NOW LIVE: A Never Before Seen Interview with Sports Legend Michael Jordan

Out of the Humidor

By CA Readers | From Fidel Castro, Summer 94
Out of the Humidor

Dear Marvin:

I wish to thank you and your wonderful publication for bringing my father and me closer together. How, you ask? Please let me explain.

I have been a closet cigar lover since high school. I say closet because my father is a vehement anti-smoker. The kind of antismoker many of your readers tell horror stories about. My mother always knew, and it was kind of a blackmail issue between us (I say this in jest).

After graduating from college, I agreed to become a self-employed manufacturer's representative for the same two clothing companies my father represents. I married soon afterward, and began enjoying my Arturo Fuente at home. This finally let the cat out of the bag, and I got an earful from my father. He gradually accepted my vice as long as he was nowhere close. This line of work requires the attendance of three weeklong conventions per year. Lately, they have been in Las Vegas, which is close enough for us to drive.

As we were leaving on our last trip, the mailman arrived with a new issue of Cigar Aficionado. I brought it along with a previous issue, much to the chagrin of my father. It was my turn to drive and I urged him to read the magazine, not so much for the cigar information, but for the other interesting articles. He did! Not only did he read it cover to cover, but he pestered me the whole way with questions. Have you smoked this brand, or this size; how does that one taste, was it really a 91? Have you had a Cuban yet, are they really better? And on and on and on. He read the other issue on the way home.

Two weeks later, it was his 50th birthday, and my wife and I invited them over for dinner. Afterward, I poured my father his favorite Irish whiskey and offered him one of my favorite Arturo Fuentes. He declined and told me I was crazy for even offering. But after prompting from my mother and the curiosity deposited by your publication, he lit up. He smoked the entire cigar!

So you see, Cigar Aficionado has converted a foe to a friend. He has since smoked two others and constantly bugs me about Cubans. Thank you for not only bringing my father and me closer, but for a truly excellent magazine.

Geoff M. Stiles
Anaheim Hills, California

Editor's Response: Aren't dads great! If all he does is smoke one cigar each year on his birthday, it will be a beautiful bonding experience. I hope the tradition continues.

* * *

Dear Marvin:

I own a 33-year-old bookstore in San Diego. We specialize in literary books and periodicals.

As a cigar and pipe smoker, I have been delighted in both reading and hand-selling Cigar Aficionado. But the Spring 1994 issue will probably go back to the distributor before it goes on the rack. Rush Limbaugh is the most execrable, even dangerous, person in the country. There are many cigar smokers, past and present, whom you could have chosen to be on the cover. I'm sorry that you had to join the commercial bandwagon; I'm very offended.

Tom Stoup
San Diego, California

Editor's Response: I would only ask that you have the same compassion for freedom of speech as we smokers ask of nonsmokers. While I have received other letters like yours with negative comments about Rush, I have received many more saying how much they enjoyed reading about him. Many were from people who admit they don't like his politics. That's what makes America a great country.

* * *

Dear Marvin:

The "Rush" issue was the third in my subscription. The liberals are indeed taking over this country. (Our president doesn't even have the conviction to openly enjoy his ci-gars.) It is truly wonderful to read Cigar Aficionado, a magazine that inspires one of life's great pleasures.

One marvelous result of reading your magazine is that I now seem to frequent only restaurants that permit cigar smoking. The one big downside, however, is that I devour the magazine within hours of receiving it. The intervals between issues feel like a lifetime.

Tarun Kataria
New York, New York

* * *

Dear Marvin:

Last year I happened on a copy of Cigar Aficionado by chance and was pleasantly surprised. At last, a magazine for cigar smokers. Subsequently, I subscribed to the magazine, and I have looked forward to each issue, which I read and reread with great pleasure.

