On His Own Terms
Riding high atop Hollywood's star machine, Jack Nicholson is enjoying the view.
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95
(continued from page 1)
Nicholson is not only a voracious reader, but one glance around his home tells you that he has exquisite taste in art, literature and furniture. The bookshelves are filled with novels, plays and works of nonfiction with well-worn covers that look as if they have actually been read rather than put there for ornamental purposes. Mixed in with the books are two gleaming Oscar statuettes, which Nicholson picked up for Best Actor in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his work in Terms of Endearment. Also on the shelf are five Golden Globe trophies.
Along with these awards stand silver-framed photographs of Anjelica Huston, with whom he shared his house for many years; his daughter, Jennifer--by his former (and only) wife, Sandra Knight--as a toddler; and his two most recent progeny, five-year-old Lorraine and three-year-old Ray, whom he fathered with actress Rebecca Broussard. He refuses to categorize Broussard as his "girlfriend"; she lives in a house just down the canyon from his own place.
After lunch, Nicholson moves into the living room, where he drops into a massive armchair of dark blue leather. The room is tastefully done in contemporary furnishings. Mixed in with the furniture are some Art Deco floor lamps with serpentine brass bases, a huge aluminum-and-smoked-glass Museum of Modern Art coffee table and a massive blue leather couch.
Nicholson pulls a long, fat Montecristo from his pocket and attempts to light it with a wooden match.
He seems to be having difficulty; the matches keep going out. "With all this cigar culture stuff," he says, tossing the bad match into an Art Deco ashtray and trying another one, "when are they going to make a decent match in America again? You can't light a cigar with one match anymore."
He's running the flame around the edge of the tip of the cigar, instead of just applying the flame to the middle of the tip and drawing on it.
Nicholson explains, "It's the proper way to light a cigar. Roman showed me that--Roman Polanski. He told me that to get the best flavor you have to run the flame all around the cigar tip, like you see me doing. Then when the cigar tip is on fire, you first blow the smoke out. Then you draw on it the regular way."
After four matches, he finally succeeds using the Polanski method. He blows out on the cigar, then sucks the smoke back into his mouth, savoring the fragrant odor with flaring nostrils. "Now there was a time," he goes on, "when if I saw somebody lighting a cigar like that, I'd say to myself, 'What's wrong with you? Why don't you just light the damn thing?' But now that Roman showed me the proper way, I realize he knew what he was talking about. I've tried it both ways, comparing them, and his way really does make a difference in the flavor. Just as real Cuban cigars do."
As he puffs contentedly on his Montecristo, Nicholson says that he can't really remember the first cigar he ever smoked. "The first cigars I remember, however, were all smoked by Shorty's father--Big Al--and all those other people playing pinochle with him back in Jersey. Shorty was my brother-in-law, married to my sister Lorraine. He and his card-playing cronies used to use ivory cigar holders. They smoked either Muriels or White Owls, I don't remember which. Maybe both."
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Paul AI — October 2, 2010 9:07pm ET
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