Documentary charting the life of snooker legend Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins. Contributors include Jimmy White, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Dennis Taylor and Barry Hearn.
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They call him Hurricane.
Hurricane Higgins. A quiet man, a confident man.
You'd never notice him in a crowd. But in his own, twilight world, Hurricane Higgins is almost a god.
From Accrington, Alex Higgins.
He sent shock waves through the snooker world.
Something new had arrived on the scene that was quite unusual.
He just loved to play. He just loved to entertain. He just loved the buzz.
It was great to watch him. He went out on a limb, just to give
people the type of entertainment that they'd never had before.
COMMENTATOR: 'Is it going in? The crowd will love that.'
Did he bring shame on the sport?
He did some bad things.
Did he kill any one? No.
I was not necessarily his favourite person.
He said the next time I went back home to Northern Ireland, he'd have me shot.
INTERVIEWER: Could you face life without snooker, Alex?
Could snooker face life without me?
I am sick up to here.
Alex was the best player, drunk, that I ever saw.
I never, ever knew Alex Higgins to win one bet.
Shove your snooker up your jacksy.
I will play it no more.
He was ahead of his time. If he was around now, someone
like Simon Cowell, they'd be like, you know what? We need this man.
My dad was a born entertainer. And he was definitely the people's champion.
I've had my tears. I shall have a few more.
It's just so sad to think that he's not with us any more.
Alex really, from the offset, was his own executioner.
'Alex Higgins, ladies and gentlemen!'
Alex Hurricane Higgins was found dead at the age of 61 on July 24th,
2010, in Belfast, the city where he was born and where he grew up.
Snooker came to pay its respects to the man who had blown a wind of revolution through their sport.
This was a fond, public farewell.
Very different from the corners of Belfast where the young Higgins began to play.
Kids at that age, they're very daring.
And they probably like to do things that they're not allowed to do.
And in my case, and in other children's case, you weren't allowed to go into the Jam Pot.
The dreaded Jam Pot, or the billiard hall, as it was called.
And I think perhaps in the beginning, that was the attraction.
He would have been running about there from nine, ten.
But he was in and he was going
doing messages for them and errands.
And then he was watching on the sidelines.
But then, when he did start playing, he was standing on a box.
And it would have been maybe with a yard brush.
And that's how he learned the trade. The hard way.
'I mean, me as a 12 year-old, somebody at 17 was a giant.
'And I was hustling at snooker.
'Probably one of the reasons why I played the game so fast, and I'm so quick round the table, is because
'in the Jam Pot, when you played with no money, and you got beat, you usually got a cue over the head!
'And subsequently, I was very elusive.'
Mummy used to send me round sometimes to bring him round for his dinner.
But when you opened the door, it was really dark inside and you couldn't see nothing. It was all smoky.
You just heard balls popping, that was it, really.
Because when you went and said, "Is our Sandy there?
"Mummy says he's to come home." "No, he's not here. No."
But we knew he was there!
'As soon as school was finished, I would play a solid four hours.
'My sister used to come up to the snooker club and pull me out and say,'
"Your tea's ready. You've got to come and have your tea."
But I'd gulp my tea down, I'd go back up to play again.
My mother was orphaned when she was eleven.
And she always taught us to be there for one another.
We didn't have much in them days, but you always got your good dinner.
Actually, it was our school dinner money we used to spend.
Instead of dinners, we had a Mars bar and a Coca-Cola.
And a game of snooker. If you had 6p left, you could play for a tanner a game.
Snooker had a rival.
Alex shared his father's love of horse racing, and a flutter.
My father liked a bet, so he got into maybe going down to betting for my father and
he just loved horses in general.
You know, he thought they were wonderful beasts.
His reading, he would have read about horses and
that's when he decided that he wanted to be a jockey.
And he went away when he was 15 for to be a jockey.
Never on the ball, he was never doing what he should be doing at the right time and in the right place.
He found it very difficult to focus his energies on to the things that we thought he should be doing!
They can't ride, to start with,
so they are supposed to work - clean the yard.
And every time you came back in, there was never a sign of a broom or a rake.
He was normally over at the bookmakers office.
He was just 15, but he wasn't going to be told what to do.
He was done with riding. He went back to Belfast, back to snooker.
If I had any money, I would go to the hotbed of snooker, so to speak.
I'd go to the Crown on the Shankill Road, I'd go to places on the Falls Road.
I'd go to the Shaftesbury, the Oxford, North...
all these clubs where all the reputed and notable players used to play.
And I used to go and lose my money.
But it was like serving an apprenticeship.
You know, he'd come from a very poor working-class area,
a very tough area of Belfast.
He'd paid his dues, if you like, in the billiard halls. Which is a
bit like an old-time comedian doing the working men's clubs before he goes to the Palladium.
But he was hardened to that.
In 1968, Alex Higgins won the British team championship
for Belfast YMCA, more-or-less single-handed.
And he played so well, so brilliantly,
that a few enthusiasts fixed him up with exhibitions.
I'd won the British Junior Billiards Championship.
I'd been living in England for a year and my club brought me back
to Coalisland and they brought Alex Higgins down from Belfast to play an exhibition in Gervins club, here.
I was very nervous. And Alex arrived in the club, we were both 18 at the time.
And we're out in the sticks here and I thought, "This is a cocky little fella coming from Belfast here.
