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The Men Behind the Screens

These TV Executives Show that Not All Cigar-Smoking media Moguls Are in Film
Susan Karlin
From the Print Edition:
Chuck Norris, Jul/Aug 98

(continued from page 3)

"Ninety-five percent of new shows fail," adds Wolf. "The market share of the networks is getting smaller as the number of viewing choices goes up. DirecTV has 175 channels. As it is, it's getting harder to come up with programming that sticks. Huge salaries are increasing the risk factor."

Wolf is also aggravated by the increasing government intervention in program content, courtesy of the V-chip and ratings system. "It takes on the form of economic censorship when you have a mindless device that blocks anything with a specific rating," he says. "Advertisers stay away and the show gets canceled. Once you start down that road, you don't know how far it will go, because you don't know what the next round of elected officials will be like. If I told you 10 years ago that the government would have a chip like that implanted in every TV set in the country, you would have locked me up as a paranoid."

Wolf is exactly the kind of guy you'd expect to smoke cigars. Imposing, brusque, to the point. A hard worker, but someone who appreciates the finer things in life. Wolf began smoking some 30 years ago as a student at the University of Pennsylvania, thanks to a membership in a fraternity with a smoking room.

"The cigars I liked initially were the old Dunhill Montecruz made in the Canary Islands. In the '70s, some other brands started to come in--Fuente, Montecristo No. 2, Cohiba Robustos. I also like the Hemingway Short Story, 49 ring gauge. It's four inches long and a good 20-minute smoke." His favorite smoking place is in his car on the way to work. The journey usually lasts as long as it takes to smoke a Montecristo No. 2.

"Since I live in the land of political correctness, it's the only place I can smoke without getting dirty looks," Wolf says with a laugh. "I drive with the sunroof open. To and from work gives me two great uninterrupted smokes."

Miami Vice
It started in Miami's Little Havana. In a jam-packed club filled with Cuban exiles, CBS News executive vice president Jonathan Klein and his wife, Jennifer Snell, an investigative reporter for Miami's WPLG-TV, began their love affair with cigars.

"We took to it very quickly. We'd go there every Friday. It was a release at the end of the week and fit with the conviviality and the brotherhood," says Klein, who oversees such shows as "60 Minutes," "48 Hours" and "Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel" from his Manhattan office.

"My wife and I smoke the same brand--Cohiba Lanceros," he adds. "Probably in Little Havana you can't smoke Cubans, so down there we'd smoke cigars called La Gloria [Cubanas], which kind of get passed around. I equate it with escape, plus I look good with a cigar. I'm a short guy. My wife looks like a complete knockout with a cigar. I almost feel fluent in Spanish with a cigar in my hand. It makes my merengue dancing even better."

Such cigar-enhanced bursts of escape balance the pressure from mounting competition among news organizations and prime-time newsmagazine shows.

"It's a fierce battleground," says Klein. "More people are watching what we do than ever before. There was a feeling among some West Coast programmers a few years ago that the newsmagazines' time had passed. But we're seeing quite the opposite. It's an evergreen format that's used anytime on the schedule and is a cost-effective counter-programming or ratings draw. It's a busier time than ever as information has become more regularly available to people. The burden is increasing to be first off the dime with the best information."

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