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Smoking on Deadline

In the heat of reporting and writing, television and newspaper journalists savor the pleasures of a great smoke.
Ken Shouler
From the Print Edition:
Bill Cosby, Autumn 94

(continued from page 1)

"If we're on the road working stories, we have a couple of cigars in the morning, like when we spent three weeks in the Midwest covering the floods, working 20-hour days, with just a couple of hours' sleep.

"My smoking preferences change around. I smoke Macanudos and Partagas. Since we travel internationally, I'm always being asked to bring them back from exotic locations." Just then Paula Zahn intercedes, smiling: "Make sure Harry tells you the story of how many cigars he's run out of Cuba."

Smith readily admits it. "Bill Cosby came on the show several years ago, but in the middle of a spectacular story, we had to cut him off; we had a time problem. We invited him to come back a year or so later and had our couriers bring back a wonderful, fresh supply of Cubans--all was forgiven."

A producer of the show, Max McClellan, also enjoys a wide assortment of smoking flavors. "I smoke Davidoff, Dunhill, Montecristo No. 1's. At the end of a day, while relaxing and winding down, my buddies and I go to the Oak Bar at the Plaza or Elaine's. In those places it's not only accepted, but encouraged. We go there and have a beer or two and smoke a few, fine Cubans. Usually we go in a celebratory mode; we make up anything to celebrate.

"I like the Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta because of a full sort of experience, a great taste, a full taste, without an aftertaste. It's the quality of taste that sets [the great ones] apart from the lesser ones."

Ted Savaglio, the executive producer, also smokes Montecristo No. 1's. It's nine o'clock, and the two-hour show is over. Savaglio appears with hair tousled and clothes rumpled, looking like an anarchist after a palace coup.

"Of course, as you know, we can't smoke cigars in America in the house, in the car, in the office. I smoke on the street, one a day. I was in a cranky mood yesterday so people said, 'see what happens when he runs out of cigars.' I buy a handful at a time at De La Concha, this little store between 56th and 57th streets on Sixth Avenue.

"When I went to the summit between Reagan and Gorbachev in Iceland--this was an opportunity. We're going overseas; you can buy Cuban cigars--so I had the camera crew from France buy me a box of Montecristo No. 1's and bring them to Iceland. So here I am in Iceland in the newsroom. Bill Moyers was working for us at the time and Bill likes a cigar. So we're swapping cigars.

"The Sunday that Reagan and Gorbachev were in that little room, everybody was standing outside the door for hours with cameras. I'm standing with my Montecristo No. 1, my arms folded, just staring, staring, staring. All of a sudden I smell something that is not the smoke of cigars. My cigar has burned a hole all the way through Bill Moyer's suit--through the suit, through the lining. I mean there's a hole there as big as a nickel! The nice, gracious Bill Moyers says, 'oh, no no, don't worry. Please don't worry. My wife has a tailor, he's a real weave genius; it'll be no problem.' I said, 'right, I've burned a hole the size of nickel in your $1,000 suit, and you're telling me not to worry, it'll be rewoven.'"

Across town at ABC, commentator Jeff Greenfield can't resist a handful of cigars a week. "I smoke when the care of the day is done; after dinner, with a book, with a friend. My wife, Karen Gannett, likes the smoke. I'll smoke when we're on vacation. It's done when taking your ease. It belongs with good music. I don't ever recall smoking while I worked.


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