The Legends Speak
We take the words right out of their mouths as Cigar Aficionado imagines what it would be like to have a face-to-face with history’s most famous cigar smokers.
From the Print Edition:
Cigar Aficionado's 20th Anniversary, September/October 2012
(continued from page 2)
CA: A lot of people have their best thoughts while they’re smoking a cigar. I understand that your everyday smoke was the Trabuco mentioned by Mark Twain. To be frank, Mr. Twain is not a man noted for his good taste in cigars.
FREUD: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
CA: I also understand that, when you could get them, you preferred Don Pedros and Reina Cubanas. These are brands that, alas, disappeared in the nationalization of the Cuban tobacco industry after the revolution. But I assume they were of much higher quality than Trabucos.
FREUD: We are so made that we can derive intense enjoyment only from a contrast and very little from a state of things.
CA: Would you therefore suggest an occasional “change of pace” for the avid cigar smoker?
FREUD: What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been damned up to a high degree.
CA: Then—from a psychological point of view—we should stop smoking completely in order to have the pleasure of starting again?
FREUD: An unrestricted satisfaction of every need presents itself as the most enticing method of conducting one’s life, but it means putting enjoyment before caution, and soon brings its own punishment.
CA: Sounds to me as though you aren’t as big a proponent of cigar smoking as I’d always thought you were.
FREUD: Worldly wisdom will advise us not to look for the whole of our satisfaction from a single aspiration.
CA: Yes, but…
FREUD: Look into the depths of your own soul and learn first to know yourself.
CA: Still, isn’t there something about smoking a good cigar that…
FREUD: Where id was, there shall ego be.
CA: You aren’t going all New Age on us, are you? I mean, next you’ll be telling me that there are environmental arguments against the love of cigars.
FREUD: When a love relationship is at its height there is no room left for any interest in the environment.
CA: Spoken like a true cigar cognoscente!
FREUD: Life as we find it is too hard for us; it entails too much pain, too many disappointments, impossible tasks. We cannot do without palliative remedies.
CA: That being the case, why don’t women, generally speaking, enjoy cigars as much as men?
FREUD: The great question which I have not been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is: What does a woman want?
CIGAR AFICIONADO: Your cigar was even more of a trademark than Winston Churchill’s. You were rarely ever seen without a cigar.
GROUCHO MARX: Do you mind if I don’t smoke?
CA: Your son Arthur, who interviewed George Burns, also wrote an
article about you. [Cigar Aficionado Spring 1993.] He said you really didn’t smoke that much—two, maybe three cigars a day.
MARX: Just give me a comfortable couch, a dog, a good book and a woman. Then if you can get the dog to go somewhere and read the book, I might have a little fun.
CA: Arthur said you weren’t much of a womanizer either.
MARX: A woman is an occasional pleasure but a cigar is always a smoke.
CA: That’s almost exactly what Rudyard Kipling told me, but he made it rhyme.
MARX: Quote me as saying I was misquoted.
CA: But when you did smoke you were very discriminating about your cigars. As I recall, your favorite was the Dunhill 410 and a Belinda on special occasions.
MARX: You’ve got a brain after all—and how you get along without it is amazing to me.
CA: Your Dunhills were made in Cuba, now they’re made in the Dominican Republic. Do you think Dunhill has perfected the art of making a great non-Cuban cigar?
MARX: Well, art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, you tell me what you know.
CA: You started smoking Cubans because of an ad you saw for a 15-cent cigar called La Preferencia that promised you “Thirty glorious minutes in Havana.” The cigar only lasted for a quarter of an hour and you returned the butt to the cigar store to try to get your 15 minutes back.
MARX: Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them—well I have others.
CA: You mean that really happened?
MARX: The clerk said, “I told you I only work here. Don’t bother me if you don’t like our merchandise. Write to the company and tell them your troubles.” Two weeks later I received a certified check for 15 cents. Because of their generosity I continued to smoke La Preferencias for many years. But I still maintain they were crooked, for no matter how slowly I puffed, I was never able to spend more than 22 minutes in Havana.
CA: But you didn’t start out smoking 15-cent cigars. Fifteen cents was a lot of money way back then.
MARX: If there was an open season for fellows like you, I’d get myself a hunting license.
CA: Sorry. But as I was saying…
MARX: I began smoking Pittsburgh stogies. These were long, thin and black as stove polish (the resemblance didn’t end there). They were three for a nickel, and for your nickel you got about four hours’ steady smoking. I must have had an unusually strong stomach, for they only made me sick about once a day. I graduated from Pittsburgh stogies to the nickel cigar; and as I grew more affluent, I progressed to the 10-cent cheroot.
CA: And, eventually, to the Dunhill 410. After Cuban cigars were banned in the U.S. did you become a “closet Havana smoker”?
MARX: Just remember that if there weren’t any closets, there wouldn’t be any hooks, and if there weren’t any hooks, there’d be no fish, and that would suit me fine.
CA: Yes, well thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
MARX: I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it. v
P.J. O'Rourke is the author, most recently, of Holidays in Heck, and the smoker, most recently, of a Romeo y Julieta No. 1 Tubo.
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