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Full Circle

Forever suave, George Hamilton bring his timeless style to his new line of cigars and cigar clubs.
Alysse Minkoff
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 2)

Hamilton plans to produce about 10 million of those symbols that bear his family crest in 1998. The Hamiltons Reserve, made by Tabadom, is spicy, with lots of earthy coffee and chocolate tones and touches of cinnamon. It has Connecticut wrapper with Dominican filler and binder and bears the whimsical names King George, Don Jorge, Lady H, Ashley and Zorro. The Hamiltons Upmann, George I through George VIII, made by Consolidated Cigar Co., is Dominican filler and binder with Indonesian wrapper. It is spicier with more power than the Reserve. Two additional lines, Hamiltons Private Reserve, made by Tabadom, and the lower-priced Hamiltons House Selection, made by Tamboril, will be released in 1998.

It is somewhat daunting to try to figure out where the lifestyle ends and Hamilton's "real life" begins. Walking out of his club in the New York, New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Hamilton doesn't look like an actor who has put in a near-24-hour day. At two in the morning, he's wearing the same elegant tuxedo he put on at 5 a.m. the previous day, shooting an in-house video for the hotel. Hamilton looks as if he just stepped out of the dressing room. Nary a wrinkle. His bow tie expertly tied. He smiles. Poses for pictures. Signs autographs. All with a genuine charm. Looking everyone in the eye, and even putting a nervous and blushing housewife from the Midwest at ease.

Sitting down at the casino's blackjack table, he muses, "I wasn't born wearing a dinner jacket. You're not born knowing how to do these things. And it isn't that it is an affectation--it was schooling. I was involved in movies and every day you would see yourself, bigger than any wall; and I started to study my 'look.' While everybody else was studying acting, I was thinking, 'Well, if only I had worn a different suit. Or, maybe I should have changed my tie. The scene might have worked better.' I never really expected an acting award. And although I enjoyed it, my image was a little bit more removed from who I was and in a way I was kind of embarrassed by it. Perhaps people thought of me as a slightly stuffed shirt or like I was a Little Lord Fauntleroy or something. Part of my image was self-inflicted and part of it was studio-inspired; and the combination made me just sort of laugh. It was like I became a role I was playing."

Through his laughter, the blackjack dealer deals Hamilton a face card. And then an ace. Then she deals herself a 26. Hamilton takes it in stride. "I think so many people fail to see the gift in everything that happens to them. They just don't get it. And that gift is what I am always looking for. I don't know where it's coming from, but I know it's on the way. I don't have any fear around it. I know it at a gambling table." The dealer has dealt Hamilton a 16, she is showing 15, he doubles down, somehow sensing the outcome. "I have extraordinary luck. But I also have the guts to play with that luck. I don't back off. I'm dangerous when I get ahead because I'll double up and triple up and ask the table to move its limit. I'm playing with their money then. That's when to get dangerous. Don't get dangerous when you're playing with your money." He stands at 16. The dealer deals herself a queen. Paying him off, the dealer asks him how the whole "Hamil-tan" thing started.

"I was in prep school in the East and I had that horrible pallor that you get in the winter. I looked just awful," he says. "And I went down to Palm Beach for the weekend and just got black. I looked better, I felt better. And sure enough, girls started to come on to me. I don't know whether it was puberty or the suntan or what. But I was in for it. If I could, I'd be out everyday in the sun. I love to sit in it. Read in it. It's a form of energy for me." Hamilton graciously colors up, pockets the casino's money and calls it a night.

Hamilton is a moving target these days, traversing time zones with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of men half his age. Over two weeks' time, he is in Las Vegas, working in his club and shooting the in-house commercial for the New York, New York casino-hotel that houses Hamiltons. Then he's off to Newport Beach, California, for a smoker at the Balboa Bay Club, back in Los Angeles for a night, then on to Miami to prepare for his role as host of the Miss Universe pageant. Next stop is the Dominican Republic to blend Hamiltons House Selection, the new line of cigars that Hamilton is creating, and then back to Miami to board a flight for Honduras to visit a tobacco factory. Finally, he's off to Pennsylvania for two days' worth of appearances on the QVC shopping network to market his self-tanning systems and then, at last, home to California.

Clearly he is on a mission, and loving the ride. Catching up with Hamilton in Miami, he is reflective and sentimental about where he is going, where he has been and about filling in the circles of his life. "I've built walls to keep people out, but I've also built the same walls to keep me in. I'm having to take them down a brick at a time. I have to constantly go back and try to keep my heart open. To remember that the worldly possessions are only a mark of progress you have on one level of your life; that they are not the only markers you have. The other is how you have developed as a person. That's why the circle still goes on for me. If I get the success without the fulfillment, then I haven't achieved anything in my life. You become an old fool at a certain point when that happens.I don't want it all because I deserve it; I want it all because I give it.I want happiness in my business life because I have succeeded and have achieved my goals, but not at the cost of other things."

Hamilton has been linked with some rather legendary women throughout his life, from Lynda Byrd Johnson to Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins. All of the women with whom he has been involved, including Alana Stewart, still speak highly of him. Although there is currently no one lady in his life, Hamilton clearly knows a lot about women. "A woman will test you just like a child will test you. Slowly, she'll figure out your barriers and your boundaries. The more you define her boundaries, the more she'll like you. Women want to know that you care. That they are going to be safe in your arms. That they have your unconditional support. A woman wants a man who allows them to be themselves, but will not give them too much room.

"And while a man is trying to figure out the size of a woman's breasts, the woman has already figured out whether or not you'd be a good husband, how many children you're going to have and what their names will be. They are so far ahead of men. Men are raised by women and we're born out of them. So it's no contest--women are far superior to men and always have been. It's when women wanted this equality thing that it all got messed up. And I love strong women. Strong women don't want a weak man, they hate weak men. So I think it's important to understand yourself. Once you feel comfortable with yourself, you can be comfortable with a woman."

Even though Hamilton has had his share of romances, he still feels that there are a few lessons as yet unlearned when it comes to affairs of the heart. "I know all of the moves. I've got all of them down. And I think the real adventure in relationships is not to make them. I'll trip myself up on purpose. I'll do all the things I can to prevent myself from making the move that I know is the easiest. It's too manipulative. When you survive by being manipulative, you get to the point where the joke is really on you. And I don't want to do that. Because a really good woman can take a man to a whole different level in his life. There's not one great man in this world who has had any real success that hasn't had a woman play a role in it. Guys who think they can go it alone are nuts. It's ridiculous. It just doesn't work. And I want to be known as a woman's man, but also as a man's man. I don't want to be one without the other."

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