"I wonder how good he is?"
And then when Alex started playing,
I'd never seen anybody playing a game quite like this.
'You could call that the luck of the Irish.'
He was so fast around the table,
you know, hustle and bustle.
And he was a bit special.
When I won the world title in 1970 in London,
'while I'm waiting for them to make the presentations, suddenly
'I became aware of someone standing at my side.'
And yes, it was he.
Young Alex Higgins, 18 year-old.
And he didn't say to me, "Well done for achieving your life's ambition."
He said, "I'm playing you in three months' time, up in the North West coast.
"And I'm going to bump you."
ARCHIVE VOICEOVER: 'Professional snooker is a sport that
' has been largely ignored by all but the most dedicated of followers.
'Hurricane Higgins, if he achieves his ambition, may change all that.
'Who knows, he could bring to snooker the same air of glamour and appeal
'that George Best has given to soccer.'
Nobody really knew anything much about the snooker game at the top.
You know, it was just somewhere here for the boys to go to and play.
We just thought maybe the way you go to a youth club, you were going in and doing this.
My father didn't know. He used to say, "Oh, he's away playing that silly old game, snooker."
Snooker, in the 60s, was very much a folk sport.
A lot of people played, but the professional game was virtually dead.
The atmosphere in the match room was
cathedral-like. You know,
the tranquillity of the room itself was
only disturbed by the click of the balls or somebody having a cough.
Immaculate dress wear and high polished shoes, etcetera, for evening sessions.
To be honest, snooker was boring before he came on the scene.
'And I don't mean that to disparage any of the previous players, but they all played in a very sedate way.
'And it was sort of exemplified by Ted Lowe's sort of whispering voice. Everybody said'
it was a very relaxed thing and suddenly, in came this vibrant young
excitable guy and they all thought, "he's going to mess it up".
And sometimes he did. But when he got it right, he was unbelievable.
I remember the great Joe Davis saying,
"How does he pot a ball? He's moving on the shot, he's lifting his head."
But everything must have just come right when Alex made contact with that ball, when he was at his best.
His timing was just spot on.
Alex Higgins took an Edwardian parlour game
into the modern generation.
Because people... Snooker is a long game - if you're not really into the sport, it can be quite dull.
Particularly when there's safety play, or Cliff Thorburn's playing, or whatever.
Higgins, you couldn't take your eyes off him. He was twitching, he was drinking, he was smoking.
He was, you know, he was round the table. He was just mesmerising to watch.
It was soon time to leave Belfast again, not as a wannabe jockey now, but as snooker's one-man revolution.
He came to England in 1971 under the auspices of John Spencer,
who in fact persuaded him to turn professional.
'Blackburn was the first area that we arrived in, but I remember on Preston New Road, not far
'from where I used to live, we did find a little flat for him there.
'At that time, I was working with a television, domestic appliance company.'
And I got a TV, installed the TV for him, and that was it. Off he went.
Higgins was 22 years old.
Young, brash, and fast.
'During the game, he made a break of 67.
'And a voice came out of the audience,
'which said,"67 in one minute 34 seconds".
That is the first time I'd ever heard of time
put to potting balls. And I thought, "How fantastic".
'I mean, it's a showman's game.'
So I potted the last red and I turned round to the audience and I said, "One red, one second".
You know, "Beat that, you little what-have-you", you see.
A lot of people might claim to have given Alex the Hurricane nickname, but it was John Taylor,
in Blackburn, no relation to myself, who used to write a column in the local paper under Cueman.
And when he'd seen Alex play, it was him who gave him the nickname Hurricane.
And sure enough, that remained with him for the rest of his life.
He played like what they called him, like a Hurricane.
He whizzed round the table and he did things that nobody expected him to do. He was unpredictable.
They said, "He'll never get that", and he do it. "Is that right?"
He was so magnetic, you couldn't take your eyes off him.
'In Blackburn, there was a couple of local businessmen who owned bingo clubs.
'John McLoughlin and Jack Leeming, they were called.'
And they played a bit of snooker themselves, just for fun.
And they thought that they were seeing something a bit special and they took Alex under their wing.
His life possessions, as I saw them - I asked him what he'd got
and he said, "I'm stood here and I've got my cue and that's all I need."
I remember Alex playing for cigarettes and the meat pie for his lunch. He'd no money at all.
And they got him sorted out, got him nicely dressed, bought him loads of clothes.
I remember they used to send him to the dentist and he had all his teeth sorted out.
'And they managed Alex for a few years
'and arranged an awful lot of matches, exhibition matches.'
And he used to play against John Spencer and Ray Reardon.
They were the big names at the time.
'And his first world championship, was in 1972.
'He played the great John Spencer in the final.'
In those days, staid, steady snooker
attracted little media attention.
Higgins was about to strip away its shyness.
How would you sum up your position in the snooker world today?
I would say at this time, I'm in the top two.
And after next week, in Birmingham, I think I'll be the top one.
It was his first year as a professional, his first world championship.
And here he was, in the final.
The 1972 World final was about as different from
what we expect at the Crucible as it's possible to imagine.
It took place in a down-at-heel British Legion, now demolished, on the outskirts of Birmingham.
The only lighting was the upturned trough type shade over the table.
The tiered seating was on beer crates.
The Ladies, I remember, was ruthlessly
'appropriated by hordes of gents.
