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Ten Years to Remember

David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Air Sick, Jul/Aug 02

They filed into the Four Seasons Restaurant in formal attire, selected fine cigars and raised a flute of Tattinger Champagne to the heavens to celebrate Cigar Aficionado's Tenth Anniversary Another Night to Remember, held on April 16 in New York City. They numbered 217 in all: cigarmakers, politicians, business leaders and celebrities, including James Gandolfini, Rush Limbaugh, Francis Ford Coppola, Rick Pitino and Rudolph Giuliani, united by the love of cigars and wine and a desire to give to CaP CURE, the research organization created by Michael Milken in hopes of finding a cure for prostate cancer. An auction of rare cigars, legendary wines and an array of luxury goods and services raised $756,000 for the charity, after Milken matched the $378,000 total with his own money.

The night began with a chilled seafood bar of lobster and shrimp cocktail, raw oysters and clams, as well as hors d'oeuvres such as blini with caviar, skewered scallops and bison carpaccio with black truffles. The guests sipped Champagne, Martinis and other cocktails as they selected from a world-class selection of premium cigars, including Arturo Fuentes, Ashtons, C.A.O.s, Cuesta-Reys, Diamond Crowns, Don Diego Reserves, La Flor Dominicanas, La Gloria Cubanas, Macanudos, Montecristo Serie Vs, Partagas Black Labels and Punch Rare Corojos.

Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado, and host and auctioneer for the evening, greeted and thanked the crowd as they sat at their tables, arranged around the dining-room fountain, which was filled with flowers, and flanked by cherry blossom trees in spring bloom.

"It's been 10 incredible years, and we made it," Shanken said, to heavy applause. He immediately gave a heartfelt thanks to the cigar- makers in the audience for their long-term support of the dinner, and they stood to crowd applause. The group comprised Theo Folz, Jim Colucci and Janelle Rosenfeld from Altadis U.S.A.; Edgar M. Cullman, David Danziger and Sherwin Seltzer from General Cigar Co.; Carlos Fuente Sr., Carlos Fuente Jr. and Wayne Suarez from Arturo Fuente Cigars; Robert Levin from Holt's Distributors Inc.; Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and Michael Giannini from El Credito Cigars Inc.; Jose Orlando Padrón and Jorge Padrón from PadrÛn Cigars Inc.; Eric M. Newman from J.C. Newman Cigar Co.; Litto Gomez and Ines Lorenzo-Gomez from La Flor Dominicana and Tim Ozgener from C.A.O. International Inc. Also in attendance were Fred Levinger from Colibri, as well as New York City cigar retailers Lionel Melendi from De La Concha, David Kitchens from Davidoff, Lew and LaVonda Rothman from JR Cigars and Bruce Goldstein from Arnold's Tobacco Shop.

The auction began with a mystery wine auction, and the winning bidders had to open the wine immediately and share it with their lucky tablemates. Each wine was revealed as a magnum of fine Bordeaux, including a 1945 Margaux, won by Ed Rabin, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Hyatt Hotels Corp., with a bid of $5,000.

Cigar Aficionado's grand dinner didn't always benefit CaP CURE: "When we started this dinner 10 years ago, we listed the charities and let people choose the charity they wanted their $1,000 to go to," Shanken told the guests prior to the auction. By the third year, CaP CURE had become the charity of choice. "I realized we should dedicate this dinner to prostate cancer research and CaP CURE," he said. "So far, in the seven years dedicated to CaP CURE, this dinner has raised $2.7 million."

Milken followed Shanken on the stage, and spoke about his research organization. "I match all funds, so it's $5.4 million," he said.

With six tables drinking some of the finest French wines the world has ever seen, diners tucked into soft shell crabs in lemon butter, accompanied by a Louis Jadot Batard Montrachet 1997. It was only the first of three courses that evening. The second course, beef short ribs served with morel mushrooms, was paired with a legendary wine, a Chateau Margaux 1989, one of Bordeaux's finest vintages. Dessert was paired with a 1977 Fonseca Vintage Port.

Rare cigars were passed out between the courses, beginning with a black, box-pressed Padrón 1964 Millennium Series Maduro, brought by Jose and Jorge L. PadrÛn. That was followed by the second dinner cigar, a Fuente Fuente OpusX PerfecXion No. 2, a pyramid brought by the Fuente family.

As the audience smoked, several people took the stage. CNN's Jeff Greenfield spoke about the importance of cigars and history. "Grant smoked cigars -- Lee didn't. We all know how that turned out," he said. Greenfield ran through a litany of examples from Churchill to Giuliani, leaving no doubt to any member of the audience about the close relationship between cigar smoke and intelligent political decision making.

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