That is until yesterday, when the Spring 1994 issue arrived with the leering face of the notorious Rush Limbaugh on the cover. I cannot adequately convey my distress. This man is a right-wing, race-baiting demagogue who is disdainful of everything liberal and democratic in this country. I wonder, would you use a picture of Louis Farrakhan on the cover of your magazine? Probably not, and rightly so. For a score of reasons, I protest in the strongest terms the use of Rush Limbaugh's picture in this manner. It is an affront to all persons who try to think and deal carefully with the massive issues facing the American people. Surely there must be cigar-loving persons of stature who are not so opinionated who might grace the cover of Cigar Aficionado.

Joseph H. Evans
Sarasota, Florida

Editor's Response: You obviously disapprove of Rush being profiled. But there are 24 million listeners to his radio program every week, making him a media megastar. The magazine did not endorse his political views, only his love for fine cigars. I think that tolerance and understanding are needed in a situation like this. I am sorry if the cover story offended you.

* * *

Dear Marvin:

As a new reader, it is very comforting to know that there are other gentlemen out there who enjoy the same vices that I have been enjoying since I was suspended from high school as a freshman for enjoying a Macanudo on school premises. I am currently a student at the University of Southern California Graduate School of Business Administration. I have finally found a crowd who can also enjoy the finer aspects of life--the professors.

Your editorial in the Spring 1994 issue mentioned a gentleman by the name of Sam Crocket at the Doral Arrowwood Resort. I am sorry to say that, I, like you, received a rather rude response from Mr. Crocket when I canceled a $5,000 dinner. I made the necessary arrangements to have a dinner that would compose of a waiter's wet dream. After all of the arrangements were made, totaling 30 minutes on the phone and two faxes, I happened to ask if it would be appropriate if all of the 15 gentlemen smoked cigars throughout the dinner. He stated that the restaurant does not normally allow cigar smoking.

At that point, I stated that we would not be doing business with him. We would rather drive to New York City and dine at the '21' Club than dine in an establishment which does not appreciate our business. You should have heard him grovel. "No, no, we want your business, however...." At which time I stated, "I would rather go to the '21' Club where my business is appreciated and I can be treated like a human being." I then thanked him and hung up. A few minutes later I got a call from the catering manager who stated that they could accommodate my party. Once again, I stated that, "I would rather go to the '21' Club where I can eat in the dining room like a civilized human being, have the wines which I require and smoke what I wish."

One by one we shall conquer all of the restaurants which do not allow cigar smoking.

David B. Nybo
Pasadena, California

Editor's Response: You have no idea how happy your letter has made me feel. People like Crocket deserve the enmity of all cigar smokers, and shame on establishments that hire them. Great work!

* * *

Dear Marvin:

As a full-time student at Georgetown University and a cigar lover, I often find myself making economic sacrifices so I can occasionally treat myself to my beloved Ashton Churchills. Whenever I can afford to partake in a good smoke, it is a rare and special occasion. Needless to say, however, the politically correct atmosphere of my college campus makes cigar smoking as persecuted as armed assault, perhaps more so. Well, it was just a while ago when celebrating a law-school acceptance letter that my roommate Steve and I set off to commemorate the occasion by, what else, smoking a glorious Ashton. But as soon as we had lit up our beauties in the seemingly comfortable confines of a favorite off-campus bar, we were immediately met with scornful stares from the staff and patrons. Ignoring the fact that the bar was already filled with the seemingly "acceptable" smoke of numerous cigarettes, men and women alike felt the need to ruin our smokes with their discourteous glances. As if this was not enough to make us feel as though we were as offensive as a pair of pedophiles, the deejay himself made the comment to the dancing crowd about whether what he smelled was "a cigar or someone burning a shoe." We were red-faced with embarrassment but finished our cigars, defiantly smoking in the face of what I feared could become a violent mob. I was surprised and saddened to see that so many of my contemporaries do not apply their religion of tolerance and acceptance to something as mundane as cigar smoking. I will continue to smoke and hopefully break down the barriers that are separating "us" from "them." Needless to say, however, I will in the future celebrate special occasions with my close friends only, and, of course, my Ashtons! Thank you for a great magazine and the support we aficionados need.