'The place was packed out for a week.'
On the second evening, there was a power cut because there was a miner's strike on at the time.
'They brought in a mobile generator.
'Amidst all this, Higgins produced
'an absolutely magical Thursday evening session.
'It was a week's match.
'The score was 21-all at the time and he ran through Spencer six-nil
'and he won by six frames at the end.
'And that was a session which saw Higgins at his most inspired.
'A virtuoso exhibition.'
It's just a shame there was no telly.
Actually, at this moment, I think I'm in a bit of a daze.
I think I'm just starting to come out of it, you know, and realise that I'm the World Champion.
Nothing in snooker was sacred now.
The sport had just crowned its youngest world champion ever.
'I obviously grew up knowing all about Alex Higgins.
'Everybody in Ireland knew about him.
'He was this inimitable'
individual who had a flair about him,
'who was really exciting, who was sexy and young.
'He brought all the things to the game that we hadn't seen before.'
The prize money for the world champion of 1972?
£400. And this was the only tournament in town.
The world's finest players had to make their money on tour,
going from club to club for exhibition matches.
ANNOUNCER: The man who took the snooker world by storm by winning
the World Professional Championship in his very first year as a pro.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Irish Hurricane himself - Alex Higgins!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
'Spencer and myself and he, were the three names clubs wanted, really.'
And it finished up, three of us there on the odd occasion, but generally speaking there was two of us.
And Alex was always wanted for the exhibitions because of the way he played the game.
So he would fill any club out
playing exhibitions and do some trick shots at the end of it.
It was rough sometimes.
There was people climbing off the rafters to see.
You didn't know what he was going to do next.
I remember playing him in Sheffield, in a small theatre in Sheffield.
And he turned up, and he had two black eyes.
'Hardly been to bed, been up all night.
'It was still funny to me, I thought it was wonderful.'
I walked round the table and looked at him and thought, "He won't be able to see much out of those two!".
And he goes and pots everything in sight!
It's always nice to be late, but you have to rush your food and the rest of it.
'I think he was very lonely at times.'
-I don't personally think that he was ever well looked after.
Because matches were made from one end of the country to the other end, and they were chauffeur-driven.
My brother wasn't. My brother was on and off trains.
-And he couldn't drive.
-So I think he was mistreated in many ways over the years. Very much so.
I've got to get home. Sorry. Look, I haven't been home for three days.
-Four days. Good night, everyone.
Snooker was about to be relaunched in a brand new vehicle -
First of all, let's meet Alex Higgins!
And his opponent - Doug Mountjoy!
In comes referee, Sydney Lee and your commentator is Ted Lowe.
TED LOWE: From Ireland, Alex "Hurricane" Higgins.
This was a whole new world of snooker
and the star of the spectacle? The Hurricane.
# Everybody knows there'll be shooting when he gets into town
# Cos every where he goes, trouble always seems to follow him round
# His reputation's that of the fastest gun
# Across the nation Cuemen to take him on
# What's his name?
# And his game
# The Hurricane
# Hot shot... #
When Alex Higgins burst on to the scene, he was the breath of fresh air that the game wanted.
He was a major player in bringing about
and changing the perception of snooker.
He was ahead of his time.
If he was around now, someone like Barry Hearn and Simon Cowell,
they'd be like, "You know what? We need this man."
That's why he was the jewel in the crown for so long.
He was the sort of guy that everybody wanted to watch.
# And his name
# Is the Hurricane... #
And I didn't have time to do my hair!
Snooker mostly spent its time trying to achieve respectability.
And that was not the kind of thing that Alex was interested in.
He was contemptuous of authority.
I like all the things that a fella at 25 likes.
Including wine, women and song.
And I don't think I should be deprived of that sort of thing
just because I play snooker.
Give me that package. I'll have that rather than someone who's a
steady player and does some amazing shots. But he was never predictable.
'Everyone loves a bad boy, don't they?'
Women in particular love vulnerable bad boys.
His army of supporters tended to attract, or include, those
people who had not much good to say about established authority either.
You've got to think about some of his friends, you know, Oliver Reed, Keith Moon.
This wasn't a guy who hung around with snooker players, particularly.
He hung around with the glitterati.
The more outrageous things one does these days, the more publicity you
get, the more famous you become, and the more money you earn!
He was a showboater and he loved adulation, whereas Hendry or Davis,
for example, would focus - nothing existed outside that green baize.
Higgins, you know, he'd turn up with the Stetson on, or when the WPBSA tried to make an
example of him, sometimes with good reason because he'd misbehaved, they'd try to get him to wear a tie.
But he'd forever be taking them off and whipping it away like that.
Somewhere down the line, he was under disciplinary action for not wearing a bow tie, and I always felt
it was quite ironic that, a number of years later,
we decided to try and capture the market of a younger generation
by wearing coloured shirts and no bow ties, and then
if you did wear a white shirt and a bow tie, you would be disciplined.
I always felt that Alex would've just loved that, because that would
be the first time he would've worn a white shirt and a bow tie.
Alex Higgins was the people's champion, but the people expected,
demanded, a non-stop performance from their champion.
He's the sort of guy that, when he plays snooker,
he felt compelled to entertain people.
It wasn't just to win the game.
If it meant him taking a chance or taking a risk,
he went out on a limb just to give people the form of entertainment
they'd never had before.
