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Out of the Humidor

| By CA Readers | From Bo Derek, Jul/Aug 00

Dear Marvin, 

First of all, I welcome your new look. I have been a loyal reader since the initial stages of Cigar Aficionado, and have also been a fervent critic in that your magazine, at times, caters to the filthy rich.  

As a Cuban American, I grew up hearing about all things Cuban. One of the subjects that always fascinated me was cigars. I discovered the phenomenon of cigars in my late teens, and today I enjoy one, sometimes two cigars after dinner. I find that smoking cigars is medicinal both for the mind and the body. I don't inhale because I, being a pulmonary physician, know of the havoc it can eventually produce in the airways and the lung parenchyma, not to mention other organs.  

What really prompted me to write is how perplexed I am that you have had some subscribers state on your Web site that they will unsubscribe because of the changes in the magazine.  

Marvin, your magazine offers an enormous amount of information that many cigar smokers appreciate. I'm rather perplexed to see how certain subscribers expressed their harsh views, without even allowing time for your publication to prove itself. I find it even more disturbing that these people are going to unsubscribe and not receive probably the most resourceful magazine on cigars. The price is trivial, and the information is fantastic. It doesn't bother me to see an article that I don't particularly care for. On the contrary, it reinforces my belief that the more eclectic your magazine is, the more suited it is for minds that want food for thought.  

I want to take this opportunity to tell your readers that your publication is not going to give what everyone wants to read every time. Rather, there will be material that will interest few, as well as material that will be welcomed by all. Extremism has never served any purpose.  

I find that for the price of a few premium cigars, your magazine offers much.  

One last comment: I would appreciate if you would eliminate "The Good Life Magazine For Men" slogan on the cover. Many women enjoy the publication, and I can bet they are highly offended because of this.  

Looking forward to many years of enjoying Cigar Aficionado!  

Richard Periut, M.D.
Little Ferry, New Jersey

Dear Marvin,  

Once I saw the new typeface on your magazine's masthead, I suspected that something was up. Seeing the cigar material tucked away in the back reinforced my suspicion and reading your introduction confirmed it--the cigar boom is over! But I never thought you'd retreat so quickly. You are changing from a cigar magazine with other interesting articles to a "men's" magazine with a cigar section. Why not be more forthright with your readers? I feel deceived.  

Mike Schulman
Central Valley, New York  

Editor's reply: Mike, I thank you for your passionate response. I can assure you that, though we've made some changes, we have no intention of abandoning our original mission.  

Dear Marvin,

I was shocked to receive my June 2000 issue of Cigar Aficionado. The layout, the font change, the whole structure and content of the magazine was totally foreign. While you have a very good point about broadening the appeal of the magazine, it should not be done in a way that alienates the vast majority of the readership.  

The new format had a very sterile feeling. The personality of the magazine was totally gone in that issue. When I first looked through the magazine, I felt as if I was reading The Wall Street Journal, rather than my favorite cigar publication. The first thing that I look at is the cigar ratings; they are the main reason that I subscribe to your magazine. I was disappointed to find the new torpedo ratings buried in the back. The layout almost made it seem like you are ashamed about the focus of the magazine. Also, give your readers some credit: there is no reason to give an explanation about the different shapes of cigars. Anybody who needs an explanation about the difference between shaped and non-shaped cigars probably is not going to be reading your magazine in the first place.  

I can understand working with the format to try to broaden your appeal, but why change the fonts and the style of the magazine? The cover of the magazine used to look stately; people who appeared on it were dignified and classy. Like a fine cigar, the publication stood out from the crowd as something special, worthy of being savored. This month's issue of the magazine did not have that spark, and that was largely due to the font being totally different. I received the June issue on the same day that my wife received her Coastal Living. I am sad to say that I had a hard time distinguishing the two magazines from each other.  

Finally, about the content: Did you have to include so many things about dogs? I like dogs as much as the next guy, but did they have to be mentioned on just about every page? The "Moments to Remember" section, another of my favorites, had nothing but man's best friend. I enjoy looking at pictures of people celebrating special occasions with cigars; a few dogs would have been fine, but the entire section was overkill.  