Thomas D. Pahlke
Washington, D.C.

Editor's Response: Thank you for standing tall.

* * *

Dear Marvin:

You're right on the mark in saying we "are not voiceless victims anymore." Your publication has done more than anything else to bring the fraternity of cigar smokers together. As our numbers and your readership grows, we will become more of a potent force. You should challenge each of your subscribers to convert one or more noncigar smokers to our cause by the end of the year. This is the best way to benefit us all. I'll make the first pledge--though my wife doesn't smoke, I'll try to "enlighten" her this year. This should be an interesting New Year's resolution! (Who knows--maybe I'll at least get to smoke in the house.)

We should all target more women to join us. I was at first offended at Gay Talese's remark that cigar dinners were a "man's terrain." He recanted, and I think Gina Bennet said it best, "a woman's taste buds are no different from a man's." I think it is wrong to constantly target women as the most vocal complainers about cigars. I have received more negative comments from men than women. Increasing the number of women cigar smokers will assist our cause more than any other action. I find it extremely pleasant to enjoy a cigar in the company of men and women at cigar dinners--as I feel most of us do. I also think that all male cigar smokers find that, next to love, the most wonderful feeling is being with a woman who enjoys a good cigar.

Joseph J. Leonard Jr.
Lieutenant, U.S. Coast Guard
Houston, Texas

* * *

Dear Marvin:

Greetings! I wanted to drop you a line applauding your great magazine.

As a young (35 years old) priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, my introduction to the joys of cigars came about two years ago when the archbishop of our church walked me into a cigar shop in San Clemente, California, and purchased for me a Romeo y Julieta. Since then, I have become a lover of one of God's wonders of creation!

Living in the buckle of the Bible Belt, I am aware that some believe smoking a horrid sin. But I am reminded of that illustrious Baptist preacher of London a century ago, Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon immensely enjoyed fine cigars, and when an unknowing guest preacher spoke out against the evils of smoking, Spurgeon closed the evening service by saying to his congregation, "What, for some, is sin, others do to the glory of God. And the good Dr. Pentecost's remarks notwithstanding, I intend to go home tonight and smoke a cigar to the glory of God. It is a kind of incense drifting to Heaven."

Rev. Kenneth Myers
The Deanery of Texas
Denison, Texas

* * *

Dear Marvin:

I would like to share a little buyer-beware education. As many of us know, La Gloria Cubana is a very difficult cigar to come by at your local tobacconist. Having read so much about this wonderful cigar in Cigar Aficionado, I was thrilled to learn that my business would take me to Miami. I immediately made plans to set aside some time to spend with one of my associates, Frank Alvarez (a native of Little Havana) to go to the La Gloria Cubana factory.

When I arrived in Miami, I checked the phone book and did not find El Credito Cigar Company listed. (I should have called information.) I then found under cigars/tobacconist only one outlet which looked close to the name "La Gloria Cubana"; this was called the La Gloria Cigar Company. Naturally, my first thought was that some sort of legal action might have been taken with respect to the Havana brand name since I last read about La Gloria Cubana in Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 1993. So, we called this number and the proprietor assured us (in Spanish) that the La Gloria Cubana was made there.

Upon arrival, the place looked nothing like the one pictured in the Spring 1993 issue. I asked if Mr. Carillo was around and he said, "No, not today." Frank mentioned that we were looking for El Credito Cigar Co. where La Gloria Cubana cigars are made. His reply was that "I know of no such place, but we make the La Gloria Cigar here and have been for 40 years."

Well, I guess it was the rush from the smell of the walk-in humidor or the sight of the little old man in the back room carefully manufacturing a batch of double coronas. But whatever, I purchased a box of piramides from the humidor, which he assured me were ready to smoke. And, what the heck, even if they weren't the real McCoy, and he sure as heck wasn't going to tell us where the real factory was, maybe these would turn out to be a nice, local smoke.

