"Fast" Eddie Parker, 69, a pool shark whose prowess with trick shots and smooth talk made him a pool hall legend and then a national cult figure after Paul Newman portrayed him with cold-eyed, coltish allure in the 1961 film "The Hustler," died Feb. 2 at a hospital in Brownsville, Tex., after an apparent heart attack. He lived in Universal City, Tex.
Mr. Parker, who spent the last few decades trying to revive the image of the game by demonstrating wizardlike -- and legitimate -- tricks at hundreds of clean and well-lighted pool halls and recreation centers, was stricken at the U.S. Classic Billiards Eight-Ball Showdown in South Padre Island, Tex. One of his favorite stunts, his wife, Peg, said yesterday, was to stack 13 racks, each held in place by a ball on each of the rack's three corners. He then would shoot a ball through the open bottom without toppling the structure.
A master of the green baize who claimed never to have gotten rich or won more than $30,000 in a game, Mr. Parker tried in recent years to play down the huckster image so crystalized by the film. The story was written by Walter Tevis, who met Mr. Parker in Lexington, Ky., one of the cities Mr. Parker visited in the 1950s and 1960s to earn a living playing pool.
Tevis's 1959 novel, "The Hustler," became the basis for the film, in which a character named "Fast" Eddie Felson loses his humanity as he vies for the chance to challenge Minnesota Fats, an unbeaten, cool-headed cue master, played by Jackie Gleason.
The real Minnesota Fats died in 1996. The two never did play together, although they remained close friends, Peg Parker said.
The film inspired a sequel by Martin Scorsese, "The Color of Money" (1986). Newman won an Academy Award as an aged "Fast" Eddie who tries to promote a protege, played by Tom Cruise.
"When the [original] movie came out, I didn't want to be associated with it," Mr. Parker, who never received royalties for the film, once told an interviewer. "The movie would've blown my cover by the time I got to the next town."
His cover was fairly mutable, he once admitted. He used myriad assumed names, such as McKee or Santee or Felsen, the latter similar to the one in the movies.
Mr. Parker gave up hustling in the early 1970s but lost little of the enthusiasm that first endeared him to the sport. He once amazed a crowd at a Milledgeville, Ga., recreation center by sinking 12 balls in one shot and shooting a ball from his wife's mouth.
Peg Parker said she never doubted her husband could do the shot but would never repeat it for another player.
In recent years, Mr. Parker wore his receding silver hair slicked back. He would show up for an engagement in a black tuxedo, a ruffled white shirt and a bejeweled watchband. A cigarette seemed to be never too far from his lips. Despite that outer cool and luster, he loved to regale reporters with anecdotes about wilder times, stories usually capped by a piquant punch line.
For one Dayton, Ohio, reporter, he rolled up a pant leg, slid down a silk stocking and displayed with some pride a disfigurement on his skin. "That's what a steel-toed cowboy boot can do," he said, laughing at the memory. "Some folks just don't take to being taken."
He was a native of Springfield, Mo., and earned his sobriquet from high school athletics. Mr. Parker, who stood about 5 feet 7, made up in speed what he lacked in height on the football field and basketball court.
He was introduced to pool at age 9 after his father, a school superintendent, bought a used table. Entranced with the game as a teenager, he was playing in Kansas City, Mo., when he met and found a mentor in Benny Allen, a former world champion.
"Among other things, he taught me how to up my comfort zone," Mr. Parker once said of Allen. "I used to be comfortable playing for up to $100 a game. After that, I felt out of my element and my nerves got to me. Benny taught me how to play for tens of thousands of dollars -- and not flinch."
The hustle, Mr. Parker said, went like this: Play for penny ante stakes and scratch, miss shots and complain a bit about the crummy night he just had, the aches in his belly or the lousy lighting in the pool hall. Then, once a large bet was made, work fast, take the cash and leave through the front door or a bathroom window -- whichever was more convenient.
Failure to do this convincingly often resulted in immediate pain but often comprised the sinews of poolroom legend.
Of a poorly executed confidence game he perpetrated in New Albany, Ind., in the early 1950s, Mr. Parker once said: "After everybody else dropped out, I got the guy to freeze up some big money. But I wasn't feeling good -- too much tippling the night before -- and instead of playing him along, I rushed it. I ran nine straight racks of 9-ball.
"Well, his two stake horses -- the guys putting up his money -- quit on him. That's when he had two of his buddies take me behind a partition, and they broke my right forefinger. They knew what they were doing. That's the finger that guides your stroke."
It was all over $100.
He rebounded from the incident and learned from it. He gave advice to aspiring sharks, often saying that much of the work comes in pregame negotiations rather than the match.
"You never look for the best players in the world," he said. "You look for players who think they are the best and who have a lot of money. I played a lot in private homes. How many rich guys come into pool halls?"
In addition to his wife of 50 years, of Universal City, survivors include two children, Steve Parker of Fishers, Ind., and Susan Miller of New Braunfels, Tex.; a brother; a sister; and seven grandchildren.