Special to Page 2
She's arguably the most recognizable pool player in the world. Her long black hair, snug black pants and tight black shirts have helped earn her one of the best nicknames in sports, "The Black Widow." Currently ranked No. 3 on the WPBA Tour, Jeanette Lee is revered as much for her flamboyant, sexy style as her calculated strategy and marksmanlike precision at the table.
Regardless, Page 2's Wayne Drehs couldn't help but wonder -- beyond the sleek clothes, the menacing glare and the unique aura of sexiness -- what kind of Burning Questions would it take to make Lee crack? It didn't take long for him to find out.
1. Page 2: You're widely regarded as one of -- if not the -- most recognizable pool players in the world. When you were less recognizable, did you ever wander into a bar and hustle some innocent bystanders?
Jeanette Lee: Well, sort of. First of all, though, let me just say that people change ... and my view on it all has changed. At the time, I had to make a living. And it was either make money doing something I love -- playing pool and hustling -- or go out and work a normal job. And at 19, 20 years old, you want to play pool. But I only took money from people who wanted to take my money. These guys would look at me and based on sex alone, feel they could handicap me. So I'd take their money. It was great seeing the looks on their faces.
However, later it dawned on me that these people might have gambling problems and a family they needed to feed. And the image of where I want billiards to go ... it's not hustling. So I've changed.
2. Your nickname, the Black Widow ... that wouldn't seem to fit in with where you want pool to go. Who gave it to you?
Lee: It started at this pool room in New York, the Howard Beach Billiard Club. The owner of the room, this guy Gabe, said when I first walked into the room, I was so mysterious and pretty and quiet and nobody knew who I was. Then I just walked up to the table and started whamming balls all over the place. From that point on, just teasing, he called me the Black Widow. It was just our little nickname. But then it came up once in an interview with the New York Times and, even though it was supposed to be off the record, they wrote about it. And once it was in the media, it took off.
Lee: I do now. It's the kind of thing that grows on you. But at first, it was 1993, I was only 22 years and I was pretty concerned what people would think of me with that name. Already, with my first impression, I seemed to create enemies. I don't look very friendly at the table, so when people who don't know me come to a tournament, they see what I look like, and without talking to me say, "I don't like her." Then you put the name on top of that, and I didn't have a chance. And everyone wants to be liked at some point, so, at first, it was difficult to be seen as a villain.
3. Well, it obviously hasn't hurt your image any, seeing as you're on the Sexiest Athlete list. If you don't mind our asking, what's your sexiest feature?
Lee: (After a long pause) Oh, boy. That's a really good one. I guess that should be a basic question that anybody should be able to answer, but what's funny is that I don't see myself as sexy ... until someone makes me feel sexy.
(She calls out to her husband George, "Honey, what's my sexiest feature?") He says I'm not sexy. No, he said my hair. I don't know if I agree. I never thought of my hair as sexy. I guess a lot of people do, though. I'm known for that jet-black long hair. He's always loved my hair. He's a little upset now, though, because I just chopped it off. Took 14 inches away. He said it was like cutting off his arm. But it grows back fast. It's already down to my bra strap.
4. So who's the sexiest athlete? And why?
And then there's that character. A lot of people criticized him for taking on baseball or the Wizards, but in my opinion, that shows courage. To me, take on something new that is so far away from your world ... I mean, it's baseball, for goodness sakes ... shows as much courage and heart and willingness to work and willingness to fail and to take that chance on not being perfect. To take that chance of breaking the pedestal that everyone has you on. That whole thing is incredibly, incredibly sexy to me.
5. What turns you off in a man?
Lee: My biggest turn-off is definitely foul language. Even though I'm from New York and hear it all the time, it bugs me. The thing that makes a woman feel sexy and turned on is when you make her feel like a lady. And when you're sitting there spitting and cursing, she doesn't feel like a lady.
Then there's close-mindedness. You don't always have to agree with me, but you should at least be willing to hear me. George is incredibly stubborn, but he's still willing to hear me out. He might hate something, but he'll at least listen, he'll at least give it a try.
