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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.

CA: What did being on the cover of Cigar Aficionado mean to you?
MANTEGNA: It’s hard to put into words. After reading the magazine for all these years, to pass by the newsstand and see my mug on the cover —Wow! It took me full circle to high school, when we would smoke White Owls and Muriel Tiparillos and Hav-a-Tampa Jewels. We’d have a card game every week and the other guys were smoking cigarettes, but we were cool because we were smoking cigars. So, to be on the cover of the magazine was very satisfying, right up there with getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
   
CA: Did you hear from anyone unexpected after being on the cover?
MANTEGNA: In terms of the fan mail, I started getting copies of the magazine sent to me with self-addressed stamped envelopes, asking me to sign them. People will go to memorabilia stores and buy pictures to send you or they’ll send you the covers of DVDs to sign. But with this issue, I heard from the cigar world. I kept getting all these large, heavy envelopes. These were cigar guys.

CA: What’s your go-to cigar these days?
MANTEGNA: I’m still a sucker for anything Fuente. And I really like the God of Fire. That’s a really good cigar. It’s not too heavy. God of Fire made a line with my name on it. I wouldn’t let them do that if it was just any cigar company that came to me.
   
CA: What is your favorite cigar memory?
MANTEGNA: It’s about a place called Gus’ Smoke Shop in Sherman Oaks, that’s now gone. It was, at that point, the oldest continuing business in the San Fernando Valley, run by a guy who has since passed away.

On Saturdays, a bunch of us used to hang out at the store. It was me and Dennis Franz, Joe Pantoliano, Dan Lauria and a few others. We’d all sit around in the back of the store—and we’d smoke cigars and sit on the floor and talk, because there weren’t any chairs. And finally, the guy who ran the place, his name was Jim Hurwitz, he said, “I can’t have you sitting on the floor.” So he rented the storefront next door and we used it as a cigar lounge. It didn’t last long but it was great. It predated the Grand Havana Room.

Which reminds me of taking a picture at the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills before it officially opened. It was Andy Garcia and Dennis and Joe Pantoliano—and Milton Berle. We were the charter members. It was still under construction. So Milton walks in late and Joe says, “How do you like my joint?” And Milton, who had a reputation for having the biggest dick in Hollywood, grabs his crotch and says, “How do you like my joint?”

Joe brought in his humidor full of cigars so we’d each have one for the photo. So Joe opens the humidor for Milton—and Milton grabs a handful and sticks them in his pocket. This was Joey’s personal stash, but what are you going to say? It’s Milton Berle.

 

Dennis Haysbert

(Nov/Dec 2006)

Dennis Haysbert had been a working actor for 20-plus years when he truly became a famous face, playing President David Palmer on the hit TV show, “24.” He had just moved on from “24” to “The Unit” when he landed on the cover of Cigar Aficionado in 2006. Since then, Haysbert has also become the face and voice of Allstate Insurance. In his high school yearbook, Haysbert’s career goals—which he’s now met—involved having his face on the covers of Ebony and TV Guide. Cigar Aficionado has obviously been a bonus.

Cigar Aficionado: What do you remember about the cover shoot?
DENNIS HAYSBERT: How many comments I got because of it. It was very interesting; it looked kind of prophetic, because I was playing a black president on TV and now we’ve got a black president. I’ve done a number of cover shoots, but I really loved those photos. And everybody seemed to love the article. I was surprised at the number of people who talked to me about it and its content. They believed it revealed a lot.

CA: What did being on the cover of Cigar Aficionado mean to you?
HAYSBERT: It gave me a nice cachet, a kind of respect. I like cigars. That’s an adult thing that men and women alike enjoy. Every place I went, if I saw a cigar shop, I saw that cover or a poster of the cover. Maybe it had something to do with being the president.

CA: What’s your go-to cigar these days?
HAYSBERT: I remember the cigar I gave myself after my first and only hole in one, which was on the seventh hole at Pebble Beach: a Partagás No. 2. I love Partagás—the flavor has a medium spiciness. It’s an enjoyable cigar and it takes about an hour or an hour and a half to do it justice. I usually have a cigar during a round of golf or after a good steak.

