Guile, threat and ruthlessness have been at all times considered the hallmarks of pool hustlers, occupational necessities for a gloomy artwork. But then got here Danny Basavich, who carried out some opposite English to the archetype and took a unique perspective.
Doing trade as “Kid Delicious” beginning within the early Nineteen Nineties, he killed with kindness, leaning into each the desk and his weight … and leaving the joint because the uncommon pool hustler who made cash and buddies in equivalent measure.
There is, in fact, no professional stats bureau or dependable metrics for pool hustling. But Kid Delicious, who died Wednesday at age 44, used to be through any measure some of the maximum a success pool hustlers in pool’s flavorful historical past. He made masses of 1000’s of bucks lining up motion after which profitable.
Kid Delicious’s go-to transfer used to be to muss his hair, slather cake on his untucked sweatshirt and slouch right into a pool corridor close to his house in central New Jersey. Then, he’d get started banging balls with the native shortstops, Jersey Shore greasers and Rutgers frat boys. When they completed snickering on the slob with the humorous voice, he would problem them to a sport. He’d lose, all of the whilst attractive them in small communicate and cracking jokes, regularly at his expense.
Then he’d ask for any other sport, elevating the wager. And sooner or later, when the stack of expenses of the desk were given sufficiently fats, he would divulge his talents. Kid Delicious didn’t glance the phase, however make no mistake—right here used to be an elite athlete, endowed with poise, contact, hand-eye coordination and a world-class skill to pot balls in any of the six wallet coupled with masterful cue ball keep an eye on.
In time, the 5’9″or so pool savant, weighing north of 300 pounds and cracking jokes while running racks became a known quantity in New Jersey. He tried disguises. He tried dying his hair. But there were only so many pool players matching his description with an ability to go hours without missing.
So Kid Delicious did what so many skilled players did at the time. He became a road man. For the better part of a decade, he caromed across the country, slinking into town talking up a storm, and inevitably leaving the joint a few hundred bucks to the good, be it at an underground hall in Hattiesburg, Miss., or a joint favored by Philly mobsters right off the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.
Personal backstory: In 2004, Grand Central Station was the site of a pool exhibition, and I caught wind of a “personable hustler” with the irresistible nickname “Kid Delicious.” My story meter beeped. I tracked him down. A few days later we were eating sushi—Danny’s favorite meal and the repository for much of his winnings at the table—in Lower Manhattan. He regaled me (and then the people at the next table) with his road stories, all delivered in a Wolfman Jack voice and punctuated by a laugh, often at his own expense, that originated deep in his gut.
“No matter where we were … people couldn’t get enough of Danny,” his longtime road partner, “Bristol Bob” Begey, once told me. “Me? They would want to fight. Him? They wanted to be his friend.”
The resulting story ran in Sports Illustrated on Feb. 14, 2005. Even at 5,000 or so words, there were dozens of anecdotes left on the floor. So, with Kid Delicious’s blessing, I wrote a book on his hustling exploits. Though “wrote” is overstating it. I essentially let Kid Delicious tell his tales, his ability to recall detail as extraordinary as his ability to pot pool balls. I tried to verify his accounts—to an alarming degree, even the players he vanquished were able to corroborate that, yes, he had beaten them out of $500 … and then treated them to dinner. I put the stories into something resembling a structure, and presto. Even the marketing—often the most unpleasant of the book process—was a joy. Danny was as charming and game on the publicity circuit as he was during his pool hustler heyday. Here he is, winning over Bill Weir on ABC’s Nightline.
Like maximum pool gamers, Kid Delicious and his cash didn’t at all times get alongside. Even when he used to be profitable, the money didn’t have a tendency to stay round. And, in round 2005, he got here blank, because it have been, and attempted to play on a fledgling skilled pool circuit. He did smartly in the beginning, confirming that his pool chops have been world-class. But in a vintage case of the hustlers getting hustled, the excursion used to be run through Kevin Trudeau, a convicted fraudster, who made his cash in telemarketing. Within a 12 months, the pool excursion went bust, many gamers have been left unpaid and—hastened through the web—they might longer slink across the nation incognito.
Kid Delicious spent the decade in New Jersey, not able to copy the joys of the street. But as he gave pool classes, instructed his tales and met strangers, he projected the similar appeal. He is survived through his longtime spouse Danielle Graziano, son Anthony, folks Dave and Doris, and innumerable warring parties who passed him their cash. And nonetheless fell into his thrall.
Eight ball, nook pocket. RIP, Kid.sports