I think that Alex loved the limelight
more than he loved winning.
He loved to take the exhibition snooker sometimes into the match snooker, and the crowd would be
behind him and he'd play a flair shot, and it would cost him, it could cost him dearly.
Alex led Cliff Thorburn 9-5
in the 1980 World Final,
and to achieve that lead, he played
a very measured, balanced game.
But, somehow or other, that wasn't
enough for him, and, when he had that lead, he started to open up, play to the gallery rather more,
and Cliff Thorburn was too good
a player to take that sort of liberty with.
The death-or-glory shoot-out
was what, I think, he was unconsciously
hungering for underneath all the time, and, of course,
if it comes down to virtually the turn of a card,
you can always lose in that situation,
and I think he lost more close ones than he actually won.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
'The '80 World Championships is a good example'
where he was looking to shock, he was looking to amaze you, and he
wasn't fighting Joe Frazier, but it was the same thing in his head.
'He didn't just want to win, he wanted to win it his way.'
Alex, a tribute from a champion there, and you
know what the crowd think about it,
but you must at the moment be the most disappointed man in the world?
I've had disappointments before, but I'll bounce back.
The thing is, I lost the match, really, the third session
when I was 7-3 in front, and my old crowd-pleasing bit came back again.
It's hard to live with, but, I mean, I do. But I'll bounce.
'He was a player of great moments competitively,'
rather than a great player in terms of consistency.
But that was part of his attraction,
because you never quite knew what was coming next.
In the new age of snooker, there would soon be a fresh crop of outrageous talents.
Cue Jimmy White and the semi-final of the World Championship of 1982,
when the Whirlwind met the Hurricane.
'Jimmy and Alex'
are absolute best friends. They loved each other,
and it's very hard when you're playing your best friend.
'You know, Jimmy modelled his game on Alex.'
I was watching him putting these drinks down, and I was thinking,
"This has got to be in my favour somewhere along the line." He'd be juiced.
Jimmy looked like he might win the world title that year, probably was favourite.
COMMENTATOR: Do you get the feeling,
this could be the winning break?
They reckon it was one of the greatest matches ever.
I didn't have any safety game at the time,
I was going for everything.
COMMENTATOR: That really is a delightful shot,
to get around the angles, getting on the right side of all the reds.
I was just pleased to be playing him.
I was just delighted to be playing my hero in the World Championships.
COMMENTATOR: So, Alex breathes again.
59 points in front now.
And still enough points on the table
for Alex, if he can take his opportunity.
I think he only played his best when it was back to the wall,
'the pressure was on,
'nobody thought he had a chance,
'and he would somehow manage
'to get his way out of trouble.'
'He almost missed the first shot,
'and because of that he lost position
'on his intended colour, which,'
from memory, was pink to middle.
This left him with a safety or a long green,
'and without hesitation
'he swept in this long green,
'which, as it happened,
'was a natural cannon on to a safe
'red on the other side cushion.'
Fantastic long green he potted there.
That was the only time he didn't drink, was when he was on the table.
When you talk about perfect clearance, it was far from it.
That's what made it so exciting,
because, until he got to the last red,
'he lost position on every shot.
'There was one shot at one time
'that he could have snookered Jimmy behind the yellow,'
but he decided to take the black on in the left-hand black pocket.
'And he kept grinning up,
'I think it might even have been to John Spencer,'
who was in the commentary box, as if to say, "Well, what did you think of that shot?"
'Because he pulled off some
'of the most extraordinary pots in that break.'
COMMENTATOR: Now another difficult red into the centre pocket.
'He asked the referee on a number of occasions, "What's left?"
'And then he would work it out, and then he would swing around the table'
and look in to the audience and wink and smile.
It was great, it was great to watch.
It was another element to snooker that we hadn't seen before.
And later in that break, he played another extraordinary shot.
It was a screw back from the blue, which was on its spot.
COMMENTATOR: And Alex not able to afford any mistakes,
or else it could be the end of the match.
'I've set it up a few times,'
and I don't know how he created so much backspin with the flick of his wrist.
COMMENTATOR: Looks as if he's going for the blue
into the top right hand corner.
Another tremendous shot.
'He actually overhits it and ended up by the black.'
It was just a crazy shot.
And he had so much side, as well as backspin, on the cue ball,
'that the cue ball hit one side
'of the middle pocket and
'came back over the other side.
'I just don't know to this day how he got that much spin on the ball.'
He could've set it up another 20 times and maybe not pulled it off,
but he pulled it off
'in that semi-final of the World Championship.'
COMMENTATOR: Oh, and that's a beautiful shot.
'When you understand the significance of getting to the final
'and what was at stake,'
being on the precipice of being knocked out,
to keep on knocking the balls in
was just one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.
I've watched it a dozen times, 20 times, and there's still five or six
balls that still shock me,
having watched tens of thousands of frames of snooker.
COMMENTATOR: I'm feeling nervous for him, Jack.
I think if he clears this, this will be the break of the tournament.
CO-COMMENTATOR: And here we have the colours on their spots.
Yes, Jack, all easy shots these, normally.
Every one a pressure shot in this situation.
'Looking back at it now, it's a phenomenal break.
'I've seen it a hundred times,'
and it's still an amazing break
under the circumstances.
Just has to hold it together
for five more shots.
