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A Star-Studded Night to Remember

David Savona
Posted: March 30, 2006
Business icons, celebrities and many of the world's greatest cigarmakers joined stars from the hit show "The Sopranos" in Manhattan Tuesday night to raise money in the fight against prostate cancer.

It was Cigar Aficionado's 14th annual Night to Remember, an evening of fine dining, stellar wines and the greatest cigars of the year. The dinner, featuring a charity auction conducted by host Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado magazine, raised more than $1.4 million for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which hopes to eradicate the disease, a major killer of men.

Rush Limbaugh shows his affection for cigars, as well as for the show "24."
Since the inaugural dinner in 1994, Cigar Aficionado Nights to Remember have raised nearly $13 million.

The "Sopranos" stars sat at a large, rectangular table by the bubbling waters of the Four Seasons Restaurant pool room, where dinner was served. The cast members in attendance included series star James Gandolfini, who plays Tony Soprano; Dominic Chianese, the actor who portrays Tony's uncle (and recent adversary) Junior; Steve Van Zandt, who first gained fame playing guitar with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and is now known as the consigliere Silvio Dante; Tony Sirico, a.k.a. Paulie Walnuts; Vince Curatola; John Ventimiglia and others. The TV mobsters came with Tim Ozgener of C.A.O. Cigars, and a cherry red box of C.A.O. The SopranosSM Edition cigars adorned each table.

Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado (right) with Michael Milken.
Gandolfini, a shy man in real life despite his celebrity and outgoing on-screen persona, was convinced by Shanken to briefly take the stage. "I came from a blue-collar family," he said. "I look around this room and I'm amazed by the amount of generosity and power that is here. I think we have to remember those who are less fortunate, and what a great country this is."

Members of "The Sopranos" cast ham it up with the makers of C.A.O. Cigars, Aylin Ozgener and Tim Ozgener, during the Night to Remember dinner.
"The Sopranos" wasn't the only hit show represented on Tuesday night: Joel Surnow, the co-creator and executive producer of the thriller "24," which was recently featured on the cover of Cigar Aficionado, joined the dinner, as did "24" actor Peter Weller and co-creator Howard Gordon. A walk-on role on the show would later become one of the prized gems put on the block.

Speakers included former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a frequent Night to Remember attendee and a former co-host of the dinner, who spoke about his love of cigars and shared tales of going up against one of his former foils, real-life gangster "Fat" Tony Salerno. CNN's Jeff Greenfield gave Giuliani lighthearted political advice that he guaranteed would endear him to cigar-smoking voters--ending the Cuban embargo. If Giuliani were signed in as president, said Greenfield, it would be done with "one hand on the Bible, and one hand clutching a now-legal Romeo and Julieta."

James Gandolfini, star of "The Sopranos," spoke about the importance of giving to the less fortunate.
Co-host Rush Limbaugh, the radio celebrity, has never missed one of these dinners. Decked out in a "24" smoking jacket—cum—tuxedo jacket, Limbaugh bought the first "mystery wine," which turned out to be a 1961 Château Pétrus, which he shared with his guests at the head table.

"Fourteen years ago, Rush said to me, 'This is the greatest evening of the year,'" said Shanken from the dais. "'As long as I'm alive, I'll never miss this dinner.'"

Dominic Chianese, Alden and Emeril Lagasse, and "24" actor Peter Weller.
Milken spoke about the progress being made in the war on cancer, and spoke of a recent milestone. "This is a great night for cancer research," he said. "For the first time in 70 years, fewer people passed of cancer than in the year before." He said it was the goal of his organization, and others fighting cancer, to eliminate it as a cause of death by 2015.

Don and Christina Zacharia enjoy the Night to Remember cocktail hour with Cigar Aficionado's Gordon Mott, far right.
Star chef Emeril Lagasse was in attendance, along with John Salley, the former Chicago Bull and Detroit Piston; Bo Dietl, the renowned former police officer; and a who's who of American business leaders, including Facundo Bacardi, chairman of Bacardi & Co.; Ed Rabin, former president of Hyatt Hotels Corp.; Richard P. Torykian Sr., director of Lazard Fréres & Co.; Jim Taylor of Cadillac and Mike Jackson of General Motors; Philip Geier Jr., chairman emeritus of Interpublic Group of Cos.; David Pecker of American Media Inc.; restaurateur Drew Nieporent and wine store magnates Don Zacharia and Michael Goldstein.

Photos by Thos Robinson and Fernando Leon/ Getty Images


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