CA: Since being on the cover, do you now get cigars as gifts?
HAYSBERT: Absolutely, without a doubt. I have this humidor, the biggest one you can carry. I don’t keep a lot there because I don’t want them to go bad. But I don’t think you can ever have too many cigars—unless you don’t have enough places to keep them fresh.

CA: What’s the first cigar you remember really appreciating as you smoked it?
HAYSBERT: A Cohiba Lancero. It was incredibly spicy and I liked the length of it. There was something very cool about it. It was long and angular and I guess that’s something I identify with: being long and slim.

 

Chris Noth

(May/June 2010)

Most actors don’t have one hit TV series, let alone three or four. But actor Chris Noth was on his fourth, playing the bad husband to “The Good Wife,” when he appeared on the cover of Cigar Aficionado. Before that, he’d solved crimes for “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” then romanced Carrie Bradshaw as Mr. Big on “Sex and the City,” a role he reprised in two SATC movies.

Cigar Aficionado: What did being on the cover of Cigar Aficionado mean to you?
CHRIS NOTH: I was pretty honored. The cover has a long history of prestigious cigar smokers. I consider myself a novice cigar smoker; there are guys who know a lot more about it than I do. I remember being very happy with the pictures. I said, “Damn, I wish they could all look like that.”

CA: What’s your go-to cigar these days?
NOTH: Am I allowed to mention Cubans? Because there’s one I’m very fond of: the San Cristobal de la Habana. Otherwise, I’m like everybody else. I love a Cuban Cohiba if I can get it, or a Romeo y Julieta. But this one was a perfect balance. It doesn’t overwhelm you. Some cigars are so damn strong that you can’t stand up after smoking them. Occasionally, that’s how I like it, if I have a little bit of Irish whiskey, too.

CA: What’s your best cigar memory?
NOTH: I was doing a job in Texas, “Rough Riders,” a miniseries about Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, with Tom Berenger and Sam Elliott and a bunch of guys. We were camping out in the heat. And after a long day’s hard marching in the sun, we’d sit down at night around the campfire and smoke what seemed like homemade stogies. The movie was set in the 1890s and I wouldn’t be surprised if the stogies weren’t from the 1890s, too. They weren’t very good cigars, but they sure relieved the pain of slogging in the heat.

 

Gen. Tommy Franks

(Nov/Dec 2003)

Gen. Tommy Franks (U.S. Army-ret.) left the military in July 2003, after leading the American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States. In retirement he published a best-selling memoir, American Soldier, started his own consulting firm in the disaster recovery industry, and received the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President George W. Bush in December 2004.

Cigar Aficionado: What do you remember most about your cover shoot?
GEN. TOMMY Franks: I remember your team falling in on my office in Tampa. I found a pair of CIA cufflinks I had, and that’s what I’m wearing in the photo. A lot of people later said to me, “I recognize those.” When I mentioned to my wife that I was going to be talking to you for this, she said, “Tell him that photo is my
favorite you’ve ever taken.”

CA: What did it mean to you to be on the cover of Cigar Aficionado?
Franks: The greatest result was that it sold a lot of books for HarperCollins. I did the interview before I wrote my book. And it was enough of a teaser to cause the book to rocket to No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list, Amazon.com and a couple of other places. And I think a lot of that was prompted by the content of that Cigar Aficionado cover. It also made me get interested in cigars in a way I hadn’t before.

CA: What’s your go-to cigar these days?
Franks: I should probably be politically correct and say a Davidoff. But when I’m overseas, I smoke Cuban Montecristo No. 2. And I smoke Cohibas. My favorite in the United States is a Fuente Fuente OpusX.

CA: When do you smoke?
Franks: I smoke one cigar a day. I do it after dinner, just about any place I am.

CA: What’s your fondest cigar memory?
Franks: It has to do with my son-in-law, who is in the military, and several of his friends. We will sit around in the evening when we get together with family. It’s a chance to enjoy a glass of wine and a good cigar.

Contributing editor Marshall Fine writes about movies and entertainment on his website, www.hollywoodandfine.com. Follow him on Twitter @hollywoodnfine.

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