Tremendous break, this.
He's on the blue here for the blue, pink and black.
'I'm sure everything looks really easy to him now after
'the miracle shots he's produced.'
Beautifully on the pink.
And he needs the pink and the black.
And he's on the black.
And what a fabulous break, if he knocks this black in.
-He just swaggered back to his seat
and he just gave the press box a wink, and I was like,
"You've still got another frame to win!" But the confidence of the man as if to say, "You know what?
"That was good." It was like, "You know what? I'm going to win the next frame.
"I'm going win the World Championship."
That's the biggest memories I've got of not just Alex, but of snooker.
You couldn't script that.
Yeah, that was an amazing clearance there.
I look like I've been hit by a train.
But it was one of the best games I've ever been involved in, and they
reckon one of the best clearances ever. I agree with that.
Alex Higgins, 21. Foul, Jimmy White, four.
So, Jimmy White concedes.
And what a splendid finish,
and a truly, truly superb semi-final.
So, the people's player
now has a chance to really be the people's champion.
Not only did he produce the most amazing clearance ever, it'll never be matched,
but he was also able to go on and win the last frame.
After 10 years, he was about to reclaim the title
that he really wanted to win every year and, perhaps,
in some ways wanted to win it so much
that his character wouldn't allow him to play the game to win it.
But that's a real statement on Alex Higgins, that although
it meant everything in the world to him, he would still not change
the way he played.
I don't think there's one snooker player that you'd meet wouldn't say that that's the best clearance ever.
I'm aghast, I just don't even know why I'm playing so well, because it was only about a month ago
that John Spencer beat me 6-0 at the Highland Masters.
And, to be perfectly honest, I haven't practised at all,
so it's a mystery to me why, at this time,
I've suddenly started to play so well.
Of course, there was still the final.
10 years after beating John Spencer for his one and only world title,
could he now do it again against Ray Reardon?
After Alex had got through to the final having beaten Jimmy White, I still expected
Ray Reardon to beat Alex,
because Ray was six times World Champion and Alex had only won it the once.
And for Ray to get to the final was big news as well, because possibly you could argue
the twilight of his career, so they both had reasons to want to win it.
I watched that bit, but Ann and Mummy were hiding up the stairs,
they couldn't watch the television so they couldn't.
No, I couldn't.
Now and again you come down to peep, so you did,
but it was just too much for me and my mummy.
I think it was just all the way through a feeling of...
he could do this.
It's 10 years since he won it, you know.
Cos you didn't know what really he was going to do next.
So you were waiting.
"do it this way, Sandy, do it this way."
He actually didn't entertain so much in that final.
He was a bit more tactical.
It was nip and tuck right throughout, really.
He got up to 15-12 in front
on the last day,
and then I won the three frames before the end
of the first session in the evening, and it had gone 15 all.
It was 15 all, and then Alex played three very good frames.
He did win it again in his kind of dramatic way that he liked to win.
In fact, he knocked the lot in in the last frame, total clearance.
Excellent. Couldn't do anything about that, no.
I'd like to think that
Alex wanted just to stamp himself
one way or the other as a great, great player.
And I think he felt, "If I have to compromise my attacking play,
"I want to win."
'Ray Reardon has sat in his chair for the whole of this final frame.'
I think that was...
a mature victory, and quite unusual for Alex Higgins.
And the Embassy World Snooker Champion for 1982
is Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins.
It was an amazing achievement after a 10-year gap to lift the world title again.
Completely exhausted, is Higgins.
I remember watching the '82 final where he beat Ray Reardon,
and I remember specifically the end when his wife, Lynn,
came in with their little blond baby, who was gorgeous.
I think we all remember the bit at the end when it was, "My baby, give me my baby," you know.
And that was a beautiful bit of publicity, wasn't it?
It was a pinnacle of Alex's career.
I think he just let all his emotions out.
It wasn't done for the camera, he just wanted to kiss his daughter.
That was the sweet side of him that not a lot of people knew.
There's not many people my age who can have a moment captured in time with their mum and dad,
and I just think it shows how emotional my dad was when
he was kind of crumpling the cheque up and he just wanted me to come on.
I think that he was so happy about winning the title,
and he just wanted to celebrate it with us.
He did play from the heart,
and when you're doing something at that level, when it's all finished
you revert back to the things you love, so those moments of calling for his family,
those tears were genuine, they weren't for the crowd.
He was an emotional person anyway, you know,
away from the snooker he would have been quite emotional,
and he could cry,
and I would say it just was a build-up of everything
and real happiness that he had achieved it.
I've watched this so many times...
and before it's just such a nice thing to watch,
but obviously now my dad's gone actually it does make you feel quite upset watching it.
This is the first time I've watched it since my dad's died,
and all I can think about is, "It's my dad."
Since he done it, everyone does that now,
brings their wife down to get their trophies, in any sport.
No-one had ever seen that before, so they hadn't.
When he always came home from tournaments, he would have sat up
and nursed Lauren and cuddled with her.
He spent the time at night with her that he couldn't spend during
the day, and then chewing her dummy tit and knowing that the child was with him even when he was playing.
His comfort blanket!
'Ladies and gentlemen, the new world champion, Alex Higgins.'
It was a tremendous thrill for him, obviously.
I remember him saying afterwards, "This will set Lynn and Lauren up for life."
Alex was back in the big time.
