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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.
P.J. O'Rourke
From the Print Edition:
Cigar Aficionado's 20th Anniversary, September/October 2012

(continued from page 4)

KIPLING: I will scent ‘em with best vanilla, with tea I will temper their hides, and the Moor and the Mormon shall envy who read the tale of my brides.
CA: The vanilla flavoring in some Brazilian cigarillos is interesting. I’ve never tried soaking a cigar in tea. Do you have any other secrets to your enjoyment of a good cigar?

KIPLING: A million surplus Maggies are willing to bear the yoke; and a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke. Light me another Cuba—I hold with my first-sworn vows. If Maggie will have no rival, I’ll have no Maggie for spouse.
CA: So your wife’s name is Caroline?

George Burns


CIGAR AFICIONADO: You and your wife Gracie Allen had an extraordinary career in show business. The two of you were vaudeville stars in the 1920s, radio stars in the 1930s and 1940s, and television stars in the 1950s. Does your cigar get any credit for the longevity of your act?
GEORGE BURNS: No. For 40 years my act consisted of one joke. And then she died.

CA: But you kept working. You won an Oscar for your role in The Sunshine Boys in 1975. You played the lead in three Oh God! movies when you were in your 80s and made a cameo appearance in Radioland Murders when you were 98.
BURNS: By the time you’re 80 years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it.

CA: You must have learned a lot about cigar smoking.
BURNS: If I’d taken my doctor’s advice and quit smoking when he advised me to, I wouldn’t have lived to go to his funeral.

CA: Speaking of dying, you were interviewed for this magazine not long before you did so by Groucho Marx’s son Arthur. [Cigar Aficionado, Winter 1994/1995.] Do you mind if I ask you some of the same questions about cigars?
BURNS: Happiness is a good martini, a good meal, a good cigar and a good woman—or a bad woman, depending on how much happiness you can stand.

CA: That’s pretty much the answer I was looking for.
BURNS: I smoke 10 to 15 cigars a day. At my age I have to hold on to something. I’m at the age now where just putting my cigar in its holder is a thrill.

CA: But surely your present state is, shall we say, ageless?
BURNS: I’m very pleased to be here. Let’s face it, at my age I’m very pleased to be anywhere. I don’t believe in dying. It’s been done. Besides, I can’t die now—I’m booked.

CA: And always being booked for your next appearance is the whole
secret to show business, isn’t it? Didn’t smoking cigars start out as just a piece of stage business for you?
BURNS: I smoked them because I wanted people to think I was doing well. When they saw me walking down the street smoking a cigar, they’d say, “Hey, that 14-year-old kid must be going places.” Of course, it’s also a good prop on the stage. When you can’t think of what you are supposed to say next, you take a puff on your cigar until you do think of your next line.

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