Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Gen. Tommy Franks, Nov/Dec 03
I am writing this letter to share with you and all fellow cigar smokers an outrage that happened to one of my closest friends, Gust Geralis. In May, Gust, a longtime cigar aficionado and an upstanding member of the community, was at his son's Little League baseball game (outside) and was enjoying one of his Cuban Cohibas. During the third inning, to Gust's total surprise, the umpire called a time-out, walked into the stands, approached my friend and told him that this was a "nonsmoking" league and that he would have to extinguish his cigar. Gust's obvious response was that this was a public city park and he was outside. The umpire retorted that he had three choices: one; extinguish the cigar, two; go smoke it in the parking lot, or three, that he would actually "call the game." Gust, in total shock, and not wanting to cost his son's team a loss or have him endure any further embarrassment by creating a scene, walked to the parking lot and finished his smoke sitting on the bumper of his car.
What is this world coming to when a man can't smoke a cigar at an outdoor Little League game? I was so outraged that I actually called the city's parks department and asked them if there was any rule about not smoking, and if so, would they send me a copy. They responded that there was no such rule, and after hearing the story, said that the umpire's actions were apparently his own.
I am so tired of being treated like a leper or a criminal just because I smoke cigars. I feel that this was a violation of my friend's and all cigar smokers' civil rights, and it must stop. If somebody doesn't like cigar smoke, either at an outdoor event or in a cigar-friendly establishment, they can exercise their rights by leaving. Is there any organization that we can join to help stop this persecution? What happened to America, the land of the free?
Ronald Zambetti II
Editor's note: Ron, that is an outrage. Just when we think the health police can't get any worse, we hear a story like yours. The best thing you can do is to keep raising cries of protest when people exceed their authority under the current laws. And, keep working with your local politicians in search of compromises that honor the rights of all Americans, including cigar smokers.
Your interview with Francis Ford Coppola in Cigar Aficionado (October 2003) is a classic. You did a wonderful job, and got inside the emotions of the filmmaker of a classic—a real revelation.
President/New Line Cinema
New York, New York
Your interesting October 2003 interview with one of the world's premier filmmakers, Francis Ford Coppola, was outstanding—especially his lengthy background remarks on the torturous difficulty in making and casting The Godfather his way. His candid depictions illustrated the dozens of threatening roadblocks he encountered with Paramount brass that could have derailed the project at any stop along the way, from location to budget to vision. To think of The Godfather placed in modern-day Kansas City with others (Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal, Carlo Ponti) in the seminal roles rather than Brando, Pacino, Caan and Duvall makes a moviegoer's mind whirl—especially for the millions who consider the film one of cinema's best. The Best Picture Oscar must have been sweet justice; Best Director for The Godfather: Part II the icing.
That said, it was surprising to learn that for Coppola, the process of making his most famous film is still viewed by him 30 years later as a horrible, exhausting experience that nauseates him to this day. Thank God for the profit percentage points that helped him buy his winery in the mid-'70s. Perhaps a great 1993 bottle of his Niebaum-Coppola Estate Cabernet Sauvignon helps dull his painful memories these days. What wonderful medicine!
Los Angeles, California
Two thumbs up for your extraordinary interview with Francis Ford Coppola. As one who was actively engaged in the movie industry during the Coppola years, I was fascinated with the candor of Francis's comments and his revelations surrounding The Godfather saga.
Francis is an industry giant who not only raised the level of filmmaking, but also spawned an unusually talented generation of filmmakers and actors. All of them learned from both his special genius and steadfast commitment to his principles.
The Godfather era coincided with a low point in the fortunes of the movie industry, which had been decimated by television. It brought new owners and studio heads, some of whom were incapable of walking the difficult line between business realities and creative imperatives. His success was clearly a victory for creative freedom, but it also was achieved within the constraints of economic necessities.
I particularly enjoyed his comments regarding the cast of many who took credit for his success—not an unusual Hollywood trait. Knowing most of those who claimed this credit, it was not surprising. We all know who would have been blamed had The Godfather failed. From close observation of all the circumstances, I can assure your readers that The Godfather belongs to Francis.
Former CEO/Columbia Pictures and 20th Century Fox
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
I read your article, "The Godfather Speaks," in the October 2003 issue of Cigar Aficionado with great pleasure. As an avid fan of the trilogy of Godfather movies, I enjoyed the bird's-eye view of the whole project and feel like I know the characters and Mr. Coppola better. I plan to now go back and read Mr. Puzo's book. I had no idea that the book differed in so many ways, though not surprising when it comes to books-turned-movies. It seems that many things in life that are full of struggle and tribulation end with a product matched by no other. The Godfather is no exception. Even though Mr. Coppola does not wish to enter the world of the Mafioso any longer, he still appreciates the end product that came from the whole experience.
As I puff away on the free Macanudo Robust included with the October issue, I would like to thank you for putting out such a high-quality and enjoyable magazine. My wife does not smoke cigars, but she fights me to read Cigar Aficionado when it arrives at our house.