Ladies and gentlemen, the world snooker champion, Alex Higgins.
He's Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, and he's not just the fastest,
but also the most entertaining player on the circuit.
But when it came to stability, he was all at sea.
His marriage to Lynn soon ended in divorce.
My dad's always been a part of our lives, though.
Even when my parents got divorced he'd come to our home where my mum lives.
Sometimes there'd be arguments, sometimes they'd get along,
just like everybody else, really.
I used to like carrot.
Would you like a carrot?
You ask yourself why a player of Alex Higgins's ability only won the world championship twice.
The reason, probably, behind that is that consistency in his life was
something that didn't exist, on a personal level or on a playing level.
Alcohol had always had a hold, but after the divorce
it grew a whole lot tighter.
Alex sober could be the most pleasant person
you'd ever sit down and talk to,
and the demon inside him, the Jekyll and Hyde character that was Alex Higgins when
he was fuelled by alcohol, was the biggest pain you've ever met.
Maybe it was a little bit of frustration at times, because
Alex was only playing 50% of what used to play,
and sometimes that's a bit hard to take, that.
The distractions had a damaging effect on his game, and this was no time to be missing out.
In late 1982, Barry Hearn announced the formation
of his Match Room team, a stable of the world's best players.
One name was missing.
He would have been a nightmare to manage.
It was really great to watch him but we don't really want him with us,
so in a way, we were feeding off a bit of Alex's fame,
but at the same time not opening the doors and bringing him into the fold.
Because we were identifying that snooker was coming into big-time business, really,
and there are certain responsibilities to TV companies
and sponsors and PR performances and all that.
Alex wasn't reliable enough to be brought into that.
Match Room was clean cut, corporate-friendly snooker,
and no player was better at it than Steve Davis.
Alex would have recognised in Steve Davis
the opposite of himself.
Somebody who was very balanced, controlled,
calculating, played the percentage game at a very high level.
He was everything that Alex wasn't.
I think Alex, once he'd had a few battering from Davis,
was really on edge that, not only did he not want to lose,
he didn't want to get humiliated, and there was a few times
when he was, and that didn't sit well with Alex Higgins.
There were one or two exceptions, extraordinarily,
the '83 UK final.
Alex came from 7-0 down to win 16-15.
And when he did win, he milked it. He beat me in the Masters,
and he was like, "We're fighting back the moment".
He loved the fact they were all coming forwards, and he'd shake hands with him all night long.
That part of it, you can't make yourself like that, it's whether you are that way inclined.
There was a huge respect from Alex towards Steve.
I'm very, very pleased to have won.
Evidently there's no love lost between Steve and I, but equally
I think we both appreciate each other's talents.
He's a very hard player.
Coupled with probably an intense dislike of the success
he had playing the game in an entirely different way
to the way that Alex thought the game should be played.
If I keep this up, no more seven frame starts. Anyway...
I don't know what he thought of me as a person.
To be honest, it wouldn't be something that was a problem,
even if he thought I was the most boring person in the world.
No white smoke without fire, but he probably felt as if
I didn't play the game with enough panache
and in the cavalier style of, say, Jimmy or himself.
Now I know what I can become,
and it's just a matter of discipline all the way around.
I think I've certainly proved it today.
-Gentlemen, thank you for a tremendous game of snooker.
-It was incredible, wasn't it?
I think Steve was physically frightened of Alex
because of the uncertainty of what he was going to do and who he was.
I think the only time we were ever together for any length of time was on an early flight to Canada,
and I was so nervous on the flight, having to spend seven or eight hours on a plane trapped with Alex.
He probably felt the same way! I knocked a beer all over me.
I was a gibbering wreck! And he was so nice,
because it was a mode he was OK in, and we had a good chat.
I felt like it was a different person.
But of course a few more beers later, by the end of the flight perhaps it was a different story.
On a snooker level, there was a lot of mutual respect,
but you can't imagine the difference in personality between the two.
I think because Steve was established in those mid-term,
mid-Eighties and early Nineties as unquestionably the world No. 1,
Alex wanted to be the world No. 1, and he wanted people to give him
the attention and acclaim that's bestowed on a No. 1.
I'm sick of all the honey and the vitamin pills and all the rest.
I've done everything right and I got stuffed, do you know what I mean?
I haven't had a vodka for eight weeks, you know what I mean?
I think the game's not straight today, what's gone wrong?
The fires still burned, but consistency was the new mantra.
The champion of inconsistency lost more frequently.
His frustrations grew, and so did his addictions to booze and betting.
Alex was the best player drunk that I ever saw,
but sometimes his game was out of control because of it.
People might say, "Look, he's drinking orange squash".
Well, yes, he was, but there was plenty of vodka in it as well.
My dad never got up in the morning and had to start drinking.
My dad was more of a binge drinker, and I think that was due to
the type of work that he did - he went to events in the evening.
But I think his gambling was worse than his alcohol. He loved gambling.
I never, ever knew Alex Higgins to win one bet.
He lost every single time.
I used to do my money in regularly, never used to win.
One time I heard he put an obscene amount of money on the horses
and I'm sure that wasn't the only time that he put obscene amounts of money on.
I don't think he won many, though, that's the problem, but he still enjoyed it and carried on.
I remember him at Royal Ascot, and we were talking in the days when
£20,000 was worth, I don't know, £250,000,
and he would be betting that type of money
on races all over the place.
