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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 2)

"I've been smoking for about 30 years, but with regularity only for the last 20. My friends will tell you that I don't spend a lot on clothes or on stereos, but I will spend on cigars. I love Cohiba Robustos and I like La Gloria Cubanas and Onyx. I just like the taste of them. Most people like the Montecristo No. 2's, but I like the Montecristo No. 1's, I guess that makes me weird."

Greenfield, however, doesn't see himself as a crusading cigar smoker. "I don't have sympathy for cigar smokers; they're not the equivalent of sharecroppers," says Greenfield. "My take on cigars is more whimsical; they're one of life's pleasures.

"I wish something could be done about our image, though. If you want to make a villain of someone in movies, put a cigar in his mouth. Yet look at the people who've smoked! Winston Churchill saved the world. Then there's Mark Twain. The great comedians--George Burns, Groucho Marx, Cosby, Letterman--all smoke. So the cigar symbolizes laughter. Red Auerbach had his victory cigar. Cigars are not the evil weed. When smoked in moderation, it's like wine--not harmful.

"There used to be the expression in World War Two: 'There are no atheists in foxholes.' Well, there are no anticommunists in a humidor. Whether it's William Buckley or Rush Limbaugh, if someone happens to have access to a good cigar, it doesn't matter that it comes from a communist country."

While the origin of the cigars may not matter to anyone, the places one works in a journalism career today seem to have an impact on whether or not someone smokes.

A family habit drew Bob Rivard, deputy editor at the San Antonio Express News, to smoke. "The cigar gene was identified in me early, when my grandfather took me to the Saratoga racetrack and he smoked nickel Roi-Tans," Rivard recalls. "He was a workingman and that was the best he could afford."

Rivard's correspondence work in Central America reinforced his love of cigars. "I moved to El Salvador and fell in with a couple of guys whom I remain good friends with, including Chris Dickey, who was with The Washington Post at the time and now is with Newsweek. At the time we were living in Latin America and buying Nicaraguan and Honduran cigars for a song, risking our lives for a story about the civil war in El Salvador. There were a lot of bad times, but also a lot of good times. I was Newsweek's El Salvador bureau chief at the time. I was smoking good Cohibas and Davidoffs, having gotten them in Europe."

Like many who enjoy cigars, Rivard's smoking habit has become ritualized. "I like to smoke on Saturday night when I edit the Sunday paper, which requires the most attention." And then there are the fights. "I smoked three Cohibas for the (Julio Caesar) Chavez fight [in May]." For lesser fights, Rivard buys domestically available brands. "There is a place in San Antonio called the Humidor. They hold the magazine in high esteem there; they paste the ratings below the cigars."

For the big fights Rivard digs into a dwindling stash of Cohibas that were acquired during his years as chief of correspondents for Newsweek, a job that required frequent overseas trips to visit the magazine's bureaus. "I had half a box of Cohibas for the [Chavez] fight; one guy paid for the [pay-per-view] fight, another brought food, another brought beverages....There will be other occasions."

No doubt. And Rivard will supply the Cohibas.


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