Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Bacon, May/Jun 00
The April Cigar Aficionado was the first I had ever read. I loved everything about it, except one thing. Peter Gammons's statement that Jackie Robinson was baseball's most "significant" athlete of the twentieth century is absurd. Gammons must have been smoking something other than cigars to come up with that error!
The facts are clear: Babe Ruth was baseball's most significant athlete. Why? Because, for one, can you name the first black player in football, basketball and hockey? Probably not; we remember Jackie Robinson because Babe Ruth made baseball so popular. In 1919 the White Sox gambled on the World Series and cost baseball enormous amounts of goodwill with fans.
However, when Babe Ruth began smacking home runs in New York, people's attitudes started to change. He hit 59 home runs in 1921, more than any other team that year. He brought all those fans back and created a legion of new ones. Babe Ruth made baseball what it was and is. He is baseball's most significant athlete of the twentieth and any other century.
Centereach, New York
What a wonderful point your most December 1999 editorial made regarding the camaraderie of cigar smoking. In these days of ATMs, pay-at-the-pump, online shopping and home-based businesses, it seems we lose more and more human contact all the time. How often do any of us get the chance to sit down and just talk to someone without trying to sell them something?
How nice it is to enjoy such a simple pleasure with people from all walks of life that we would probably never get the opportunity to know otherwise.
Lake Mary, Florida
I would like to point out to John Scott ("Out of the Humidor," February 2000) that Cuba has the right to do on its own soil as it likes and that John F. Kennedy had as much to do with the Cuban missile crisis as Fidel Castro. The United States did not have any problems parking nukes in Germany, right next to Russian territory. This is clearly a case of American hypocrisy.
I don't know if anyone at your organization saw the TV show "The Practice" in January. One of the story lines depicted a husband leaving his wife because of his new life after "finding" cigars. He happened to be down on his luck, career-wise, but smoking cigars, going to upscale cigar clubs, reading upscale cigar magazines supposedly made him feel differently. What the producers were trying to show was that cigar advertising and the "ambience" of cigar smoking could easily sway cigar smokers.
The poor idiot in this episode was portrayed during a deposition scene as someone who was possessed by how cigars made him feel. He almost went into a trance while explaining the feel of the cigar in his hand and how the cigar clubs and magazines made him feel like a "big man." The opposing lawyers kept making the point that cigars are more dangerous than cigarettes and that magazines such as yours perpetuate a false sense of identity.
I've been smoking cigars for about six years now, reading your magazine for about five, and going to cigar dinners/clubs for about four and yet I have no false sense of who I am! I am a hard-working man, with a family, a modest home and no delusions of grandeur because I enjoy cigars regularly. I find it offensive as a responsible cigar smoker that a show like this puts all smokers into one category. Worse yet, it stereotypes less affluent cigar smokers as buffoons who can easily be swayed into believing we are something different than just ourselves.
Your magazine gives me hours of pleasure, provides me with useful information, and allows me to read about places that I may never get to see. Never, ever have I thought that because of cigars my wife was not good enough for me and I am some sort of "big shot." I enjoy cigars for what they are: an opportunity to sit back, relax for an hour or so with or without friends, and savor the taste of something pleasurable. That's it, case closed!
Cigars help enhance conversation, help enhance meditation or reading, and provide time aside from our crazy lives. They DO NOT make me important--if I can't feel important or special without them, then I need to seek professional help for confidence problems. I am sure there are many others out there who are sick of the media's treatment of cigars and cigar smokers. We are intelligent people capable of making our own decisions and they simply can't deal with that.
Plainview, New York
Editor's response: While that episode did portray cigars in an absurd light, we know that "Practice" creator David E. Kelley's "Ally McBeal" has featured at least one episode with cast members relaxing with cigars. Go figure.
A friend of mine just returned to Canada from Cuba, where he spent a week's vacation with his girlfriend. Knowing that I devour as many cigars as I can get my hands on, he asked me if he could pick me up some while he was there. I said, "Wow! You're going to Cuba, my dream!" and handed him my copy of the June 1999 special Cuba issue of Cigar Aficionado.