He'd come with pocket loads.
There was a new habit - losing, and here was one very bad loser.
He was the worst loser...
..you've ever seen.
No-one beat him, it was the run of the balls or...
But that was the way it was. But after half an hour or so
of moaning and sacking everybody round him, he was back to normal.
There was always a sense of threat in the air when we were in Alex's company.
Particularly when he'd lost, it wasn't good to be in the same hotel bar late at night as he was.
It all came to a head at the 1986 UK Championship.
Somebody arrived breathlessly with the news that
Alex had head-butted the tournament director Paul Hatherall.
So all of us swarmed down the stairs and there is Alex just outside
the tournament office, demented and flailing, an awful scrum going on.
It was just crazy, we were there, we were in the other room.
He had some sort of argument with Paul Hatherall,
but there were some other issues going on,
and Paul Hatherall came in and said "You've got to do this drug test",
and apparently he just flipped...
..and he head-butted him, apparently.
I'm sure there was words said.
Something triggered something in Alex, and once it triggered that was it.
All bets are off, he's out of control, he's going to do anything,
and he's going to do the first thing that comes into his head. It goes back to the old jam pot days,
"Bosh, have one of those", and you think afterwards, "Where did that come from?" But, it's Higgins.
That was him just snapping.
That was one of the worst thing he ever did, he did regret doing that.
Tonight, in bizarre headgear, Higgins emerged from his house to talk about today's events.
I've been to see the police today about...
allegations that were made against me, and they are pending.
The ideal thing is that I too now have to await the outcome... MOBILE RINGS
My phone, golly gosh!
-Can you look this way, Alex?
-This is very important, it could be my solicitor.
-Could you turn this way a little bit?
-Business going well, send more money.
-Alex, this way.
-Could you face a life without snooker, Alex?
-No more questions.
-Could snooker face life without me?
In typical showman style, he appeared on live television to hear his punishment.
The bad boy of snooker gets dragged up in front of his peers. What have they done to him?
They've fined him £12,000
and suspended him from the next five tournaments.
But the thing is - if I can chip in -
with this type of tribunal and with the rules the PBSA carry,
there's no right to appeal,
so the truth of the matter is
that I've decided to accept the punishment and come back fighting.
More trouble soon followed. During a world team event in 1990 he lost his rag again, and not with just anyone.
This time he turned on his old friend and fellow Irishman, Dennis Taylor.
Alex happened to lose his frame and he was very annoyed at losing.
Unfortunately there was a few of the press around,
or one pressman, that heard Alex.
He just lost it completely and said that the next time I went back to Northern Ireland he'd have me shot.
Which was a bit of a shock, but you could take things sometimes with a pinch of salt that Alex used to say.
But he did say something very personal besides that.
It was a family thing that I've never repeated to anyone since that day,
and I never would repeat it, but that was one of the reasons why I didn't speak to Alex
for quite a few years.
The late 1990s.
Here was a man approaching 50, a shadow of his former self
and still heading inexorably in one direction - towards rock bottom.
Alex remained in the arena after everybody else had left, sitting at
the table as if he was unwilling to relinquish the limelight.
He was well into drink, and I remember him coming into that
press conference, and Colin Randall, the press officer, was wearing a World Professional Billiards and
Snooker Association blazer and he was there for a symbol of the authority that Alex hated.
So he let him have this awful punch.
I think that he knew he was going to be suspended anyway, and so
it was a half-hearted attempt to pre-empt that with some sort of retirement speech.
..I would like to announce my retirement from professional snooker.
I remember, I think I was about 10 or 11 at school, and it was when he was on the television
and did a press conference, and he was absolutely blottoed
and he was saying he was going to retire from snooker.
But again, at that age, you're just thinking "Oh, my God,
"please stop talking, don't... Turn the camera off".
You can shove your snooker up your jacksey.
I'm not playing no more.
And it's not sour grapes or nothing, it's the truth, because the Hurricane
doesn't want to be part of this tripe any more.
No disregard to Northern people because they like tripe.
I like it as well. I don't want to play any more.
You were just like "Oh, no, don't say that".
That was him.
he just didn't... He just told it as it was, the truth.
And that's...that's what the interview was about.
is it a corrupt game, it's also, ugh...
-Alex, when did you...?
Excuse me, I haven't finished.
-I remember that press conference.
-I have not finished.
There were one or two nuggets of truth tucked away in his rambling.
But I think he was...
ill-treated at times by the snooker establishment.
But he was just cutting a very pathetic figure.
I was supposed to be the stalwart of the game, the guy that took all the brunt.
Well, the kid that took all the brunt is absolutely sick
up to...here and further...
about taking all this ..., and I'm not prepared to take it any longer.
No more snooker for the Hurricane.
Well, obviously you can't physically hit an official.
So something had to happen to him.
Banned for 12 months, the Hurricane had blown itself out.
The force of nature was utterly spent.
That was the finish of him trying to play competitive snooker.
If you fall out of the top 16, top 32, you've got to qualify, you know.
Everyone's entitled to have their place.
I don't think he was humiliated. I think it was more frustration because the crowds wasn't there.
There were only small booths that could only hold 10 or 20 people.
So he found it hard to adapt.
And bear in mind that the competition was getting better and better and better.
