Springtime in New York City, and the Grill Room of the Four Seasons Restaurant was shoulder-to-shoulder with men in tuxedos smoking cigars. They had gathered together in an effort to bring an end to prostate cancer at Cigar Aficionado's 15th annual Night to Remember dinner, which has raised more than $15 million over the years for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. This year's auction raised $1.2 million, including $600,000 in matching funds from Michael Milken, the charity's founder and chairman.
Marvin R. Shanken, the editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado magazine and the creator of the event, walked through the room greeting the guests, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican presidential hopeful and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, radio personality Rush Limbaugh and Milken, the evening's co-host.
|Frank Arcella, Lee Einsidler, William Terlato and Tom Steffanci.|
|Hazel Shanken, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Milken in the Four Seasons Pool Room.|
The elite of the cigar industry were in attendance, including Cooper Gardiner, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Sherwin Seltzer, Mike Giannini, Bill Chilian, Victoria McKee, Jermaine Gurvin and Keith Sparacio of General Cigar Co.; Carlos Fuente Jr. and Wayne Suarez of Tabacalera A. Fuente; José Orlando and Jorge Padrón, makers of Padrón cigars; Robert Levin, owner of the Ashton brand, who was there with his wife, Suzanne, and son Sathya; Litto Gomez, maker of La Flor Dominicana;
|Litto Gomez, José Orlando Padrón, Sathya Levin and Jorge Padrón at the cocktail hour.|
|General Cigar executives, from left to right: Sherwin Seltzer, Jermaine Gurvin, Bill Chilian, Victoria McKee and Keith Sparacio.|
Shanken took to the dais and welcomed the sold-out crowd of some 230 guests, many of whom had attended the dinner for more than 10 years. "The first thing we do," said Shanken with a smile, "is we auction off some modest bottles of wine." His joke became clear as he lifted a massive bottle of wine, cloaked in a brown paper bag. It was the first mystery wine, and by Night to Remember tradition, the bottle's contents would remain anonymous until bidding had ceased, and the winner would share it immediately with his lucky tablemates. Bottle No. 1 went for $18,000, won by Limbaugh, who typically buys the first bottle. It was revealed as a 2000 Mouton-Rothschild -- and it had been donated by Limbaugh.
|Sal Fontana, Carlos Fuente Jr. and Christian Eiroa share a smoke before dinner.|
The tables were set with towers of hors d'oeuvres, and the waiters soon filled glasses with M. Chapoutier Hermitage White Chante-Alouette 2003 to pair with the appetizer course of stone crab claws with mandarin yuzu, followed by a pasta course of gnocchi with chanterelles, morels and tiny spring peas. That was followed by sirloin steak in a black truffle sauce, paired with zucchini blossoms stuffed with bleu cheese, which went with the red wine of the evening, Caymus Special Selection 2004. Dessert was paired with a 37-year-old Vintage Port, Taylor Fladgate 1970.
|Suzanne and Robert Levin from Ashton enjoy Dom Pérignon with José Orlando Padrón.|
|Drew Nieporent, Wayne Suarez, Rush Limbaugh, Joel Surnow and Stan Shuster.|
|Brothers Bobby (left) and Eric Newman pose with Rocky Patel.|
Riggio took two of the night's cigar lots, claiming an assortment of La Gloria Cubana cigars, which were enclosed in several rare humidors, for $22,000. The lot was donated by General Cigar. Riggio also won the final lot of the evening, a collection of 340 Padrón cigars, including a sold-out Padrón Millennium humidor plus 240 customized Padrón 80th Anniversary cigars, which are not yet on the market. The lot, donated by the Padrón family, sold for $24,000.
|William Terlato of Terlato Wines International (left) with Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard Riggio.|
A dinner for 60 at any Del Frisco's restaurant, courtesy of Del Frisco's, sold for $30,000 to Steve Eiseman, a NetJets vice president. Five hours on a NetJets Gulfstream 450, donated by NetJets chairman Richard Santulli, went for $55,000 to Chris Preziosi. Tom Shannon III of T-Bird Restaurant Group Inc. won a 2007 Cadillac XLR donated by Gary Cowger, group vice president of General Motors Corp., with a bid of $75,000.
C.A.O. International Inc. donated a lot featuring a signed copy of the pilot episode script of the HBO hit "The Sopranos," plus a signed C.A.O. Tony Soprano humidor, 348 cigars and a trip to Central America to blend a cigar.
|Cigar Aficionado's Gordon Mott (far right) with restaurateur Drew Nieporent (far left) and cigarmaker Tim Ozgener.|
After the auction, several men spoke to the crowd, including Schwarzenegger, one of only two living persons to appear twice on the cover of Cigar Aficionado. He received a standing ovation. "It's a great pleasure to be here today, and to be with all of you," he said. "Democrats, Republicans, we all like to smoke stogies, and we like to contribute."
|Ernesto Padilla, owner of Padilla Cigars (left) and General Cigar's Cooper Gardiner.|
Greenfield spoke excitedly about the notion of having a cigar smoker in the White House again. "We may have, someday, a person in the Oval Office who, when he talks of a thousand points of light, he means the light at the end of a cigar."
|The head table. Standing, from left to right: Leonard Riggio, Jeff Greenfield, Marvin R. Shanken, Rudy Giuliani, Rush Limbaugh, Joel Surnow and Chuck Wagner. Seated, from left to right: Cathy and Gen. Tommy Franks, Hazel Shanken, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Milken.|
|Gen. Tommy Franks stands at the podium at the Four Seasons.|
Giuliani spoke poignantly about the importance of the evening. "My dad did die of prostate cancer, and the first year I came here was the year before I had it," he said. He went to Milken for information, a man he had prosecuted in his former role as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. "Michael and I had a complicated past. It's remarkable what he's done for prostate cancer, and it's remarkable what Marvin has done."
"When I was a kid, when I found out my father had cancer, it was a death sentence," said Giuliani, who has lived with his cancer for six years. "Now, some of these cancers have 75 percent survivor rates. That's the only political pitch I'll make -- for optimism."
|Rush Limbaugh, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani enjoy the Night to Remember.|
As the plates were cleared and Port glasses filled, Shanken took to the podium again, this time with a large cigar in his mouth. The waiters brought out Humidipak bags filled with cigars. He lit, and he puffed. "Gentlemen, start your engines," he said. "This is a cigar dinner."