It is all well and good to try new things, but please remember that too many new things at once are going to drive away more readers than they are going to attract. I have enjoyed the recent addition of "Insights" on sports, the stock market and politics that can now be found at the beginning of the magazine. Small changes like this are positive, while radical changes like the June issue are negative. I have subscribed to Cigar Aficionado for two years, and up to this point, I have been very satisfied with what I have received. I hope that the June 2000 issue was just a minor bump, and that a happy medium between the old and the new can somehow be achieved.  

Oren H Adelson
St. Petersburg, Florida  

Editor's reply: Oren, after a few more issues, I'd appreciate hearing from you if you believe we have reached the happy medium that you are seeking.

Dear Marvin,  

Congratulations on the new styling of Cigar Aficionado! As the editor-in-chief of a community newspaper here in Hell's Kitchen [Manhattan], I am well aware of how such transformations can sometimes turn off those people who are resistant to change. But I cannot imagine such resistance coming from cigar smokers. You see, being married to a cigar smoker I know that as a group they are continuously experimenting, relishing new brands and sampling a wide array of shapes, sizes and colors. With such a broad-minded readership, Cigar Aficionado should experience little or no drop-off in circulation as a result of the alterations.  

So to all readers who may find themselves longing for the old Cigar Aficionado style to come back, I offer this unsolicited advice: Savor the new Cigar Aficionado design as you would a new Havana. And take your time. After all, didn't it take you some time to fully appreciate cigars, caviar and other pleasures of life? Well, having subscribed to Cigar Aficionado from the beginning, I know that this magazine is truly one of life's pleasures!  

Saundra R. Halberstam
New York, New York

Dear Marvin,  

My kids know how to treat me; they bring me your magazine. I read it cover to cover and enjoy it all. It reminds me a little of the early Esquire and Playboy that I enjoyed as a younger man.  

I just read the letters in the Cigar Aficionado Online "Dear Editors" forum, and I disagree with the negative comments about the magazine and its new style. There is both joy and interest in reading about something different or unattainable. I've also noticed more great American writers in your magazine, and my suggestion to you is to extend this trend to writing short articles about American literary giants who also enjoyed cigars; perhaps even republishing old short stories or commentaries/essays by them.  

By the way, the cigar coverage is terrific--right across the spectrum.  

Bill Goss
Waterloo, Ontario

Dear Marvin,  

I would like to relate an alarming "customer service" story to you and your readers. I have been smoking cigars for over five years now, a hobby I have enjoyed ever since my graduation from high school. I recently moved to Baltimore, Maryland, from Florida to begin graduate studies at a local university.

As I was terribly fond of enjoying cigars at a well-established smoke shop in my hometown of Tampa, it was important for me to find a similar establishment in my new northern home. I've always felt that the relationship between a cigar retailer and his or her regular customers should be one of camaraderie and, above all, professional courtesy. Unfortunately, my well-intended search turned sour upon the first shop I entered.  

This particular shop was one of the newest of several branches of a very well-established retail tobacco company that has been serving the Baltimore area for over a century. I was thoroughly impressed with the facilities and selection. Taking a heightened interest in the store, I began to ask the sales clerk questions about the age of the establishment, its history, its usual selection of cigars, its humidor temperature--in general, questions that I believed any curious customer would ask if trying to select a good tobacconist to frequent.  

All of a sudden, the sales clerk whom I was conversing with gruffly cried out, "You know, young man, you sure ask a lot more questions than the average customer!" Apparently, this suspicious man was charging me with some sort of industrial espionage, as if I was a fellow cigar retailer trying to unearth the secrets of my local market competitors. I couldn't believe my ears! Instead of taking my questions as a compliment (as all other retailers have taken them in the past), he grew offended at my harmless curiosity.  

I was so appalled, I had the urge to replace all the cigars I had picked up and abruptly leave the store. But the funny thing is, as rude as this roguish sales clerk was to me, I still bought the cigars anyway. I guess it just shows that my desire for a good smoke is greater than my desire to bullishly assert my pride. In retrospect, however, I think I'll visit the downtown store from now on.

Partho Roy
Baltimore, Maryland

Dear Marvin,  

I am writing in response to Abbe Myers's letter in the April issue. She sounds very knowledgeable about cigars and I certainly respect her for that. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for her at times to be prejudged because of her gender. I also support her right to smoke cigars. Having done away with the PC niceties, I now want to say: "Who gives a rat's behind?" I have smoked cigars for more than 30 years and during that time women have almost universally maligned and complained about my habit, including my wife. I have had women unabashedly walk up to me outdoors and launch into tirades about the "foul-smelling weed." I live with it.  

