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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 6)

Or, more importantly, their smoking schedule. Although favorites include Dunhills, Cohibas and Hamiltons, "anything that's in Rob's humidor is the cigar of the day," says Anderson.

"It's really more the size. I'm a size queen," says Long. "Two hours before a run-through you can smoke a Churchill. Forty-five minutes before, you can smoke a robusto."

"The point is to finish your cigar before you go to a run-through," adds Staley.

"Otherwise the run-through has to wait," says Long.

Despite their preoccupation with smoking, the guys draw the line at nuance fanatics who memorize things like ring gauges and Cigar Aficionado rankings. "I love the magazine," says Long, "but I've never in my 15 years of smoking detected a toasty flavor in a cigar."

Carrying the Torch
If anyone was born to smoke cigars, it's Ken Solomon. His grandfather, Charlie Berns, founded New York's famed "21" Club. The nightspot carried the best cigars and liquor, and drew such celebrity royalty as Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Howard Hughes and Ernest Hemingway.

"It's hard to name a star that didn't call '21' their second home," says Solomon, who works in Los Angeles. "My grandparents threw the wedding party for George Burns and Gracie Allen. I grew up with my grandfather and his friends smoking cigars and have these three humidors that he left me. They're among my most prized possessions.

"Growing up in that environment, I had a true appreciation at an early age for the finer things in life," he adds. "I developed a taste for caviar, fine wine and Champagne. And cigars were part of that. I had puffs when I was a kid, but I didn't ramp up until my late 20s."

Today, Solomon is president of Studios, USA Television, which produces NBC's "Law & Order" and ABC's "Something So Right."

"The good news is that there are more options than ever for selling shows," says Solomon. "The bad news is that the economics of a fractionalized TV universe dictates lower license fees for everything but the most successful series. Compound that by escalating costs, not just in production, but also for writers, producers and stars," he says. "It's exponential, especially in the last few years. The problem is, the economics of TV production and distribution don't really support the business in an ongoing basis unless you have a major hit show to make up for all of the deficit."

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