Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Joe Mantegna, July/August 2011
When I first began my practice as an entertainment attorney, one of my early business clients retained my services to meet with and attempt to obtain the publishing rights in North America from a music company in Spain. I already had a successful personal management company with clients primarily in the music business and had recently passed the California Bar.
I went to Majorca, Spain to attend an international music industry conference and arranged to meet the gentleman who owned the Spanish publishing company and catalogue. When we met at the host hotel, Señor Lara approached, wearing a finely tailored blue Brioni suit, white shirt, silver tie, his silver hair combed straight back as he kindly invited me to lunch. It was a grand setting in a famous, elegant, colonial hotel known for its accommodations, restaurant and its most unique bullfighting museum.
Once seated in this charming dining room, we ordered a wonderful Spanish meal including grilled sardines, paella and flan, with a legendary Spanish wine that he selected. After a leisurely lunch, discussing music in the States, Spain and Mexico, (I represented performing artists in all three countries), he shared his vast knowledge of the music business internationally and especially in Spain. I also shared my client’s expertise in the publishing business of which he was familiar.
After the bill was paid, he asked if I would like to move to the Grand Salon to listen to some classical chamber music. The Salon was very special with magnificent antiques; beautiful armoires and elegant high-back, carved-wood chairs with handwoven tapestry coverings. We took a seat in those beautiful chairs, in front of a hand-carved spiral staircase with the chamber group nestled alongside the banister.
As they began performing Bach’s Baroque Concerto we sat down. He pulled out an old elegant leather cigar case and with some trepidation asked if I smoked and would I like to share one of his cigars? I politely accepted and he handed me one of his Montecristo No 1s. He cut his cigar with a small, engraved, gold clipper and offered to cut mine as well. He then pulled out another sheath with especially long wooden matches and lit his cigar first, as I carefully watched. He then handed me his matches and I did the same. He ordered a wonderful Carlos I (Primero) and we continued our discussion of the music industry. After a while I noticed his long ash on his cigar and was careful not to flick mine nor drop it, and only after he placed his first ash in the tray did I follow with mine. And so it went, sipping the cognac, enjoying a perfect cigar and discussing business. At the end, I believe he had six ashes to my five. I then asked if we could represent his catalogue and he said, “young man, if you promise to take care of my music as you took care of my cigar, you can have my catalogue.”
That was an incredible life lesson and experience, shared through that cigar, that I carry with me today.
Thank you for your comments last issue on the nexus between cigars and friendship. Lest you fear all hope is lost for the younger generations, I just wanted to share one of my favorite traditions.
Every Thursday, I host about eight of my friends at Columbia Law School for “Bourbon.” Each man brings a bottle of whiskey—bourbon or scotch, no clear liquors or beer allowed—and with a big bowl of ice and some chilled tumblers we sit and chat about the stuff of life. We talk about whiskey and cigars, sports and girls, and often nothing at all, frequently perusing the latest issue of Cigar Aficionado on my coffee table.
In colder weather we take outings to the few remaining cigar bars across New York City (something I would love to see an article on!). But the best nights are when we grab our cigars, cutters, matches and bourbon in to-go cups, and find ourselves a patch of grass on the Columbia campus. We lounge on the grass, cherishing the whiskey, cigars and company of good friends.
New York, NY
Editor’s Note: Look on our website, cigaraficionado.com, for A Smoker’s Guide to New York City.
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