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Don't Pity Me. I've Stood on Top of The World.,
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This review is from: Who Was Hurricane Higgins? (Hardcover)
These words were the ending of Richard Dormer's one-man play about Alex Higgins. Trademark fedora, cigarette in one hand, beer cans, betting slips, money. Alex Higgins was audacious and rebellious to the end. Tony Francis's book encapsulates the puzzle and enigma of the man. Over 60 interviews from family,friends (some hangers-on), fellow professionals, referees add to the almost mythical 'Hurricane Higgins' (Higgy).
He breathed life into snooker and this was reciprocated. From a down and out sport he, with John Spencer, put glamour and entertainment into the game. When he won the World Championship in the Selly Oak British Legion Club (Birmingham) in 1972 the audience were unaware of the ramifications it would have. Long-demolished (Giant Haystacks had been wrestling a few weeks before and drew the same number of spectators). The old brigade including Fred Davies, Eddie Charlton, Rex Williams were in for a shock. Television and sponsorship took its grip. Alex was top-drawer. Unconventional on the green beize with his death or glory approach. Flamboyant and unpredictable he drew a new audience, many who had not previously cared much for snooker. Racing around the table,all parts of his body moving, his facial expressions belied the care he took in his shot selection, often spectacular and not the obvious ball to the audience.. Alex played the game as he played his life. He filled seats. Adored by his fans. This is well exemplified by Tony Francis's book. Learning his trade in the Jampot billiard Hall in Belfast, he tried his hand in England as a jockey. Chocolate and the Black Guiness Brew put an end to that.
He married Cara Hasler in Sydney in 1975. Son Chris and daughter Christel were followed by divorce. In 1980 he married Lynn Avison and daughter Lauren and son Jordan were the produce of the relationship. Who can forget the tear-jerking Crucible win in 1982 when having produced the most amazing frame in the semi-final against Jimmy White and went on to beat Ray Reardon in the final, calling wife Lynn and daughter Lauren onto the stage? Only for them to split in 1985.
His off-field activities are legendary. Fuelled by alcohol, cigarettes,cannabis, betting, women led to his notoriety. Fines and suspensions followed. Head-butting, peeing in pots (made more headlines than the sinking of the Belgrano in the Falklands war.) His relationship with Siobhan Kidd (love of his life?) was tempered by her locking him in his room only for him to climb out of his window and fall 25ft, breaking his ankle yet appearing in a televised tournament( European Open) shortly after, limping with crutches. Later won the Irish Open. Siobhan was apparently hit with a hair dryer and suffered a fractured cheek for her efforts.Death threats to compatriot Dennis Taylor after Dennis's mother's death followed Alex's frustration. Ken Doherty played 'goffer' for Alex in his early days due to his adulation. Calls for orange juice during matches went from two to four finger gestures i.e vodka shots. Alex's mood changes were unpredictable, going from easy camaraderie to ominous tension for no apparent reason. Francis deals with the questions raised by others of whether Alex had bipolar (manic-depression) illness. He was prone to black thoughts and there are several mentions of suicidal tendencies.
His friendships with Oliver Reed and Peter Cook are legendary. All heavy drinkers. Jimmy White's autobiography 'Behind the White Ball' is illuminating. Autographing photos to fund his habits are sad. The text-book men of snooker (Ray Reardon, Steve Davis,Hendry) and those who signed for the powerful Barry Hearn stable were 'filling their boots', whilst Alex, somewhat resentful, continued to travel, performing endless exhibition and challenge matches, always awaiting the next televised tournament where he received the plaudits he fed off from his beloved fans.
Alex Higgins died of throat cancer, alone in Belfast,after debilitating radiotherapy left him undernourished. He continued to smoke and drink to the inevitable end. Always his own man. The turn out at his funeral was a fitting tribute to a turbulent genius.
Tony Francis's book is full of extensive, well-researched,revealing and detailed interviews, anecdotes, some disturbing especially from his daughter,Lauren. They are so dealt with tremendous feeling by the author for Alex and his family. Unreservedly recommended.It needs to be read. What was Hurricane Higgins is in the book. Who was Hurricane Higgins is in there too. The readers can make their own minds up.
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Initial post: 25 Sep 2012 16:40:38 BDT
Great review, thanks. I will definitely pick this one up.
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