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The Ultimate Cigar Aficionado

Ninety-eight-year-old George Burns shares memories of his life.
Arthur Marx
From the Print Edition:
George Burns, Winter 94/95

(continued from page 10)

"Altogether it's a two-hour show," he explains. "Someone else opens the show, and I do the second half. I'm onstage for an hour.I do an hour of stand-up. Actually, I do 10 minutes standing up and 50 minutes sitting in a chair. Oh, occasionally, I stand up again to do a dance or put over a song. But mostly I sit down. A great invention, sitting down."

Burns is such a sellout at theaters and nightclubs that after playing three or four engagements a year at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas since 1984, the management recently signed him to a lifetime contract with the hotel. He's already agreed to do a show for them on the evening of his 100th birthday on January 20, 1996.

Two weeks after the announcement of that engagement, the entire booking sold out. "It's the earliest sellout in the history of show business," says Fein.

Burns doesn't believe he's being overly optimistic about being able to honor that engagement. (Fein has said that since Burns' setback in September he is recovering well.)

"I'm in good health...knock wood. I'm doing what I love to do and I lead a clean life. I get up every morning. I have a little breakfast. I eat a dish of prunes. I walk around my pool 15 times for exercise. Then I get dressed, and Conrad drives me to the office here. I stay until 12. Then I go to Hillcrest and have a little soup. I play bridge until 3. I go home and take a nap. I get up around 5. I get out of bed very quietly because I don't want to wake her up. (I lie a lot.) Then I have a couple of Martinis and smoke a cigar. Maybe I'll go out to dinner with friends...Barry Mirkin...Irving Brecher and his Chasen's or some other fancy restaurant. Or maybe I'll go to a friend's house. Of course I haven't many friends left whose houses I can go to anymore.

"I find you have to take each day as it comes and be thankful for who's left and whatever you can still do. I have my daughter Sandy and my son Ronnie. I have seven grandchildren and five great great-grandchildren. They keep me busy and so does my work. Without that, I'd be lost. That's why I'm so grateful that after all these years there's still a demand for me."

The interview is running longer than either of us had planned--after all, covering 98 years takes time--and I notice that Burns is beginning to glance impatiently at his wristwatch.

"One final question," I assure him. "Do you miss your friends at Hillcrest?"

"Yes I do," he replies. "I'm the only one left." He puffs on his cigar thoughtfully for a moment and then adds, "I guess that makes me the funniest one at the Round Table."


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