The Cigar Dinner Boom
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For the event's creator, CIGAR AFICIONADO editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken, the Big Smoke was an overwhelming success. It started out as a way of testing whether CIGAR AFICIONADO subscribers were interested in getting together to smoke cigars and have fun. The event quickly swelled because of the deluge of ticket requests. Shanken had to approach Marriott Marquis officials to ask for a bigger room. "Once we saw the demand for tickets, we had to go to the hotel to get all the side rooms in addition to the Grand Ballroom, and it still wasn't big enough. Nearly a month before the event, we sent a postcard to subscribers asking them not to send in their checks, and saying that there would be no ticket sales at the door. It was totally sold out." The Big Smoke was so successful that Shanken is planning a series of events around the country in the next 12 months. The schedule so far includes New York again, on Monday, November 29 (a cigar seminar will be held the same day), and next year in Miami on Thursday, January 27, and Friday, May 20 at the Four Seasons in Chicago. Other events are planned for several other cities, including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and again in New York. But dates haven't been set yet.
While the event catered to cigar smokers, the cigar makers were bowled over, too. Long stigmatized by the antismoking fervor in the United States, and in many aspects, hunkered down in their corporate bunkers for the past 20 years, the men of cigars couldn't stop pinching themselves. Edgar Cullman Jr., the president of Culbro Corporation, which owns General Cigar, the makers of Macanudo and Partagas, stayed behind his booth until he ran out of cigars--Cullman and his employees handed out more than 5,000. Dick DiMeola, the executive vice-president of Consolidated Cigar, the maker of H. Upmann, Dunhill, and Te-Amo cigars, said in all his years in the cigar industry he'd never seen anything like it.
The enthusiasm was highlighted by Ernesto Carrillo of Miami's La Gloria Cubana. He brought along one of his senior rollers, Armando Moray, who set up shop in the booth and rolled the night away. At 9:30 P.M., when event coordinator Lynn Rittenband announced that the evening was over, there was a line of guys waiting for their own hand-rolled cigar. If the doors hadn't closed, they might still be there, waiting for their chance to take home a freshly made La Gloria Cubana.
These men clearly shared the thoughts of one of the guests, Howard Lewis: "It was like being a kid in a candy store."