Forever suave, George Hamilton bring his timeless style to his new line of cigars and cigar clubs.
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"But after dinner they came over and asked us if we would like a glass of Port, and it was the first time in his life that I offered him a cigar. They brought over this amazing humidor, which was carried over with boxes in it. They'd bring them out and show you--you didn't dare touch or sniff a cigar. They'd clip it for you and hand it to you. He smoked a cigar with me that night and it was the most amazing bonding experience. And I could see how my father and I had passed a tradition on to my son.
"It was foolish in many ways; there was this anachronistic hypocrisy of us sitting there in England where they don't approve of Thanksgiving. But there was also a strange sense of personal history being played out. There was a bonding that I had not felt with anyone since my father died. So I realized in that moment that I had changed positions in my relationship with my son."
With the success of the Hamiltons cigars and the imminent launch of his fourth cigar line, Hamiltons Private Reserve, George Hamilton's cigar business is becoming a force to be reckoned with. In addition to Hamiltons at New York, New York, in Las Vegas, Hamiltons Humidor in Pasadena and Hamiltons Coffee and Fine Cigars in Beverly Hills, several other Hamiltons nightclubs are in the planning stages, each with a different theme and connected to a retail store that sells his lifestyle products: lighters, cigar accoutrements, Belgian chocolates, his own line of coffee, the tanning system, clothing, the requisite T-shirts and, of course, his cigars. QVC will feature a one-hour lifestyle show with Hamilton this spring. And Hamilton is still coming up with a myriad of projects.
"I feel a presence in both my artistic life and in my business life," he says. "And I feel those circles growing larger and connecting. The fascinating part of all of this is that at the end of the day, to do exactly what you want to do and live your lifestyle and to have someone else pay for it; [it is] in some ways, the greatest Final Joke. My job right now is to figure out what the public's perception is, what they are interested in, and find a way to market it. Kind of what Ralph Lauren did for lifestyles in the 1980s. And it isn't a race just to make money. It's a race to fulfill myself. To go absolutely full circle."
The marketing of the cigar lifestyle, as well as the creation of a fine cigar experience, are clearly things that Hamilton takes very seriously. "To me a cigar is about the words 'ponder' and 'contemplation.' The ephemeral becomes momentarily tangible for me. The drink and the cigar are not really lasting, but they are props that extend the moment. I think that is what people are looking for. In the overall, we all live in a life span that is the flick of an eye. If I can take an hour to commune with myself and others, I am grateful. I think these props, which are things that people can call pretentious, have now started to become what people are holding on to."
Hamilton is, once again, philosophical. "I've ended up on the same beach, in effect, as where I started. But there is a difference now. I've gone through life. I've seen so much, and yet I don't feel a day older than the day I left this beach to go to Hollywood. I'll be lying in the sun the same way, with the same smell of suntan oil walking by. The same feeling of the ocean. And I haven't thought of my age, or any of the time that has gone by. It's the ability to look at my life as though it was only divided by a moment. The years have been compressed into moments. And when you smoke a cigar, you can reveal your life in those moments in an abbreviated way."
Yes, Hamilton does have the perfect tan. And no, he has not led the perfect life. But he has learned much from the hand that life has dealt him. Hamilton's world has come full circle. And as a society, we have finally caught up to that classic, elegant and timeless place on the circle where George Hamilton has always been.
Alysse Minkoff is a freelance writer living in Beverly Hills, California.
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