This may seem shallow, but another turn-off is people who chew their nails. Some people bite their nails just to trip them down. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about people who chew them all the way down until they are bleeding. Those people that chew, chew, chew, chew, chew. Yuck. You've got to take care of your nails. Otherwise, your feet get all fungussed up. And I like a groomed man.
What about turn-ons?
What about physical turn-ons, pure looks?
Lee: Height, broad shoulders, big strong hands. Big strong hands. I would say it shows something about strength for me. Not because of typical … you know what I'm talking about. That's not why. It's just what when your hand is in theirs … I'm just somebody who loves security, to feel protected, to feel warm. There's nothing greater than having an arm wrapped around you.
6. So do you prefer your strong man in boxers or briefs?
Lee: (Laughter). To be quite honest, it really depends on the guy. My whole life, pretty much everyone I knew, whether it was friends doing laundry or whatever, everybody I knew wore briefs. MJ wears briefs. Not that I'd know like you think I know … I just saw it on TV.
The only person I knew in boxers was my stepfather. And I don't picture that as sexy. No offense to him, but he's 71 years old. So that destroyed any image of boxers being sexy. But yet, as I've gotten older, and my husband wears boxers once in awhile, I kind of like it. It's a little mysterious. You know what I mean? There is a little bit, you know, that it is just hanging out there in the wind. And that's kind of fun.
But usually, when I think of boxers I think of older, much older, overweight men all shriveled up.
Now boxer briefs? Those would be all-time favorites.
Lee: I don't know how much we really like each other. But we're very respectful of each other. There's a lot of ribbing going on, but it's very light. We don't really know each other. We haven't had a whole lot of heart-to-hearts. At tournaments, it gets so heated and so competitive you can just feel it. That's why it's so exciting.
And we're such different players. Allison's strength is her discipline and composure and shot routine. She's a lot more, I don't know how to say it, mechanical? Some people say she's like a surgeon. I call it methodical, but that's not very flattering. Let's just say, extremely consistent. But my top game is better than her top game because I have more natural talent and a bit more knowledge than her. Not much more, but a bit.
It's like any sport, where the one competitor is very methodical, doesn't take any chances and is always right there at the end. Then there is the other person with all the fancy schmancy stuff who still wins.
8. What four people (living or dead) would you invite to a dinner party, and why?
Lee: Yeah, for selfish reasons, actually. See, I love to talk and don't have the best memory. If he was there and we talked to these three, he could help me remember all the little details. And man, the stories that we would hear with these three.
Why Billie Jean?
Lee: Well, I'm on the board of trustees of the Women's Sports Foundation, and I've gotten to know her and what she's done. She's the most sincere and down-to-earth person I know. And yet she doesn't seem to have any limits in life. She's one of the people I want to be like. And there are very, very few people in the world who I want to just touch, imagine or be like. I've never said that about anyone, ever.
Lee: I love my husband and he thinks Evander is the greatest man on Earth. So it's mostly for the love of my husband.
Lee: He is my greatest. There are so many questions I'd want to ask.
So this fascination with MJ ... have you ever met him?
Lee: I've never gotten to actually meet him, no. He stood behind me once, though. It was at this party for MVP.com. He was there, Wayne Gretzky, John Elway, Muhammad Ali, Derek Jeter, everyone was there. I played pool with Elway and Gretzky, but MJ came late. At one point, I was standing and talking to someone, and he and Ali were talking behind me. Another friend of mine kept interrupting us, wanting to talk to me, and as it turned out, she was going to introduce me to him. But I had to run to the bathroom. And when I got back, he had left. Isn't that awful?
9. Awful indeed. I can just imagine the two of you matching wits at the pool table. Speaking of which, who is the best celebrity pool player you've ever played against?
10. Which superpower would you most like to have -- the strength of 100 men, the ability to fly or the ability to turn invisible?
Lee: From as early on as I can remember, I always dreamt that I could fly. I would always fly over buildings, watching people. Because I travel for a living, I could save a whole lot of money, I could visit my family in Hong Kong and New York without fighting traffic.
And I could bring all the kids in the neighborhood on the coolest ride. There are like 25 kids in the neighborhood and I truly love them, without being Hollywood or shallow or anything like that. We always have pool parties at my house and stuff, so I could take them on a ride and we could find Peter Pan.