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Pants On Fire

Acting is Joey "Pants" Pantoliano's first love, but as the VP of L.A.'s Grand Havana Room, cigars run a close second.
Alejandro Benes
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96

(continued from page 1)

Pantoliano would escape the poverty of Hoboken and go on to become recognized as an actor. He would marry young, get divorced, marry a second time and have a strong family life and a wonderful, beautiful wife. He would buy an apartment in Hoboken and spend two months there every year. He would make dozens of friends around the country and acquire enough money to do whatever he wanted, to have fun. And he would be able to pursue his latest passion, cigars, in his personal life and as an investor in the Grand Havana Room, one of Los Angeles' top cigar venues.

Joe Pantoliano--Joey Pants to his friends, it's a nickname from childhood--loves everything about smoking cigars. He loves the cutters, the lighters, the humidors, all the accessories.

"It was the whole package that really got me excited," he says of the time in 1989 when he began smoking cigars and visiting tobacco stores, then drops in the profanity that peppers the Joey Pants persona. "Even the little fucking canes. You know, the silver-tipped [walking] canes when you walk into these stores." Pantoliano now owns many of those accessories, and on a sunny day in Southern California, after an offer of cappuccino, he is giving a tour of all that is cigar-related in his L.A. home. It is not a quick trip.


"My wife had this made for me," he says of the custom-built cabinet humidor that takes up most of a living room wall. "I have the greatest wife in the world. I can smoke anywhere in the house and even in the bedroom." The shelves reveal the requisite I-really-adore-cigars books and the coffee tables hold at least a dozen humidors (and counting), most of them gifts from people who know he loves cigars. He admits he's obsessed.

"I think I'm a compulsive type of person," he says. "You know, I'm an alcoholic," he adds, waiting for a reaction. "I guess I'm what they would call a 'periodic alcoholic.' I go for eight months and I don't have a drink and then I have a couple of glasses of wine and before I know it I'm having five glasses of wine a day and I put on 15 pounds and then I stop. And it's like if I like a shirt, I buy three. But the thing with cigars is I don't abuse the privilege. This is my first cigar in two days," he says of the Cuban Bolivar Gigante he holds in his right hand. "I try to smoke one to two a day, no more than that. Sometimes I'll binge and I'll have three in the course of the day or two in the night if I'm doing a party or something. Then I try to cleanse myself the next two days. I feel like if you abuse 'em and smoke too many of 'em, they all start to taste the same."

Pantoliano is proud of his ability to moderate habits that once would have controlled him. He also takes childlike delight in pointing out all the signed photos on his office wall from movie stars expressing their friendship.

These days, Pantoliano is on fire. In fiamme. Hot. Smokin' even. After roles in 60 movies, he is starring in a feature film, has just finished a television pilot and is so much in demand as an actor that he worries about not being able to work on a sequel. He's even recognized on the street. That is, well, a dramatic change.

"For a time, people thought I went to high school with them or something," he says with a laugh. "But what I hear most of all is, 'You sound familiar.' I get spotted for my voice more than anything." It is the voice of Guido the Killer Pimp in Risky Business. In this 1983 coming-of-age movie, Tom Cruise plays high schooler Joel, who has ostensibly stolen Guido's hookers. In Pantoliano's big scene, Guido goes to Joel's suburban Chicago home to get the hookers back and explains reality to him.

"Time of your life, huh kid?" Guido dismissively asks Joel. Pantoliano-as-Guido then offers Cruise's character a fairly concise, classic piece of advice: "In a sluggish economy, never, ever fuck with another man's livelihood."

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