Out of the Humidor
Editor's Note: We knew our list of the twentieth century's top 100 cigar smokers would elicit its share of controversy. But we didn't think we'd be called into question about everything from our intelligence to our friends. We admitted it at the outset: ours was a subjective list. We love it that way. We chose people who are identified with cigars, not who should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. We also knew that after about the first 25 honorees, the next 75 or so could have been a dramatically different list. But don't ascribe evil intentions to us, please; we're just trying to have fun and get you all talking about the world of cigars. It's clear we accomplished that goal.
Some readers also questioned our placing the World Wrestling Federation's Vince McMahon (and his massive employees) on our cover. Yes, the choice was a departure for us. A fun one, and one that is about as topical as we can get. Trust us, the divisions in the office over the choice were about as intense as the reactions from our readers. But love or hate it, the WWF is a real phenomenon in the United States. (And not just in the arenas--the WWF's initial public offering in October brought in more than $1 billion in stock value for McMahon.) If you love the WWF, you'll love the story. If you hate it, read the story and you may, like some of us, understand the phenomenon a little better.
It's great to see so much attention being directed at our editorial choices. "Out of the Humidor" is revitalized by all your e-mails and letters. That tells us one thing: we're taking some chances that are stirring up your thoughts and opinions. But don't for a minute think we are abandoning our original charter. We are committed more than ever to telling you about the world around us, and what is best or most interesting about it.
As we say in this month's editorial, being a cigar smoker is about having a certain attitude about life. One of our loyal readers told us recently that he loved the expanded editorial coverage because as a longtime cigar smoker, it's the same transition that's happening to him. The magazine has served as a guide for the best and most interesting subjects the world has to offer. With your help, we'll continue to do so. You can now e-mail us directly firstname.lastname@example.org, so keep those letters coming.
Were you really serious or just blowing smoke with your December 2001 Cigar Aficionado "gag" issue that "with honor and great pleasure" you recognized Al Capone and Fidel Castro on your list of "great" people because they shared a common trait, a love of cigars? May these creatures of the devil be relegated to the ashtray of history! In case you forgot, in 1962 Castro pleaded with the Russians to launch nuclear missiles from Cuba. I wonder, if you were a member of the ASPCA, would you have honored Adolf Hitler because he was kind to his dogs?
If you were serious in listing these two miscreants in the company of Churchill, Horowitz and Kennedy, you and your editors should get brain scans to check for lasioderma serricorne [tobacco beetles].
John Scott Washington, D.C.
I rarely find myself at odds with your magazine. However, I must take issue with your placement of President Clinton in the Top 100, much less at number 13. My reasons are not due to my feelings about him politically, as I can find others on your list that I may have philosophical differences with, but nonetheless respect as a cigar smoker.
My reasons that he should not be on the list are:
1. He cannot even admit he smokes them. How can I respect him as a cigar smoker when he has to do it in secret?
2. There has never been such a unified attack on the rights of smokers as there has been under his term in office.
3. No one person has done more to damage the tobacco industry than President Clinton has. We know that it is not just cigarettes that they are after. The Justice Department, the FDA, and other federal offices all follow the lead of who is in the White House.
Please adjust your list to find someone more deserving to be included in such an elite group.
Douglas R. Hurst Cigar Aficionado Online
Please explain to me your theory that Whoopi Goldberg is the 19th "greatest cigar lover this century." I have seen many things that I disagree with, but this tops them all. Zino Davidoff at number 22 and Whoopi Goldberg at 19; just think about how stupid that sounds. If Zino was alive today, would you have printed that, and given the Davidoff Double "R" an 80 in the same issue? This magazine has no class.
Michael R. McKinney Winter Park, Florida
As a physician with a passion for fine cigars and vintage Port, I enjoy my subscription to your magazine. However, I found the article on famous cigar smokers of this century simultaneously amusing, informative and annoying. Your glaring omission of Sigmund Freud's primary cancer of the mouth struck me like the proverbial ton of bricks! All the vignettes took pains to include cigar-related details of people's lives; surely Freud's illness qualifies in spades. This omission reveals a consistent bias in your publication. Please do not minimize the health risks of cigar smoking on the basis of insufficient data in occasional smokers. This approach is hauntingly similar to that taken by the cigarette industry until recently. Instead, restrict your arguments to those dealing with personal freedom, which are far, far more valid.
Morris Browman, MD Cigar Aficionado Online
Editor's Note: We continually remind our readers that cigar smoking is not risk-free, but a pleasure freely chosen as is our right as American adults. Our listing was a fun diversion, not a pathology report. It should also be noted that Freud lived to the age of 83, dying in London in 1939. At the time of his death, the average life span of American men was 60 years.
I enjoyed the article about the "Greatest Cigar Smokers of the Century" and it reminded me of a great cigar smoker of two centuries. He is my great, great, great, great uncle, Sir William Van Horne.
He was a man of many accomplishments, credited with building the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Banff Springs Hotel as well as many other successful businesses in Canada. But it was while building the Cuba Co. Railroad in 1900 when his lifelong love of fine cigars took hold. (The Cubans praised him for his honesty; he refused to use kickbacks and payoffs to build in Cuba.)
After twice rejecting knighthood, Van Horne reluctantly accepted the honor in 1894. Sir William was a gourmand, and at a dinner shortly after being knighted Van Horne announced that his coat of arms would be "a dinner horn pendant upon a kitchen door." One of his life philosophies was, "I eat all I can; I drink all I can; I smoke all I can; and I don't give a damn about anything!" His legendary poker games were supplemented by snacks of caviar, whiskey and pungent cigars.
Shortly before his death in 1915, Sir William was hospitalized for a stomach ailment. While he was recovering, his doctors pleaded with him to limit himself to three cigars a day. He agreed. The next day a package arrived for Sir William. Inside it was a special selection of perfecto cigars--each one two feet long. Complying with his doctor's orders, he smoked no more than three cigars a day; however, each cigar was a four-hour smoke. I like to think that my love of a good smoke comes from my uncle of the past, and to him I light up and enjoy.
Tobin Benham Galveston, Texas
I have been a cigar aficionado for several years and I love your magazine, but I had to respond to your choices in the top 100 cigar smokers.
I could not believe you chose Bill Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani. Both these men are the antithesis of what cigar smoking is all about: freedom. They represent government encroachment on personal freedom and liberties in all its ugliness. Bill Clinton has spearheaded the antitobacco witch-hunt that your magazine continuously deplores, and he pushes government intrusion on all issues, including our constitutional right to bear arms. You even admit that you don't know if he smokes! Likewise, Rudolph Giuliani tramples the rights of his own people, which he has proven by his willingness to confiscate and sell private cars without the due course of a trial.
Just because these men are successful politicians does not mean they deserve to be recognized as great cigar lovers. A true cigar lover embodies the freedom and pleasure that cigar smoking brings.
Greg Jeffreys Cigar Aficionado Online
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