Cigars, for me, are a man's pursuit. I grew up around men who worked with a cigar clamped between their teeth. When I want to relax I seek out the company of fellow male cigar smokers so I can, for a little while, drop the veneer for politically correct civilization that I am forced to wear every day. I subscribe to Cigar Aficionado partly because of its decidedly male bias. I don't care if women smoke cigars or if they don't smoke cigars. It has nothing to do with me until someone like Ms. Myers starts whining about the need to change a great publication. I say accept the situation as it is or start your own magazine.  

I gave up years ago trying to win anyone over to my love of cigars. I do not seek anyone's acceptance or approval and I will not apologize for my habit. I seek outa few friends that share my interest and I would suggest that Ms. Myers do the same. So what if folks don't take her seriously; is the smoke from one of her Montecristo No. 2s any less sweet? I believe that when one is confronted on their cigar smoking in any capacity, that the appropriate response is to quote Popeye's motto, "I am what I am," spit in their eye, and light up.  

Steven F. Goselin
Burlington, Massachusetts

Dear Marvin,  

I have been and continue to be a satisfied reader of your magazine. Each issue is read cover-to-cover at least twice. Although I cannot foresee me being in the position to purchase a custom-made suit, a pair of custom-made shoes or a private jet, I enjoy reading about them.  

I perused the June 1999 issue on Cuba with great interest and I thoroughly enjoyed the "100 Greatest Cigar Smokers of the Century" in the December 1999 issue. Correct me if I am wrong, but the individuals cited were people who are recognized with cigars, qualifications for demonization notwithstanding. When you finally come up with the definitive list, you can be sure that someone won't like it.  

As you can tell by my address, I am able to claim and cherish a freedom that you Americans can't: I can legally buy and smoke Cuban cigars. As a matter of fact, I am smoking one as I write. I regularly smoke the Jose L. Piedra brand that you mentioned in the "Cigar Insider" portion of the February 2000 issue. I found them before they adopted the brown-and-white band. The quality has not changed, but their availability has. I generally smoke the Cazadores size. It's about 6 inches long with a ring gauge of about 40. It generally takes an hour to smoke one. The cost is about $4.60 each. An equivalent-size Cuban Montecristo is over $25! With that kind of a difference in cost, the cute pigtail and the trademark band are not worth the price.  

Marvin, you have an excellent magazine that provides useful information on its primary subject. You, in your business, must try to publish articles that may be of interest to the majority of your readers. You will always have detractors. They go with the territory. I am sure that your critics would be more upset if you were to be forbidden from publishing Cigar Aficionado than they are with a few controversial features. I am looking forward to the next issue. Keep up the good work.  

Brian Goodwin
Elmira, Ontario

Dear Marvin,  

Regarding the April 2000 issue, I must say I am sad to see nothing mentioned about Jay Gould. I feel his success has earned him the status of the many others mentioned in the "Tycoons Who Shaped America."  

Jay Gould achieved his success at a young age, just like J. P. Morgan did. Gould was a self-made millionaire before the age of 26, having made most of his vast fortune from the railroad industry via Wall Street. Jay Gould and Cornelius Vanderbilt would find themselves in competition with each other on many occasions, but Gould eventually surpassed Vanderbilt in wealth and ownership. Gould also had large stakes in the telegraph industry, with success in other business ventures as well.

Gould had a large estate off the Hudson called Lyndhurst and a luxurious mansion and stables on Park Avenue, too. He also had a fabulous yacht like Morgan's, that he often used to travel abroad with his family. Even though Jay Gould almost lost his entire fortune, he managed to pull it all back together to become even richer than before. I often wonder if there are any descendants who today enjoy the riches of Jay's accomplishments many years ago.  

Perhaps Jay Gould was overlooked?  

Casey O. Sargent
Cedar Rapids, Iowa  

Editor's reply: Jay Gould was excluded because we focused on twentieth-century tycoons; he made his fortune in the nineteenth century. Cornelius Vanderbilt did as well, but he was included because the family dynasty he created continued to have great influence throughout the twentieth century.