Richard Black Custom Cues  

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Elephant Protection.
CUESTOCK 2014, October 24-25, 2014

The Story

In October of 2012, Thomas Wayne and Richard Black were collaborating on a major cue and in off hour's brain storming came up with the idea of getting a few good friend cuemakers together for a chill-out time to brainstorm the direction of the cue making "cottage industry". The idea seemed to just die away after the project was completed and lay dormant until in May of 2014 Paul Drexler called Black and asked if he had any interest in doing something to maintain the interest that the International Cue Collectors Show had going. The then current proposed ivory ban situation had caused the ICCS to cancel their planned 2014 because of the uncertainty of being able to even transport ivory inlaid cues across stateliness. Black agreed that it would be a good thing to do and offered up his Texas spread (consisting of approximately 10 acres) as a venue and even offered to fund the proposed event.

The whole concept was that rather than reserve a large five star hotel venue (the normal venue for the ICCS events) it would be wise to minimize expenses so if necessary the event could be canceled at the last minute and have minimal cancellation penalties. The agreement was that Paul Drexler would do the organizational work.

Because Black and Wayne had come up with a name for their unfulfilled event of Cuestock (a play on the 1960's musical extravaganza Woodstock), it was decided to use the name for this current event. At first attempt several cuemakers were approached about an assembly in Houston and several declined (for various reasons) and it looked like the event would not happen. Then Black's wife Ardis proposed that five longer term cuemakers be selected and that each of them invite one newer cuemaker (who was showing promise as a high quality maker as well as apparently ethical business man) to join in a brain storming session with cue collectors, cue aficionados and dealers to mull over topics of mutual interest and concern to our small group of enthusiasts.

This is how it all got started in May of 2014 and finally came to fruition the end of October.

The cuemakers selected were:

    Richard Black Houston, Texas
    John Bender New Jersey
    Paul Drexler Connecticut
    Jake Hulsey - Texas
    Thomas Wayne Alaska
    Steve Klein - Texas
    Russ Espiritu Mississippi
    Josh Treadway - Missouri
    Andy Gilbert Missouri
    Larry Vigus - Texas

We also invited Jim Stadum of Samsara Cues North Dakota and Bob Manzino, -Florida. Both had pending conflicts that wouldn't allow them to make a commitment. Jim Stadum and his son Jacob did wind up making it but Bob Manzino didn't. Each cuemaker was asked to invite 10 individuals in the cue collecting circle that they felt could add serious input to our proposed round table discussions. Due to venue size restrictions and financial availability there was a 100 person cap set. At one point close to event time there were 97 people confirmed to attend. By event time that number had backed off to 80 people of which 70 actually attended.

Those that did attend were treated to the best weather, the best surroundings, the best conversations a cue nut could possible ask for. There were two cue makers assigned to each of the topics preselected for discussion pertaining to current day concerns for our small industry. It was as though everyone had been tied up and whipped before they came to Cuestock and told they could not step out of line in anyway.

On Friday morning shortly after the discussions started Richard had arranged for the ladies that wanted to had a limo ride downtown to one of the most famous Gallerias in the world. Four large buildings, all joined, and featuring the best names in retail. It also included an indoor ice skating rink and some of the best restaurants in the Houston area. They were returned to Blackwood just in time to control their husbands cue viewing and purchases.

Other than morning coffee and Danish offerings there were four other catered meals that went off perfectly. Both evening meals were catered by two of Black's favorite local restaurants and in both cases it was felt the caterers did a better job than when they actually served food in their places of business. Needless to say, while there were ample servings, there wasn't much left. The Bar-B-Q guy even went back for more of the chicken.

It should be stated that on the preceding Thursday the cuemakers and their wives showed up and helped with the setting up of the venue. They all enjoyed meeting each other again and then sharing a wonderful Italian meal cooked and served by Ardis. They shared ideas on how best to make the event successful as well as volunteering for various duties required during the event. Andy Gilbert even brought a custom made stop sign that wound up being placed at the front entry gate. It read "Stop" Leave your egos at the curb. No one seemed to understand why in the world such a sign was necessary but it did set the tone of the two day event. Lighthearted but serious discussions!

After dinner on Thursday the cuemakers were able to have a bonfire side chat with Dick Helmstetter who started making cues some fifty plus years ago and then went on to another successful career in the golf business. Old time cuemaker and players names were bouncing off the walls like in a racquet ball court. They got to ask questions of Dick and got answers straight from the horses mouth!

