Snooker legend Jimmy White says taking crack was like "sucking the devil's d**k"

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If Alex Higgins started the 1980s as snooker’s original wild man, then new boy wonder Jimmy White soon became his willing partner in crime.

Documentary king Louis Theroux’s new BBC show starting next Sunday steps away from the USA to chart a decade that saw the game explode into UK culture, creating headlines and celebrities.

Northern Ireland’s Higgins was the hard-drinking flawed genius whose snooker was as intoxicating as the vodka never far from his side.

And to south Londoner White the older man was a hero, as much for the chaos he created off the table as for the magic he produced on it.

White admits: “I loved Alex…watching him perform and cause havoc, he knew how to keep the party going in his way. Living like a rock star…I just thought it was normal.”

Jimmy White of England (right) and Alex Higgins of Northern Ireland, winners of the World Snooker Doubles Championship at the Derngate in Northampton, 16th December 1984.
Jimmy White loved watching Alex Higgins - comparing him to a rock star

White’s former manager Harvey Lisberg says: “I liked the idea of Jimmy White because he was that kind of a wild thing. He was the Rolling Stones.”

But White is frank about the craziest period of his life. He says: “I had loads of drug dealers. Cocaine had come into my life, I must have spent hundreds of thousands on it.

“Snooker pulled me back because I wanted to win the World Championship. I tried crack, that was a really dark time and three months.

“If cocaine is like the devil’s dandruff, crack is like sucking the devil’s d** …just evil.”

White also recalls an incident in Hong Kong, having flipped, capsized and sunk a speedboat forcing him and passenger Steve Davis to swim to shore.

English professional snooker player Jimmy White pictured in action during competition in the 1989 World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England in April 1989.
Jimmy White has spoken openly about his drug taking during his early career

Davis says: “I was scared out of my wits and would never get in a car with him after that.”

But at that time, and in the words of the Chas and Dave song that somehow made it to No6 in the charts in 1986 – we were all snooker loopy.

Higgins shook the game to its core, upsetting rivals, the governing body and legal authorities alike, but was carried high on a wave of public adoration as the ‘People’s Champion’.

He sowed the seeds for a revolution, and the likes of world No1 Judd Trump now earning £1million a year still owe him a debt.

The late Higgins calling for his baby Lauren after his 1982 world title win is an iconic image, and he was cut from the same cloth as a George Best or a Gazza.

Alex Higgins snooker player alias Hurricane Higgins smoking cigarette during a match 1988.
Northern Ireland’s Higgins was the hard-drinking flawed genius of snooker

Snooker became a soap opera that outgoing World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn called “Dallas with balls, Coronation Street with cues”.

And as the 1980s arrived Higgins’ previous rivalry with former policeman Ray Reardon slowly transferred to a young, gangly red-haired kid from Plumstead.

Davis, who was managed to six world titles by Hearn found himself mercilessly lampooned by hit satirical 1980s show ‘Spitting Image’ for being boring.

He said: “I decided if you were going to get good at something as a kid, it would be by having no other distractions.

“Therefore if you were born ugly, ginger hair, bit of dandruff, with no personality, it was very unlikely as a teenager you were going to want to start going out to nightclubs.

Champion snooker player Steve Davis with one of his awards
Steve Davis won six World Snooker Championship finals

“And that you’d much prefer to be in a dark room without mirrors practising knocking the white ball up and down the spots for eight hours a day.”

Or as Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, one of many excellent talking heads and a huge snooker fan at that time observed: “Steve Davis was a genius that wasn’t flawed.”

And the hits keep coming. Dennis Taylor’s final-black victory over Davis in the 1985 Crucible final was watched by 18.5million viewers despite finishing after midnight.

Tony Knowles, the ‘Bolton Stud’ popular with an army of female fans, was fined for bringing the game into disrepute for saucy stories and photoshoots with women in various states of undress.

Jimmy White of England plays a shot during the third exhibition game against Stephen Hendry of Scotland on day four of 2017 Hong Kong Masters at Queen Elizabeth Stadium on July 23, 2017 in Hong Kong, China.
Jimmy White features in three-part BBC documentary Gods Of Snooker

There is amazing footage of the World Championship trophy from 1982 being ‘kidnapped’ by a driver trying to secure payment for himself during an exhibition tour with Higgins and Jimmy White, after a promoter ran off with all the cash.

And Higgins was fined £12,500 and banned for five tournaments in 1986 for assaulting official Paul Hatherall at the UK Championships.

The Hurricane’s natural heir always looked like being Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White, and so it proved. White had Higgins’ flair on the table, and appetite for chaos and living life to the full off it.

The last time this correspondent saw Higgins, he was sitting quietly in the back row of a West End theatre, in his trademark fedora.

He was watching the excellent one-man show by Richard Dormer about the Hurricane’s turbulent life. Initially opposed to the project, Higgins ended up attending 15 times.

’Gods Of Snooker’ is a three-part BBC documentary made by Louis Theroux’s Mindhouse production company. The first episode airs on Sunday, May 9th at 9pm on BBC2

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