Pool and Russian billiards have long been popular in Moscow, but who knew they were loved by so many celebrities? In many a Moscow pool hall you can spot many a famous face among the pool-playing regulars.
Pop star Marina Khlebnikova, for example, has made a breakthrough in the male-dominated environment of pool. Not only is she a talented singer and composer, shes also an excellent billiards player.
Like many pool players, Khlebnikova started playing by chance. Three years ago she was invited to participate in a pool championship between artists and journalists. Though adventurous and energetic, Khlebnikova had never played pool before, but she started off on the right foot with the help of her director, who threw his weight behind her giving her tips about how to play pool correctly. Luck was on Khlebnikovas side and she reached the semifinals.
Since then, Khlebnikova has been hooked on pool. Instead of acquiring the grand piano she needs to perfect her professional skills, this classically trained musician purchased a billiards table. There was a time when Khlebnikovas apartment was practically turned into a club of pool fans who could play around the clock.
Khlebnikova & Co. have set their own traditions and rituals of playing pool. For instance, if the billiard ball is beautifully shot into the pocket, each player kneels, raising his or her cue in a salute. Khlebnikovas band members once even played a trick on their vocalist: In the course of a game, when Khlebnikova was lining up a shot, she sank her cue right through the intended blue billiard ball. Shocked, Khlebnikova stood still until she realized the billiard ball was made of chocolate. Her band members secretly brought it from Cyprus to play a trick on her.
Khlebnikova can spend hours regulating the angles of her trademark stroke. "Now that Ive already made progress playing pool," says Khlebnikova, "Im thinking of maybe exchanging my small billiard table for a bigger one to play Russian billiards."
And playing pool keeps you fits, according to Khlebnikova.
"Each movement in a game of billiards focuses on developing your overall body shape and posture. And this makes billiards the perfect tool for attractive women to show off their power and beauty, not only to attract men but to compete with them as well," says the singer.
The 163-cm tall Khlebnikova regularly plays billiards with her band members at the Neskuchny Sad billiards club. "We usually stake something small, such as dinner for everybody, a pastry or tokens."
Khlebnikova won her biggest prize yet at the latest billiards contest at Moscows Metelitsa casino.
"I teamed up with Valery Syutkin and won a big dinner at Metelitsa from Igor Nikolayev and Vlad Stashevsky. I compete in all the major pool contests because Im sure that Ive got what it takes to win!" Khlebnikova says.
More billiards enthusiasts from the world of show business include singer Leonid Agutin, TV host Leonid Yakubovich, singer Andrei Makarevich, singer Nikolai Rastorguev and actor Leonid Yarmolnik. See the list below for addresses of places where they play.
Neskuchny Sad Billiard Club
32a Leninsky Prospekt Metro: Leninsky Prospekt Tel: 938-5686/5533/5797
13 Chasovaya Ul. Metro: Aeroport Tel: 151-5691
14 Krasnopresnenskaya Nab. Metro: Ulitsa 1905 Goda Tel: 256-0691
Uncle Sams Billiard Club Cafe
5 Zatsepsky Val Metro: Paveletskaya Tel: 235-6530/9414
146 Leninsky Prospekt Metro: Yugo-Zapadnaya Tel: 434-9753