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Power Smokers of Hollywood

David Shaw
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

It happened more than 25 years ago, but Jerry Weintraub--like many men--still vividly recalls his first cigar.

Weintraub is an entertainment mogul: a movie producer (The Karate Kid), a personal manager (Dorothy Hamill), a political fund-raiser (for former president George Bush), even an occasional actor (The Firm), but he started as an agent and then a concert promoter. In the late 1960s, he was negotiating to promote the Biggest Star of Them All: Elvis Presley.

"I went to Vegas to meet with Elvis' manager, Col. Tom Parker. We talked at what was then called the Hilton International [Hotel] . . . at the roulette wheel," Weintraub recalls with a chuckle. "When we finally made our deal--a very big deal--Colonel Parker reached in his pocket, pulled out a cigar and stuck it in my mouth."

Parker was almost 60 then, Weintraub not yet 30, and as Weintraub waited for a light, Parker said, 'Son, if you're going to be a big promoter and a big producer, you have to learn to smoke cigars.' "

What kind of cigar did Colonel Parker give him?

Weintraub laughs.

"It wasn't a good one."

No surprise. The colonel was notoriously tightfisted legendary for such pre-Presley ploys as painting sparrows yellow and selling them as canaries (or selling footlong hot dogs that stuck out at each end of the bun, but had no meat in the middle). But Weintraub took Parker's advice and became a cigar smoker anyway.

Now Weintraub can afford good cigars on his own, and he smokes eight or 10 a day--Cohiba, Punch, Montecristo ("the No. 1 or 2 unless I'm playing golf, then it's the No. 3 'cause it's shorter. After lunch or dinner, I like a robusto or a Churchill.")

Weintraub has four homes--in Beverly Hills, Malibu and Palm Springs, all in California, and Kennebunkport, Maine (not coincidentally, George Bush's vacation home), and he keeps a humidor in every one.


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