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Cover Stars

Cigar Aficionado’s 112 covers have won high praise, and eight of our cigar-smoking celebrities tell us why.
Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Cigar Aficionado's 20th Anniversary, September/October 2012

Fittingly enough, the subject of Cigar Aficionado’s first cover portrait in 1992 was . . . a cigar. The first two celebrities to grace the cover of the magazine, on the third and fifth issues, were the well-known (and long-dead) cigar aficionados Groucho Marx (who once said, “Given the choice between a woman and a cigar, I will always choose the cigar.”) and Winston Churchill, whose name became synonymous with his favorite-sized smoke.

The first living celebrities to appear on the magazine’s cover—in 1994—couldn’t have been more different: conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh  followed in the next issue by the communist leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro—both of whom shared a love of cigars.

In Cigar Aficionado’s first 20 years, the cover story has always been part of the magazine’s draw—both for readers who pick up an issue because of who’s on the cover, and for the stars, who take a certain pride in talking about their discerning passion for fine tobacco. While early cover subjects included well-known cigar lovers such as Bill Cosby and the late George Burns, the magazine has also featured seemingly unlikely faces—from supermodels Linda Evangelista and Claudia Schiffer to politicos such as former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson to Michael Richards (Kramer of “Seinfeld”) to hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky and basketball immortal Michael Jordan.

We caught up with eight of our former cover subjects to check back in with them about cigars, about their lives and about what being the focus of a Cigar Aficionado cover story meant to them. We appreciate that they took the time to be interviewed.

Alec Baldwin

(May/June 2004)

Alec Baldwin’s 2004 cover story in Cigar Aficionado was headlined “Back on Track,” a reference to the personal and professional hurdles Baldwin had overcome to emerge with an Oscar nomination for 2003’s independent film, The Cooler. Since then, Baldwin has won a pair of Emmy Awards and a trio of Golden Globes for playing hilariously manipulative TV executive Jack Donaghy on the critically acclaimed “30 Rock.” Recently remarried, Baldwin took time from his honeymoon to answer Cigar Aficionado’s questions by e-mail.

Cigar Aficionado: What did being in Cigar Aficionado mean to you?
ALEC BALDWIN: I have been a cigar smoker since 1992 and I have always admired Marvin and the magazine. Cigar Aficionado is the most respected publication for serious smokers. When they put me on the cover, I was honored.

CA: What is your go-to cigar these days?
BALDWIN: I started by trying different strengths. Bolivar, Hoyo de Monterrey. Eventually I settled into a somewhat lighter smoke. Today, I like Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo and Partagás. My favorite is H. Upmann.
 
CA: What is your fondest cigar memory?
BALDWIN: Watching a plane land in the bush of Kwazulu, Natal, with a delivery of cigars from J J Cale in Sandton, South Africa.

CA: How has your taste in cigars changed since the cover story?
BALDWIN: I smoke fewer cigars than I used to, but I enjoy them more. And I smoke (at Grand Havana Room in New York and Los Angeles) while I eat. Can’t be helped.
 
CA: What’s the first cigar you remember really appreciating as you smoked it?
BALDWIN: I remember smoking my first Upmann Magnum and it was like chocolate. I could smoke one every day, but my wife won’t let me.

William Shatner

(Sept/Oct 2006)

When William Shatner appeared on the cover in 2006, he was at the height of his “Boston Legal” powers as attorney Denny Crane, a role that brought him two Emmy Awards. The first captain of the Starship Enterprise on the original “Star Trek,” Shatner has had several TV series since the end of “Boston Legal” (including the sitcom “$#*! My Dad Says” and the talk show “Shatner’s Raw Nerve”) and his  documentary, “William Shatner’s Get A Life,” about his exploration of Star Trek conventions, just started airing on the EPIX pay-cable network.

WILLIAM SHATNER: Before we start, if you’re going to ask my favorite cigar and I have to go do some research, I’m probably just going to click on some Cuban thing and I won’t really know whether I mean that. So I’d rather talk about the feeling and the meaning of a cigar, rather than have to name some specific brand I like.

Cigar Aficionado: Fair enough. Let’s start with this: What did it mean to you to be on the cover of Cigar Aficionado?
SHATNER: The Aficionado is a cultural-elite magazine aimed at a specific type of person. You don’t have to be intelligent or rich or knowledgeable to smoke cigars but, given the mystique of cigars, it helps. Now I don’t smoke often, but when I do, I want the subtlety of taste of the part of the Earth that this tobacco came from. Like good wine and good cheese, a good cigar requires a subtle palate. And I think I have that. So it gave me a sense of pride to be on the magazine’s cover.

CA: What is your favorite cigar memory?
SHATNER: I’m sitting in front of my house, sitting on a hill overlooking my property and my wife and I are smoking cigars. Now, how many men have their wife with them when they smoke, instead of saying, “Get away from me—you smell”?

CA: At the end of most episodes of “Boston Legal,” you and James Spader would sit on Denny Crane’s balcony and share a smoke and a drink. Is there a downside to something like that?
SHATNER: You shoot the first take at the beginning of the morning and the camera has to be moved to shoot the scene from 20 different angles. So you’re lighting and smoking cigars all day long. They did say to me, “Well, don’t smoke them—just hold them in your hand.” But I couldn’t do that because I wanted to show the richness of his life and the enjoyment of smoking a good cigar. But 20 in one day is 19 too many. It took me a while to come back from that.

CA: Was the cigar boom of the 1990s a good thing or a bad thing?
SHATNER: A boom is good—why not? Obviously, you have to do everything in moderation. So smoking a great cigar is a pleasure I would wish upon anyone in moderation.

