The Top 100 Cigar Smokers of the Twentieth Century
From the Print Edition:
Vince McMahon, Nov/Dec 99
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7 BILL COSBY There's something about winter that doesn't seem so funny to the man who has made millions laugh. In 1994, Cosby was watching the ladies' figure skating finals in the Winter Olympics on TV, puffing away on an Ashton. Suddenly, Tonya Harding began to cry during her routine. No, Nancy Kerrigan hadn't just blasted her with a bazooka; rather, the problem was a wayward shoelace. Mesmerized by the drama, Cosby took his cigar, which he had placed in an ashtray, and stuck it in his mouth--ash end first. His tongue told him he had "instantly made a very serious mistake." Two winters earlier, the comedian experienced another tobacco tribulation. As he walked about Manhattan with a cigar, the 38 degree chill "turned my warm, succulent corona into a piece of cold, soggy rutabaga." Stopping in a store that sold expensive gadgets for the Man Who Has Everything, as he described it, Cosby hoped to find some device that would keep his cigar warm. No such luck. "What kind of store was this?" he ruminated. "How could a man have everything if he didn't have a thing to keep his cigar warm?" Favorite cigar: Ashton Maduro No. 60
8 RED AUERBACH "I didn't want to rub anything in or show anybody what a great coach I was when I was 25 points ahead. Why? I gotta win by 30? What the hell difference does it make?" To Auerbach, sitting down on the bench to smoke a cigar in the waning minutes of a Boston Celtics triumph was his way of exuding humility. No one else saw it that way, though. To opposing fans, the "victory cigar" symbolized smugness in being able to administer such an awful beating to their team. Opposing players would be motivated by the cigar, doubling their intensity level until the final buzzer. Even Red's own players suffered from the fourth-quarter fumigation. According to guard Bob Cousy, the sight of Auerbach sitting calmly smoking a cigar only served to increase the fans' hostility and the abuse they heaped upon the Celtics. Auerbach's victory ritual was so reviled that the Cincinnati Royals management once handed out 5,000 cigars to its fans, instructing them to light up when the Royals won. Instead, the move backfired, as a fired-up Celtics squad blew the Royals off the court. Favorite cigar: Hoyo de Monterrey
9 JACK NICHOLSON The three-time Academy Award winner had been a longtime cigarette smoker when he took up golf in the early 1990s. He found himself smoking half a pack during a round to calm his nerves, so he decided to switch to cigars from around the fifth hole on. The change helped relax him, and eventually Nicholson got down to a 12 handicap. The actor first became enamored of Cuban cigars in 1973, when he was making The Last Detail, insisting that the petty officer character he played be a cigar smoker. The picture was shot in Canada, affording easy access to Havanas. When he resumed cigar smoking in the '90s, one of Nicholson's favorite haunts was the Forum in Los Angeles, where he would attend most of the Lakers' home games. At one time he was able to light up right on the arena floor, but as California antismoking laws got tougher, he found himself relegated to a hallway and, eventually, outside the building itself. "But I get around it," he said in 1995. "I sneak into the men's room at halftime, like when I was in high school, and take my drags there." Favorite cigar: Montecristo
10 BABE RUTH His larger-than-life persona, his considerable girth, and his zest for excess couldn't disguise the fact that George Herman Ruth was one of the best baseball players of the century. A standout pitcher for the Boston Red Sox before being traded to the New York Yankees, Ruth was the greatest slugger of his time, and perhaps of all time. Off the field, the Babe loved the good life: food, drink, women--and cigars. While still in Boston, he invested in a local cigar factory that produced nickel smokes with his picture plastered on the wrapper. "I smoked them until I was blue in the face," he once lamented. On a road trip, he snuck a woman into the room he was sharing with Ernie Shore, a fellow Red Sox pitcher (who once combined with Ruth to pitch a perfect game against the Washington Senators). Not surprisingly, Shore couldn't sleep, as the sounds emanating from the Babe's bed were hard to shut out. The next day, Shore noticed four or five cigar butts next to a sleeping Ruth. The Babe's explanation later: "Oh, that! I like a cigar every time I'm finished." Favorite cigar: "Babe Ruth" perfecto
11 AL CAPONE One of America's most notorious gangsters was about to board a train for prison, having been nailed for tax evasion. During the Roaring Twenties, Capone had controlled gambling, prostitution and bootlegging rackets. Despite his propensity for violence, the Chicago crime boss saw himself as a generous benefactor, someone who provided jobs for thousands and served "decent liquor and square games." As he was led to the train in 1932 after losing his appeal, Capone bade adieu to his freedom by lighting a cigar.
12 GROUCHO MARX A cigar sometimes got the comedian into trouble. Once, his third wife, Eden, objected to his "stinky old cigar" and ordered him to extinguish it or get a new wife. On an earlier occasion, Marx splurged for a 10-cent pure Havana after spotting an advertisement that promised "thirty glorious minutes in Havana." When the cigar lasted only 20 minutes, Groucho demanded a replacement. Somehow, each subsequent cigar met the same fate, until after the fifth one the merchant wised up and tossed Groucho out.
13 BILL CLINTON Does he or doesn't he? The 42nd president is known for chewing cigars on the golf course, but there have been only a few reports of his actually smoking a cigar. It's well known that the first lady bans tobacco smoke from the White House, but does the chief executive light up somewhere else--say, for instance, on a state visit overseas? Perhaps if Hillary makes her way to the Senate, she'll entrust her husband with the authority to set the smoking regulations in their new home in New York.
14 MICHAEL JORDAN When the NBA legend made a move on court, few opponents could stop him. Off the court, it was much the same way. Case in point: Jordan would be smoking, say, a Cuban Montecristo No. 2 on the Bulls' bus. Would any of his nonsmoking teammates ever ask the five-time league MVP to snuff out his cigar? As former teammate John Salley once put it: "We were just apostles. Jesus was smoking, that's all there is to it. What are you going to say?"
15 ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER It never hurts to have a father-in-law who smokes cigars. Sargent Shriver, the father of Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria, the TV correspondent, offered him a cigar after a dinner, shortly after Schwarzenegger and Maria met in 1977. Now, any complaints Maria might make about her husband's cigar smoking can be parried with a quick reference to her dad. "You can always say, 'Look, honey, your father wouldn't have introduced me to something that's bad,' " the ex-bodybuilder once cracked.
16 RON PERELMAN When the multimillion dollar businessman and former owner of Consolidated Cigar Corp. wants to eat out, he naturally looks for a cigar-friendly establishment. As he explained in a 1995 interview, "I think I pretty much gravitate toward restaurants that allow cigar smoking, partly because it's so important to me to smoke, particularly after dinner. But from a purely financial point of view, if somebody is not going to support my business, I'm certainly not going to support their business."
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