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Good Guys Smoke Cigars

Chuck Norris uses martial arts and profits from his Lone Wolf cigars to help steer kids straight.
Alysse Minkoff
From the Print Edition:
Chuck Norris, Jul/Aug 98

I think everybody needs a hero. Whether you're young or old, you need someone you can look up to," actor Chuck Norris says as he relaxes on his Texas ranch. "I think kids today need someone to emulate, because a lot of times they don't have that at home. Kids have to find it elsewhere. And a lot of kids today look in a negative direction. They look up to drug addicts, gang members, because they don't have positive role models."

Norris is not afraid of the terms "hero" or "role model," nor the responsibilities that come with living up to those titles, and he feels that more celebrities need to embrace these concepts. "I don't approve of athletes or celebrities who say that they don't want to be a role model for children. The kids still look up to them, and the least they can do is not allow their lives to go in a negative direction. They have a responsibility to children whether they like it or not. And I think they should adhere to that responsibility."

From his championship career as a martial artist and his global success in the action adventure film genre, to starring in a successful television series and starting his own cigar line, Chuck Norris has managed to achieve every career goal that he has set for himself. Still, with all of the success, fame, money and toys he has accumulated over the years, Norris isn't satisfied. There is still one battle that he is devoting his life to winning.

In 1990, with the support of President George Bush, Norris launched Kick Drugs Out of America, a program that teaches martial arts in place of standard physical education classes to at-risk youths. "Kick Drugs is about providing kids with a family atmosphere," Norris says, "giving them someone to look up to and to emulate. And to get them set on a positive course in life." Such a program, of course, costs money. To help finance that dream, Norris co-created a line of cigars.

The idea came during a conversation he had one night with his assistant, Winston West. While smoking cigars in Norris's yard, the two reflected upon the millions of dollars being made from such novelty items as hats, bumper stickers and shirts, and Norris wondered, "Why can't we come up with our own phenomenon?" Then he hit upon a brainstorm. "Why don't we open up a cigar lounge and we'll call it Lone Wolf?" proposed Norris, resurrecting the name from his character in the 1983 action film Lone Wolf McQuade. "We can sell Lone Wolf paraphernalia and build [Kick Drugs] up that way.

"Eventually, I was introduced to [investment banker] Marshall Geller and we decided to start our own brand of cigars with [actor] Jim Belushi [and other investors]. We all went down to the Dominican Republic and they asked us what kind of cigars we wanted. I said that I wanted a very mellow cigar. I didn't want a cigar that was going to burn my throat. Jim said he wanted a cigar that would, in effect, blow his head off. So we have different blends of our cigars that go from mellow to strong."

The brand has three blends, all produced in the Dominican Republic: Lobo Rojo, made by La Aurora; Signature Select, made by MATASA; and Vintage Series, produced by Palmarejo Cigars. "When we were making the cigar line we were following our passion," says Belushi. "We followed our own tastes and spent a lot of time crafting them."

Lone Wolf has a new cigar in the works, the Lobito ("baby wolf" in Spanish), that will be approximately 4 inches by 30 ring. "It's a good 10- to 15-minute smoke," says Michael Dunne, senior vice president of operations. Made with Connecticut-shade wrapper and Dominican filler, Lobito will be machine made due to its small size, Dunne adds. The company plans to introduce the cigars, sold in five-packs, in August. Lone Wolf has a few cigar outlets as well. Its cigar lounge, Lone Wolf Dallas, opened in December. There is also a Lone Wolf cigar store in Santa Monica, California, and a Lone Wolf lounge at Merv Griffin's Beverly Hills Hotel.

Norris acknowledges that a role model might take some flack for publicly smoking a cigar, but he sees nothing incongruous about his choice.

"Listen, you've got to be 21 to be smoking a cigar in the first place," Norris says. "And smoking a cigar is an experience, not like smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. A cigar is for relaxation. I do enjoy cigar smoking and I'm old enough to smoke." He smokes one cigar a day--a Lone Wolf. "Anything done in excess is going to be bad for you, whether it's eating, drinking or whatever," he adds. "The key to enjoying cigar smoking is moderation."

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