While other cue dealers were invited to attend only Tom Watters and Bill Grassley showed up and Bill Grassley moderated a discussion on collecting and selling custom cues. He also brought his drone that videoed the event from as much as 500 feet in the air. Jokingly Jim Stadum ran after it with a shot gun pointed in the air and said "What is that annoying buzzing sound?" Again in the spirit of having a good time amid all the serious discussions.

In addition to the large congregation tent there was also a tent set up next to it for the moderators and another for serving food. An additional tent was provided for beverages and there were plenty! Enough said on that subject because there wasn't a great deal left when the dust settled!

The Friday session ended with a great Tex-Mex catered dinner that was followed by a lengthy discussion and update on the proposed ivory ban. Thomas Wayne and Sandra Brady (scrimshander extraordinaire) shared the moderation and was followed by many questions and answers from the attendees. While there was no solution arrived at it was agreed that we are on thin ice with Fish & Wildlife so we all need to jump in and support the Protect the Elephant Association that is lobbying long and hard to reverse the tide.

The bonfire was kept glowing all three days that cuemakers and invitees were at Blackwood. Many people stuck around until long after dark-thirty to reflect on the day's happenings and imbibe in the provided beverages of choice.

Saturday's sessions started promptly at 9:00 a.m. and again a full day of lively discussions on pertinent topics. All sessions were interrupted on an hourly basis to allow for blood circulation to the posterior as well as water consumption and disposal. Lunch Saturday was cheffed by Richard Black and Dick Helmstetter who manned the hot dog grilling. Seemed like the outdoors provided for a great appetite in that Black and Helmstetter had to keep going back to the grill to provide more of same!

Both days knocked off the topic conversations at three o'clock to allow for an hour and a half of cue viewing and buying. Each cuemaker exhibited at least one environmentally friendly cue (no ivory) and a few others if they liked, that were available for sale. This gave them a chance to pickup something toward their travel expenses. A few of them even chipped in to Black to help with the total expenses (that includes one collector that couldn't even make it to the event). Silkscreened "T's" were also available for sale and most available were sold.

Paul Drexler arranged for cloisonné lapel pins and even paid for them out of his pocket to help with overall expenses. Paul also arranged for his friend and commercial photographer, Dean Bertoldi, to fly to Houston, at his own expense, to shoot photos every day. Hopes are that a poster would come out of this. More on that later. You had to wear your name tag and lapel pin the whole time you were at Blackwood because it was an invite only event. Local Constables were hired to be on site.

Saturday evening saw another great meal and then entertainment by John Rex Reeves, a neighbor and friend, as well as a renowned country and western singer in his own right. His Uncle was Jimmy Reeves, Country and Western Hall of Famer!

After dinner there was an auction where Cuestock signs were raffled off as well as a cue from each of the exhibiting cuemakers that they had messed up somewhere in their career- and didn't want seen in public. They each told the story of their mess up and then the bidding began. There wasn't a single cue that went for less than $100 and a few got pretty elevated. Black didn't know how to take it when his contribution went for almost twice anyone else's. He questioned the thrill of being able to say for the rest of the buyer's life that he bought one of his cues and immediately threw in the bonfire.

The really neat thing about the auction was that the proceeds were contributed to the Protect the Elephant Assoc. and some $5000 was raised and gifted to them thru Sandra Brady.

After the Bonfire we reconvened in the big tent for a short presentation by Lynn Castle, The Executive Director of the Art Museum of Southeast Texas (Beaumont, TX.) about what is involved in getting more exposure in fine arts museums.

When the crowd finally dispersed (long after dark-thirty) everyone was unanimous in proclaiming their sincere appreciation of having such an event and asked for a repeat. Black said his place could be used but it would be up to others to organize and fund it. Time will have to tell how that plays out.

The topics discussed were:

    Hulsey & Klein: Origins of design/ Where design conflicts with execution
    Espiritu & Treadway: Customer and Collector Involvment
    Wayne & Brady: Current Ivory Ban
    Drexler/Vigus: Material selection for High Dollar Cues/What makes a cue "High Dollar"
    Wayne/Bender: What does it take to make a "green" environmentally friendly cue
    Grassley: Where/how do cues and collections find a new home
    Castle& Helmstetter: Museum Exposure for cues

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