He arrived in Cuba early in January and entered Cuban customs. Asked for any reading material, he handed over my issue of Cigar Aficionado.
On seeing the picture of Castro, lights, sirens and bells went off. Next thing my friend knew, he was surrounded by customs officials. They brought over a translator and looked over the magazine in its entirety. The only thing my friend was thinking was if I would be able to get another copy, because he thought my Cuba issue was gone for good.
After an hour they released him, with my cherished copy, which has made it safely back home to Canada.
I recently remarked to my mother, "I wonder whatever happened to the Rovers Club?" A few days later my youngest son bought me the June 2001 Cigar Aficionado devoted to Cuba. You answered my query.
We were one of the many American families living in Havana. Your magazine was a wonderful yet bittersweet trip down memory lane. We lived in Miramar and belonged to the Rovers Club when it was out in the country. My father's office was on Obispo Street and El Floridita was his watering hole--and so was The American Club. Every Fourth of July the American ambassador gave a party at the Hotel Nacional for the kids. We swam at Varadero beach and stayed at the Hotel Internacional.
One evening, our family was dining at "The Yank" and Camilo Cienfuegos, later one of Fidel Castro's top generals, was sitting alone at a nearby table. My brother and I struck up a conversation with him. He showed us a balancing trick with a nickel and a Hatuey (Cuba's best beer). I was a bold teenage girl and asked him for his autograph. He gallantly obliged. I was sad when he "disappeared" into the mountains to fight in the revolution.
On another occasion my brother and I were in La Kasalta and Fidel was there with his entourage. My then 9-year-old brother walked up to him and asked for his autograph. Fidel joked with him and gave him an autograph. In June 1960 we had to leave Cuba. We had to pretend we were going on a two-week vacation. We were American citizens but Cuban residents. My mother, brother and I were only allowed to take our dog and $5.
My father stayed behind to close up the office and to dispose of the car and household goods. He had time to get a letter of good conduct--signed by Che Guevara--to leave for Caracas. He would have enjoyed your magazine articles about Cuba. Unfortunately he passed away a few years ago and never got to see Cuba again. I wonder if the embargo will outlive me also.
Katherine Cornell Beaudoin
N. Charleston, South Carolina
Boy, was your June 1999 issue provocative. After partially reading it through, I was not a happy camper. I thought it was more appropriate for a travel magazine than CA, though I did enjoy the pictures of the cigar fields and the articles on cigar stores, Cuban brands, Cuban rum and the corona tasting.
Being a voracious reader of politics and editorials, I thought that I would save the best for last. Senators Helms's and Dodd's essays were interesting, Mr. Andreas was pretty transparent as to what he wanted (11 million Cuban customers) and Ricardo Alarcon (I won't dignify him by using the title Mr.) was obnoxious.
He should consider himself lucky that we allow him and his band of cutthroats to exist at all in our hemisphere (yes, I did say our hemisphere). The fact that this clown invokes the name of Jose Marti, the father of Cuban independence, just adds fuel to the fire. We will never know how Marti's Cuba would have turned out, since he died in 1895, but I'm betting he would not have been a totalitarian like Castro. What particularly galls me is where these despots get the brass to lecture us on politics and morality. As you can guess, I don't like dealing with terrorists, and my Cuban solution remains constant: if Alarcon wants anything from us, then let him yield, not us.
Finally, taking the two issues together (June and August 1999), I am greatly disappointed in the actions of the CA editors, our baseball players (Baltimore Oriole Scott Erickson in particular) and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Orioles owner Peter Angelos. I did not see one word of strong direct criticism of Castro's regime from any of the editors. As for Erickson, if a prison had a baseball team, I guess he'd be one of the first to suit up and play, as long as the stadium was full. Mr. Angelos is salivating over Cuban players in the same way that Mr. Andreas is over Cuban customers.
Sorry for the political letter, but Cigar Aficionado let the genie out of the bottle. I never felt that shaking hands with a devil did anything to change him, but you're entitled to your opinion. Thanks for letting me make points that I'm sure many other Americans feel strongly about.
John J. Pluta
Wrightstown, New Jersey