Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
George Burns, Winter 94/95
(continued from page 8)
This is my second letter to you. You were kind enough to print my first letter in your premier issue. I have retained every issue; they are treasures to me. You have done more for us long-time cigar smokers since Sam Paley's "El Producto" and "La Palina" days.
This letter is to give your article, "A National Crisis" and Russell Baker's column, "The Danger Stage" a factual boost that will lay to rest the hysterical unsubstantiated ravings of Rep. Henry Waxman and his misguided cohorts. I have a story to tell. Bear with me.
In 1938, at the age of 20, I was living in Philadelphia. In July we heard that Washington had decided to hold a big combined celebration to honor the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Washington would bring all of the Union and Confederate soldiers who fought in that battle as well as others, who were still around, of course. The federal government would invite them to commemorate that battle, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt would be there to greet them. They would be honored in parades and by the usual speeches. Being somewhat of a history buff--and Gettysburg being only about two hours away by train--I bought a ticket.
The place was decked out like a huge Fourth of July party, which indeed it was. Hundreds of tents were sprawled over the battleground, the Union and Confederate tents were all mixed together, so there would be no separation. I wandered about, stopping to talk to the men in some of the tents. Seeing some of them smoking cigars or pipes, I offered a few cigars here and there. They all thanked me. Then I found out, that in addition to the food that was served to them, every veteran was given by the government a ration, every day, of two cigars or some pipe tobacco and two shots of whiskey for the entire four days of the affair.
To my knowledge, none of the vets turned down any of it, and none of those men were under 91. I really think they all enjoyed the tobacco and whiskey more than they did the festivities.
The U.S. mint struck 27,000 silver half dollars to commemorate this event. They are quite beautiful. On one side are the portraits of Union and Confederate veterans, on the other is a Union and Confederate shield together.
In conclusion, I am enclosing, a partial list of some well-known personalities who were (some still are) smokers, some moderate, some heavy, as well as the ages that they reached (some are still alive).
Thought I'd dedicate this listing to Henry Waxman. So much for him and his paranoid followers.
Thomas Edison (84), Mark Twain (76), George Burns (98), Milton Berle (85), Lucius D. Clay (80), J. Nance Garner (99), H. L. Mencken (76), Omar Bradley (88), George Marshall (79), John J. Pershing (88), Marlene Dietrich (92), Bette Davis (82), Edward G. Robinson (81), James F. Byrnes (93), Henry L. Stimson (83), Dwight D. Eisenhower (79), Dean Acheson (78), Alben Barkley (79), Bernard Baruch (95), Irving Berlin (102), Bernard Berenson (94), Herb Block (86), Winston Churchill (93), Henry Steele Commager (91), Armand Hammer (92), William S. Paley (91), David Ben-Gurion (85), Otto von Bismark (83), Georges Clemenceau (86), Charles DeGaulle (80), Alexander Kerensky (89), Lajos Kossuth (92), David Lloyd George (82), Harold MacMillian (92), Golda Meir (81), Sam Rayburn (80), Josip Broz Tito (88), Chaim Weizmann (78), Edna Ferber (83), Robert Graves (90), Lillian Hellman (79), W. Somerset Maugham (91), George Bernard Shaw (94), Samuel Eliot Morison (89), Albert Schweitzer (90), Andrew Carnegie (84), Henry Kaiser (85), David Sarnoff (81), Hoagy Carmichael (82), Duke Ellington (75), Rudolf Friml (92), Frederick Loewe (87), Cole Porter (71), John Phillip Sousa (78), Don Ameche (83), Brian Aherne (84), Fred Astaire (86), Jack Benny (84), Charles Boyer (79), Billie Burke (85), James Cagney (87), Leo Carrillo (81), Maurice Chevalier (84), Cary Grant (82), Busby Berkeley (81), Ray Bolger (83), Donald Crisp (94), Paulette Goddard (85), Rex Harrison (82), John Houseman (86), John Huston (81), Sam Jaffe (93), George Jessel (83), Otto Kruger (90), Paul Lucas (77), Frederic March (78), Groucho Marx (87), Raymond Massey (87), Ken Maynard (78), Lloyd Nolan (83), Jack Oakie (75), Pat O'Brian (84), Walter Pidgeon (87), William Powell (92), George Raft (85), Claude Rains (77), Katharine Hepburn (87), Randolph Scott (89), Norma Shearer (81), Mae West (87), Ed Wynn (80), Adolph Zucker (103), Billy Wilder (88), Bea Wain (77), Elsa Lanchester (84) and Rudy Vallee (85).
Take into consideration that this is only a partial list of well-known personalities. It should lay to rest the remarks by our surgeons general and other misinformed people, both in the medical profession and out, that "smoking cigars is dangerous to your health." It further goes on to state that Rep. Henry Waxman and his misguided followers are way off-base in their statements.
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