High Profile: SHARI STAUCH
Hall of Fame pool champion still in the game fighting for women
"Trouble, oh we got trouble, right here in River City!/With a capital T/And that rhymes with P/And that stands for Pool."
- Meredith Willson
Those lyrics from a con man who sells musical instruments in Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" have helped taint the game of pool since the film's 1962 release. Pool halls traditionally have been a male province, and girls were warned to walk a bit faster passing by so as not to be whistled at.
"And, of course, there's 'The Hustler,' with Jackie Gleason," says Hall of Fame pocket billiards player Shari Stauch in an upbeat Chicago accent filled with chutzpah.
"People still have the wrong image of pool, and especially of women who happen to be pool sharks," says Stauch, who spent part of her teens hanging out at her father's pool hall in a Chicago suburb and became an integral part of the award-winning film "The Color of Money."
"Nothing makes me madder than for someone to say, 'What's a nice girl like you doing playing pool?' "
After years of competing in tournaments, including the Women's Professional Billiard Tour, Stauch retired from touring in 2004 and lives with her family on 65 acres on the Ashley River.
Today, Stauch edits Pool & Billiard Magazine in Summerville, sending it to Minneapolis to be printed. Stauch's father, Harold Simonsen, publisher of the magazine, also moved from the Windy City to Flowertown.
Always determined that women should be part of the game that takes judgment and cool calculation, next weekend she will use pool to fight one of the deadliest battles that thousands of women face: ovarian cancer, known as the silent killer.
The first Chix With Stix Teal Tournament will be Friday and Saturday at the Francis Marion Hotel. The event will be co-hosted by Stauch and the Center for Women, and will feature 16 of the top professional women pool players from throughout the world.
Heading the list is Ewa Mataya Laurance, a multiple pocket billiards champion and current world trick-shot champion. From Sweden, Ewa Laurance now lives in Myrtle Beach with her actor-husband Mitchell Laurance. Now a commentator for ESPN, Mitchell Laurance will serve as emcee for the exhibition matches. Stauch says that all the pool tables will be provided by Brunswick Billiards and Player's Place Billiards.
How did Stauch and her family become part of the film "The Color of Money"?
"When I was 20, I read in some movie magazine that Disney's Touchstone had bought rights to Walter Tevis' sequel to 'The Hustler,' so I got on the phone and finally reached a woman in L.A. who was helping to produce 'The Color of Money.' "
It turned out they were going to scout for a location for the film and were planning to visit New York, Toronto and Chicago. "I told them that in Toronto they use the British pool tables with cushions instead of pockets, and that wouldn't work," she says. "It turned out to be true, and the crew loved Chicago. Dad and I were hired as consultants, and friends from our pool hall were extras. It was great working with (director) Martin Scorsese. I've never seen people work so hard, and, of course, Paul Newman and Tom Cruise were so nice.
"Dad designed the entire finale tournament scene and played the tournament director, and my husband, Jeff, was the ref in the Newman and Cruise match," says Stauch. 'If you don't blink, you can see me and Dad sitting there; also, we got screen credit.
"When we got back from the movie's Chicago premiere, we walked into our pool hall and 20 new faces were there, all twirling their cue sticks like Cruise did in the film."
Stauch also traveled around the world as the secretary-general of the World Pool Association, which took her from Bangkok to Berlin, where the group lobbied to get pool considered as a sport by the Olympic committees in some countries (not the U.S.). "It was incredible how pool playing among women in Europe exploded," she says.
In the early 1990s, when Stauch and her husband were driving home from a pool conference on Hilton Head, they decided to drive through Charleston.
"I got out near the Ashley River, and decided we were going to live here someday. So we set a four-year plan and moved here in 1998. My husband works with American Promotional Products, and the kids love it here," she says of Megan, 21 and Jake, 16.
Calling herself a "pool shark," in 2005 Stauch started a company named Shark Marketing that she is using to promote Chix With Stix. "What I'm proudest of now is that I'm on the board of the Center for Women," says Stauch, who met center director Jennet Robinson through friends.
When both learned they had several close friends with ovarian cancer, they decided to organize the fundraiser.
"Women have beat the social stigma of pool, and they will convince doctors to come up with better tests for ovarian cancer," says Stauch. "You'll see."
Stauch is ready to run the table in this match, too.
If you go
Chix With Stix will be held Jan. 18-19 at the Francis Marion Hotel. The public is invited to the pro-am pool tournament fundraiser featuring matches between female pool champions. Proceeds will go to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and the S.C. Ovarian Cancer Foundation in partnership with the Center for Women to form a support group to educate women concerning this disease.
The event opens at 6 p.m. Friday with a silent auction and cash bar; trick shot exhibition at 7 p.m. by world trick shot champion Ewa Laurance; and at 7:30 p.m., 16 teams will compete in elimination playoff rounds of 20 minutes. Afterward, anyone may bid any amount of money to play one of the champion players. Tickets for the evening are $25.
From 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, 15 educational sessions on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer will be conducted by experts, including Dr. Judith Wolf of M.D. Anderson, an internationally known cancer center in Houston. Free and open to the public.
At noon Saturday, a benefit luncheon will feature speakers and entertainment. The cost is $100. From 2:30-5:30 p.m., a pool clinic will be taught by 16 professional players. The cost is $150. For information and tickets, go to chixwithstix.net. Tickets also may be purchased at the Center for Women, 129 Cannon St., or by calling 763-7333.