George Hegerman is a fictional pool hustler, better known by the nickname "Minnesota Fats", and featured as a prominent character in Walter Tevis's novels The Hustler and The Color of Money. Actor Jackie Gleason played this part in the 1961 film version of The Hustler, based upon the novel. Gleason's was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for portrayal of the character, and was honored as Best Supporting Actor by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. The Minnesota Fats character did not appear in the 1986 film version of The Color of Money, which had an entirely different storyline from the novel.
Real-life pool hustler and entertainer Rudolf Wanderone was known as "New York Fats" (among other nicknames) when the book was published. Realizing that there was money to be made from being associated with the success of the book and subsequent film, he changed his nickname to match the fiction, and later went on to play himself under the name "Minnesota Fats" in the 1971 film The Player. Tevis consistently denied that Wanderone had anything to do with the author's character, writing in a subsequent printing of The Hustler that "I made up Minnesota Fats—name and all—as surely as Disney made up Donald Duck".
Wanderone's association with the name started in 1961. That year while at a drive-in movie theater in Johnston City, Illinois showing The Hustler that was owned by a friend of Wanderone's (George Jansco), Wanderone boasted that the author had based the character upon himself, which was picked up by local news, and soon by the U.S. national press. Willie Mosconi – famed as 15-time World Straight Pool Championship and the technical adviser for the filming of the The Hustler – disputed the claim, which had the paradoxical effect of giving it more notoriety. Wanderone capitalized, threatening to sue Tevis and Twentieth Century Fox. Tevis responded by denying he had ever met Wanderone. Meanwhile, the press covered it all, and the association became fixed. Wanderone's second wife later claimed that a financial settlement had been made by Tevis to avoid a lawsuit, which was denied by his first wife.
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