You Bet Your Life
Groucho Marx knew the secret word was enjoyment.
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"I thought you weren't supposed to smoke anymore," I said to him one evening when he started to light up a cigar at the dinner table.
"Listen, Big Feet," he replied. "When you get to my age you don't have many pleasures left. You can't drink, you can't screw. Smoking a cigar is the only thing left that gives me any pleasure. So I die a few years younger!"
"What about your doctor?" I said. "Did you ask him if it was all right to start again?"
He grinned and exclaimed, "How can I ask him? He died three weeks ago!"
My favorite anecdote about Groucho's cigar smoking occurred a few years before that when he was in Rome, walking through Vatican Square with a group of tourists. He had just lit a brand new $1 cigar, when someone behind him jostled his arm, causing him to drop the expensive Dunhill into a puddle of water.
"Jesus Christ!" Groucho exclaimed.
As he bent down to recover the cigar from the water, a Catholic priest, who was evidently the person who had bumped him from the rear, picked up the cigar first and handed it to him. "Congratulations, Groucho," grinned the priest, "you just said the Secret Word."
Arthur Marx is the author of three books and two plays about his father. He has also just published a murder mystery, Set to Kill.
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