jeanette Lee shows how it's done.
Jeanette Lee shows how it's done. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Black Widow turned up Saturday night at the Yokota Enlisted Club.

Jeanette Lee, the former top-ranked women’s pool player who remains one of the biggest stars on the Women’s Professional Billiard Association tour, made an appearance in the ballroom to visit troops, show off her bag of trick shots and compete against community members. She also brought along plenty of charm, bantering with the crowd, posing for photos and signing autographs.

A friend gave Lee her famous nickname years ago in an old pool hall, noting how her sweet demeanor suddenly changed whenever she got on the table and devoured opponents. She also wears only black during tournaments.

The Black Widow was diagnosed with scoliosis at 13 and doctors implanted a steel rod in her spine, which she still has today. She’s had nine surgeries to correct back, spinal, shoulder and neck problems.

“I’m a physical mess,” she told the audience, “but that’s all right. I love what I do. I still love pool. ... We’ll have a good time tonight.”

Lee turned pro at age 21 and became the No. 1 women’s player in the world two years later, holding that spot from 1994-96.

On Saturday, she started off with a spectacular variety of trick shots and jumps, bouncing the cue ball over pool sticks and wooden racks to find the pocket. She also performed an instructional routine, exhibiting the sport’s proper mechanics.

“You want to work on perfect form so we can start isolating errors and improving our games,” said the 35-year-old Lee.

About a dozen local players signed up in advance for an opportunity to face The Black Widow on the table.

“Where are my victims?” she asked playfully. “Let’s rack ’em. I need a victim, I mean, an opponent.”

One by one, they stepped up, only to be dispatched quickly in 9-ball matchups — usually after getting only one chance with the pool stick.

Airman Brandon Newman of the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron was the first to get more than one turn, even though he too fell victim.

“Three shots, oh yeah,” he said afterward. “And I messed all of ’em up. ... Just the opportunity to play against The Black Widow herself was exhilarating. I knew I was probably going to lose but that comes with the territory of playing a pro like her.

“I had butterflies on the break. I was pretty much shaking in my pants. I just didn’t want everybody to see it. ... She plays pool like no other.”

Still, Lee almost got more than she bargained for when she went up against J.B. LaRoche, the Yokota Enlisted Club’s bingo manager. After breaking, he went on an impressive six-ball run, with a decent shot at the win.

“Seriously now, this is my table,” Lee told him, draping her flowing hair into his face, shielding his look at the 7-ball.

The ploy worked. He missed and she went on to finish it out.

“I wish I could do that in tournaments,” she told the crowd. “I’d be golden. Fortunately, I have no shame.”

LaRoche took it in jest.

“I had her,” he said. “The rest of the table setup was easy. She blocked my view. I was gonna get her. Everybody knew I was gonna get her. But she didn’t want to look bad. That’s OK. It’s all cool.”

In a later game, Lee intentionally missed the 9-ball in a corner, only to bank it around off three cushions and drop it in the side pocket. “Sometimes, I’m mean that way,” she quipped.

Lee packed Misawa Air Base’s Tohoku Enlisted Club on Friday night and was scheduled to be at Camp Zama’s community club on Sunday as part of her Japan tour, sponsored by Armed Forces Entertainment.

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