Susan Lucci

(Sept/Oct 1999)

For actress Susan Lucci, 1999 was a banner year that saw Lucci landing on the cover of Cigar Aficionado magazine (holding a cigar while lying in a bathtub full of floating roses), even as she made her Broadway debut. While “All My Children” and Lucci’s Erica Kane ended their run in 2011, Lucci is set to return to the small screen in a Lifetime series, “Devious Maids,” created by Marc (“Desperate Housewives”) Cherry, in 2013.

Cigar Aficionado: What do you remember about the cover shoot?
SUSAN LUCCI: It was one of the most fun shoots ever. I was so happy they asked me. And the shoot happened right after I won the Daytime Emmy. I was so thrilled to be asked. It turned out to be pivotal for me and led to me making my Broadway debut.

CA: How so?
LUCCI: In the story in Cigar Aficionado, I mentioned Broadway as a dream I’d had forever. Fran and Barry Weissler were producing a revival of Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway and, once they heard that I was interested in Broadway, they contacted me. I went into Annie Get Your Gun to replace Bernadette Peters. And I know they heard about my interest from that story.

CA: How did you take an interest in cigars?
LUCCI: I’m not a smoker at all, but I remember when cigar bars began to open in Manhattan. I’d pass by them on my way to work—at 6:30 in the morning, so they were closed. But they had a fascination for me; the cigar bars spoke to me in some way.

CA: And you wound up trying a cigar?
LUCCI: My husband and I were skiing with our children in Austria. We were sitting in this cocktail lounge afterward with my daughter, who was 18 at the time. There were two men sitting next to my daughter and me and they kept offering me a puff of their cigars. I was giggling and laughing, and I turned to my husband and said, “‘If they offer me that cigar one more time, I’m going to take it.” So the bartender offered me a humidor and I took a fresh cigar and lit it. It was a Macanudo. And that was my first puff. I enjoyed it as much as I could. I enjoyed being in the moment. I did smoke one more time. I took some puffs at a party. And then Cigar Aficionado asked me to be on the cover. And I learned even more.

CA: Such as…?
LUCCI: I didn’t realize that the ashes were supposed to be at a certain point for the photograph. As it happened, the wardrobe mistress for the photo shoot was a big cigar smoker. So she smoked the cigar down for me until it was just right.

CA: What did being in CA mean to you?
LUCCI: Well, it came right after winning the Emmy. It was an astonishing moment for me. The response to the magazine was amazing and opened even more doors for me. It helped cross my career over. Then Regis Philbin came to my opening night in Annie Get Your Gun and asked if I’d appear with him in his nightclub act. And that encouraged me to get a nightclub act together for myself. And I went and opened Feinstein’s at the Regency after 9/11. And all of that happened because of winning the Emmy and then being on the cover of Cigar Aficionado.

Jim Belushi

(Jan/Feb 2008, Nov/Dec 2010)

Jim Belushi is one of the few celebrities to have graced Cigar Aficionado’s cover twice: in 2008, when he shared it with fellow Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd; then at the end of 2010, for his series, “The Defenders,” his return to TV after eight seasons of “According to Jim.” Since then, Belushi has done a Broadway star turn (in a Tony-nominated revival of Born Yesterday), even as he continues to sing and dance with Aykroyd as a member of the Blues Brothers.

Cigar Aficionado: What do you remember about the cover shoot?
JOHN BELUSHI: It was the coolest shot ever. I loved the suit. It was a pure joyous moment in my life. My wife wouldn’t let me wear that suit out, so the picture captured the spirit of what was going on inside me. I was in a joyous place.

CA: What did being on the cover of Cigar Aficionado mean to you?
BELUSHI: I’ve had a long relationship with the magazine. The first time I was on the cover, I felt it took me a long time to earn that place. I was honored that they felt it was my time. When I went into my cigar store and they had the cover up, it made me feel great.

CA: What’s your go-to cigar these days?
BELUSHI: My go-to cigar is still the Fuente Hemingway. The Padrón is also right there with it. I like the Montecristo No. 5. It’s a little shortie. I had a box of them one time when I was filming in Italy. I just loved them.

CA: What is your favorite cigar memory?
BELUSHI: The first cigar I smoked with Arnold Schwarzenegger in a cop car on location in Chicago when we were filming Red Heat. It was a Montecristo No. 2. We had the windows rolled up and the car filled with smoke. I turned green and almost puked. I thought, “I can’t handle this.”

CA: Was the cigar boom of the 1990s a good thing or a bad thing?
BELUSHI: I think it created chaos, but out of chaos came higher standards. It was like a crashing wave and then the waves settled down. I think cigars have gotten better since then. In the 1990s, there were a lot of good cigars but a lot of bad ones, too. Now it’s harder to find a bad one. The standard of cigar-making has gone up.

 

Joe Mantegna

(July/Aug 2011)

Actor Joe Mantegna joined the series “Criminal Minds” in 2007. The veteran Chicago actor was playwright David Mamet’s favorite actor early on, winning a Tony Award for the original production of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. These days, when he’s not starring in “Criminal Minds” (or voicing Fat Tony on “The Simpsons”), Mantegna produces TV series and films of his own—and still enjoys a good cigar.

Cigar Aficionado: How long have you been reading Cigar Aficionado?
JOE MANTEGNA: I remember reading blurbs in the early 1990s about a magazine that was coming out that was going to be for cigar smokers. And I thought, “Maybe this thing will finally come out from underground.” Because, back then, you were afraid to let people know about this thing that I did. At that point, the whole cigar thing—people were starting to get into it but it was still not out of the closet. Cigar smoking was for Winston Churchill and old guys; it had that connotation. And then the magazine came out and it was like, “Wow! This is like Vogue.’ ” And I’ve been a subscriber since the beginning.


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