Columbia, South Carolina
Just read that the Oak Room bar at the Plaza Hotel is banned from cigar smoking!
Oh my God, what is happening to the U.S.! I am a cigar smoker and a European citizen from Luxembourg who has visited New York many times and stayed at the great Plaza Hotel and enjoyed a great cigar at the Oak bar.
That was always like a dream to me, being in New York and staying at the Plaza Hotel. Even as a kid traveling with my parents, New York to me was like going to the real world. That was the place and the country where you could breathe—freedom and liberty and all those other positive words.
I am not an American but I've always felt very close to them and I feel very, very sad right now of hearing that one's freedom and liberty have been banned, and in a city like New York. Wow! Where are the old times? Who are these people in the U.S. who want to teach other people what to do, what to eat, what to think, etc. etc.?
Please tell me that one day I will be able to go back to the Plaza Hotel and go to the Oak Room and enjoy a Punch Double Corona with a great cocktail. Until then, I will stay in Luxembourg and enjoy my cigar in a quiet cigar-friendly place. There will always be peaceful freedom smokers in this contradictory world.
God bless America!
I totally agree with your editor's note in the August 2003 issue regarding smoking bans in public places throughout the United States. I can tell you that here in Boston, it's no different. "Cigar-friendly" establishments are virtually nonexistent, and your recent comparison of cigar smokers of today to leprosy 100 years ago seems to be quite accurate.
I wanted to inform you and the readers of your fine magazine about the ridiculous and unfair law in Boston regarding cigar (and cigarette) smoking. This law states that an establishment may allow smoking if its revenues from tobacco are an overwhelming majority of its total revenues. Basically, this rules out bars and restaurants, so those of us who would enjoy a cigar (or cigarette) at a sports bar or after dinner would be prohibited from doing so. Even more sad is that the surrounding cities and towns are adopting similar laws.
The fact is, more people die from, or are killed by, drunk driving than they do from cigar or cigarette smoking. Every day, one can open a newspaper and read about a drunk driving fatality. Apparently, alcohol is a much bigger business and obviously more important to bureaucracies than tobacco; otherwise, alcohol would be banned as well.
Massachusetts is the birthplace of this country's freedom and independence. How ironic that a statewide smoking ban is inevitable. Unfortunately, my feeling is that those of us who disagree with smoking bans are fighting an uphill battle.
Editor's note: Never give up. The history of prohibitions in this country is cyclical. When We, the People speak out, there is always the chance our government will modify its regulations to reflect the rights of all its citizens. We must keep raising our voices in protest.
I was reading with great interest the editor's note about a trip to California and how they made the comment that, "at least they haven't outlawed smoking outdoors in California…."
One city has and did so immediately after California banned all smoking indoors. Davis, a little "cow town," has passed a law prohibiting smoking outdoors within city limits. Davis is the type of city where everything is inside the city limits, and what it considered outside the city limits is not worth visiting.
I would love to see you run another story about California and their asinine laws regarding smoking, etc. The only way to allow smoking in a California restaurant or other building is for the building to have a separate room equipped with separate ventilation and filtering systems and for a sign to be posted making those aware of the room. There are very few places to dine and enjoy yourself in California that feature this. It is sad and I am with you 110 percent about punishing us for the issue of an "enjoyable habit," as they call it; I call it an enjoyable investment. I add on to the NRA's popular saying: when it comes to my cigars, they can have my Joya de Nicaragua when they pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.
Hear, hear, and keep up the good work over there.
One of the joys of life is celebrated bimonthly with the arrival of your magazine, which I read while enjoying a fine cigar.
I agree wholeheartedly with your editorial in the August issue, which points out how unfair smoking laws limit one of our long-held freedoms. A restrictive bar and restaurant antismoking law was passed recently in our Canadian city of London, Ontario, and similar bylaws are being passed or have been passed in most other cities in Canada. All of these laws are far-reaching, provide for no exceptions and have ignored significant and vocal displays of resistance. They virtually criminalize smoking in public. As a lawyer and citizen, I am greatly offended by this.
How ironic, then, that I recently had the good pleasure of enjoying a fine Cuban cigar in the lobby of the Havana Hilton Hotel in Cuba. I had thought that democracies represented and respected human freedom and communism did not. In this instance, I guess I was wrong.
As a regular reader of Cigar Aficionado over quite a few years, I am constantly wondering about American politicians. They allow Americans to fight wars for liberation and freedom all over the world (thank you for that), but they won't allow the same Americans the freedom to light up a cigar at home—in peace. What's the idea?
For most of my 59 years, I have had the American way of life and freedom as a kind of ideal contrary to Denmark's narrow laws, except in tobacco matters (where we only have a law against advertising). I just don't understand how things could go that wrong in a country with the ideals of freedom that America has. They are ideals that most of the world is jealous about.