And there were 100 Steve Davis clones, Stephen Hendry clones.
Very difficult for someone like Alex Higgins to recapture the days of '72, when
there was just a handful of people in the world championships and they
were the old guard, and Alex could be the new, young, brave renegade.
It was in disputes over money and management...
and he stopped practising, so he didn't do the exhibitions.
And when he done the exhibitions, because he'd not been practising, he couldn't entertain.
And because he couldn't entertain, he got frustrated.
The follow-on to that is that the promoters didn't want to know.
There was no happy ending to the story of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins.
He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, and came back to Belfast to be closer to his family.
We were crying.
And he just put his arms round the two of us and said,
"Look, I'm not here to die. I'm here for yous to look after me and for me to get better".
We went to see him in hospital. He hadn't been eating,
and it was just awful because my dad's quite a fighter.
And when you've never seen someone in a vulnerable situation, it's just not something that is very nice.
He put up an unbelievable fight against the cancer.
He fought just as hard against that as he used to do on the snooker table,
but that was just a battle that he couldn't win in the end.
But he certainly gave it his best shot, that's for sure.
We had an argument last year.
I didn't speak to him for a few months,
and then we started to do this Legends tour.
He'd done the first one in Sheffield, but he was far too weak.
So we all agreed
that he should take a rest and get himself back together.
There we go.
He did have a lot of scarring from his radiotherapy,
which did affect him.
You know, it made him...
not be able to swallow.
It obviously damaged his teeth, so he couldn't eat properly.
But my dad didn't give in.
He always knew if he wanted anything, he'd be on the phone.
You'd go and get it or bring it down. You know,
but I was shocked when it did happen.
Years before that, I thought he was away,
at different stages, because he'd been so ill at different times.
I just wasn't expecting it to happen...
the way it happened.
I love the quote that my dad said when he said, "Cancer hasn't got a chance,
"it doesn't have a snooker cue", because he was a fighter, and he was clear from cancer when he died.
This is why I'm so angry and so frustrated. So is his sister.
So are his children. He just wouldn't look after himself.
After beating throat cancer, you'd think that he would try to look after himself.
But once again, the gambling was more important than sorting himself out, and he just declined -
malnourishment, pneumonia - and unfortunately, he passed away.
We did everything that we could,
so we did, for him.
And he knew that, so he did.
But he did tell us, didn't he?
-"When I go", he says...
-"If you thought George Best's funeral was bad,
"see what you have to sort out for me!"
"Yous are going to have plenty on your hands whenever I go", he says.
The way Belfast came out for my dad's funeral
was absolutely amazing.
And, you know, it was so emotional to go through the streets.
There was happiness, there was sadness.
There were a lot of mixed emotions.
The clapping went on for at least 20 minutes
from the house to the actual church.
It was amazing.
He knew he was the people's champion.
The people were letting him know on that particular day
what they thought of him, which was very gripping,
so it was.
-And he loved the horses, so he would have. Most definitely.
That there was just the icing on the cake for him, the horses.
My dad would have liked the fact that everyone was there,
because he said he wanted a bigger funeral than George Best!
So he would have liked the fact that everyone came out, and...
Yeah, I think he would have been proud of it.
The public decides
who its heroes are going to be.
And Alex was one of them.
When they made Alex Higgins, they threw away the mould.
He was a bit unique as a snooker player,
and he certainly was unique as a human being as well.
I just remember him from being the person in the crowd that liked shout "Come on, the Hurricane!
"Come on, Alex!" That's how I remember Alex.
He loved his gambling, he loved his smoking, he loved his drinking, he loved everything.
He must have worn out two bodies, easy.
Will be missed.
Alex...had the most talent out of every snooker player I've ever seen play.
I'm a fan, and I love him.
You know, he was just a great sportsman.
Three words for Alex -
great snooker player.
That's all that has to be said, really.
He gave everything 100%, you know.
It didn't matter what was going on off the table.
When he was on the table, he was probably at his happiest.
There was no-one better to be with.
In everybody else's eyes, including mine, he was a genius.
I think he was a born entertainer.
And he was definitely the people's champion.
Alex Higgins, ladies and gentlemen!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
One man transfixed television viewers during snooker's golden age - Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins. This poignant documentary charts the remarkable rise and fall of the snooker genius, from his early days growing up in Belfast to his climb to the top of the sport as two-time world champion.
Higgins was pure showbiz, a mercurial talent at the table who played the game like nobody had done before. Boxing had Muhammad Ali, football was blessed by George Best - snooker had Alex Higgins. Yet like Best, Higgins's brilliance was flawed by his demons. We chart the depressing lows - the alcohol abuse, threatening to have fellow Ulsterman Dennis Taylor shot, headbutting a senior member of snooker's hierarchy and falling out of a top floor window and living to tell the tale after a row with his then-girlfriend.
The Higgins story is completed with the final chapter of his life spent battling throat cancer; desperate hours spent in pubs and working men's clubs trying to rekindle his halcyon days; finally unable to eat properly because he'd lost his teeth and in the end, ultimately found dead alone in sheltered accommodation.
At times uplifting, but at other moments very sad - this is a rollercoaster journey charting the life of snooker's 'rock and roll star'.
Contributors include Jimmy White, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Dennis Taylor, Barry Hearn, Steve Davis, Ray Reardon and members of the Higgins family.