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Rush's Judgment

Media phenomenon Rush Limbaugh is winning bigger and bigger audiences with his no-holds-barred brand of commentary.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

(continued from page 1)

But lurking in the back of his mind was Cuba. "I have always been interested in getting the best that I could afford, whatever it is. So I was just dying to taste some of these Cubans. I was reading all about the Cohibas and the Hoyo de Monterrey Double Coronas. And then I went to London last September with the same friend who had the pre-Castro Montecristos.''

Limbaugh stayed at the Connaught Hotel, "and I got up on a Friday morning and walked across the street to Desmond Sautter's. And I was in heaven.'' The store didn't have any Hoyos, he says, "but they had some Punch Double Coronas and Partagas Lusitanias and Montecristo No. 2's. And I tried them. And I don't care what anybody says. I know it's a matter of taste, but as far as I'm concerned, this is something that not even the Communists have been able to screw up. It's the best tobacco in the world. There's no comparison. This is not to put anybody else's down. I've looked into it. I've studied it. It's like Bordeaux grapes. You can try growing them in California, but they're not the same. They've taken Cuban seed to Jamaica and Honduras, but it just isn't the same.''

Limbaugh loves sitting back and relaxing with a cigar. "Of course you have to save the Cuban cigars for special occasions. I like keeping things special in my life. So I do smoke some Honduran Punches now and then. And I still have a box of Ashtons and Partagas No. 10's. But this is a special occasion. Being interviewed by Cigar Aficionado is a special occasion. And this Ramon Allones Gigante is a hit. This is like five Cohiba Robustos rolled into one.''

Limbaugh's face is wide and open, with penetrating and superbly intelligent eyes that contain more than a glint of humor. Yes, he is serious, but he is also having fun. Lots of fun. The aroma of Cuban cigars, he says, even pleases women, many of whom have been known to object to the odor of other cigars (just as many have been known to object to his penchant for referring to them as girls and to his less-than-favorable reviews of what he considers the "radical'' feminist agenda). "Often you just bring out a cigar, and it's an immediate hysterical reaction, even before you light up. But when I light up a Romeo y Julieta Churchill, it seems to be the cigar that women like. They don't object to it at all.''

As he has gone all out on cigars, so has he on their essential companion, humidors. "I've got 12 humidors at home in various sizes,'' he says. "There's one here and one in the radio office. I have some Zinos and some Davidoffs and a couple of French ones I bought at Desmond Sautter's and at Arnold's Tobacco Shop in Manhattan. They're big and beautiful. Each holds 200 cigars. When I finally indulge myself in a new place to live I'm going to build a walk-in humidor and keep the cigars in the boxes they come in.''

What is it he likes so much about cigars? "First of all,'' he says, "it's the flavor. The next thing is that they are a reward. I look at them as an indulgence that is special. I like the feel of them in my hand. I'm very expressive with my hands, and when I speak I enjoy having one in my hand. I love the smell of them. In fact, one of the disappointing things about smoking cigars is that when you smoke one, you can't smell it the way it smells when someone else is smoking one. Sometimes I'll just usher people into my office and say, 'Light this,' and ask them to sit there and smoke just so I can smell it. Cigars relax me. They help me to think. I only recently began smoking them while doing the radio show, and just having one in my hand seems to lower whatever inhibitions I have just a bit and bring out the expressiveness of my personality.''

* * *

It is six minutes after noon, and the expressiveness of that personality, presented via his "daily excursion into broadcast excellence'' along "the turnpike of truth,'' has just begun to be conveyed to his eager audience of millions. There are even restaurants all across the "Fruited Plain," as Limbaugh calls the United States, that have set up Rush Rooms where patrons can arrive at noon, order lunch and (as Limbaugh calls them) adult beverages, and sit and listen.

He has entered the studio in a neat, white, pinstriped shirt, dark pants and wide, floral, gray-and-black tie. He sits in his "prestigious Attila the Hun Chair,'' established by the "Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies.'' Behind him is a neon sign with a red EIB for "Excellence in Broadcasting'' and a blue "Rush Limbaugh.'' His familiar theme music, a repeated bass phrase from the Pretenders' rock song "My City Was Gone,'' has opened the show. From the beginning, his conservative views, expressed in words both serious and satiric, take no hostages. It is, in fact, he declares, a case of America held hostage: Day 351--the days of the Raw Deal, otherwise known as the Clinton administration--with 1,109 days left. A mock commercial will discuss bungee condoms, poking fun at school programs that provide free latex condoms to students, an idea with which Limbaugh has long been less than enamored. Another will feature Bill Clinton starring in the "movie" Taxula: "He sleeps in the daytime and has been known to prowl at night.'' The parodic announcements are, as Limbaugh has often said, his way of "demonstrating absurdity by being absurd.''

Limbaugh will discuss the Clinton health plan (he's against it); harvesting eggs from aborted fetuses for implanting in infertile women (a pro-lifer, he's vehemently against that, too); women having children after menopause (against); cutting taxes to provide opportunities for the success of big businesses and individual entrepreneurs who provide jobs to others in the essential capitalistic expedition that is the American way of life (he's emphatically for all that), and abstinence and responsibility in all matters involving sexual activity (he's for that, too). On this day, he will not take on some of his other bêtes noires: animal rights, multiculturalism, the "media elite,'' "socialist utopians'' and "liberal compassion fascists.''

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