We left with the booty, and proceeded to Frank's favorite coffee bar for an afternoon snack. As we sat and enjoyed the wonderful smells and flavors of the neighborhood, the architecture of the block and the coffee bar seemed familiar and reminded me of the pictures printed in your article. We finished and walked to the other end of the block, and lo and behold, there it was, El Credito Cigar Company.

We were greeted by Ernesto Carillo's daughter Lissette, who was very pleasant and knowledgeable. When we told her what had happened, she said, "that guy was a friend of my grandfather's and he knows exactly who and where we are." She also mentioned that they are listed in the phone book under cigar manufacturers, which is why in my excitement, I didn't find them listed in the first place. I purchased several sizes and also a box of Wavells and we were on our way.

Since then I have enjoyed several, genuine La Gloria Cubanas and they have measured up to everything Cigar Aficionado has rated them to be. As for the imposter? Well let's just my c.a. rating would be low--and 10 points lower for dishonesty.

Joseph B. Laudano
Nutley, New Jersey

* * *

Dear Marvin:

Imagine my dismay when the enclosed 1994 Chicago Cubs pocket schedule arrived in my mail and there, directly opposite from the increased ticket price information, I read, "smoking is not permitted in Wrigley Field's seating areas."

If you have ever been able to spend an afternoon at Wrigley Field, you know that it is a wonderful experience in and of itself. The aroma and taste of a good cigar serve only to enhance the experience, not detract from it. Can't we at least be relegated to the upper deck in a smoking section? I would hate to have to become a White Sox fan over this.

Say it ain't so, Marvin.

Tom Presperin
Naperville, Illinois

Editor's Response: It's pretty pathetic that in the United States of America there are places like Wrigley Field that prohibit cigar smoking outdoors. Just think about it.

* * *

Dear Marvin:

Reading the newspaper every day, I have come to the conclusion that tobacco smoke has been elevated to the nation's No. 1 health threat! Not a week goes by without reading another so-called scientific study that warns us about the dreadful consequences of secondhand smoke. Without relying on scientific tests, but trusting my eyes, nose and soundness of reasoning, I can assure your readers that the danger is minimal.

If every resident of the valley would step outside tomorrow morning and light up, the skies would still remain clear, and you could still smell the flowers. The brown haze that you see over the metropolitan area is not tobacco smoke, but car exhaust! If it takes two packs of cigarettes a day over 20 years to kill a person, it will probably take 60 years for secondhand smoke to take effect. Inhaling car exhaust straight from the pipe kills in about 10 minutes.

So I have come to the conclusion--a car is only a car, but a good cigar is a smoke.

Hans G. Kusche
The Mesa Tribune
Mesa, Arizona

* * *

Dear Marvin:

I think that you and I both know that it does not take much more than common sense to know that all of the reputed deleterious reported effects of secondhand smoke are hogwash. I did not want a recent letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association to escape your notice in case you did not see it. Note particularly the highlighted sentence. You may remember me as a previous author for the Opinion section in the third issue of your magazine.

M. Hal Pearlman, M.D.
Carbondale, Illinois

Editor's Response: Thanks for the letter. Here is the sentence that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in reference to the average cigarette smoker and the environment for secondhand smoke, "it would take 42.6, eight-hour days , i.e., over eight weeks of work, for the individual to be exposed to the nicotine equivalent in a single cigarette."

* * *

Dear Marvin:

During a recent reading of Cigar Aficionado on my way to England and Scotland, I decided to visit Davidoff in London. This particular article featured their store and the unfortunate end of a long and prosperous business relationship with their Cuban counterparts.

After a long and much-delayed flight out of Boston, I arrived in London on a Saturday afternoon. Upon arriving at the hotel, I inquired of the concierge for directions to Davidoff. Fortunately, my hotel was located adjacent to Buckingham Palace and was only a very short walking distance from the store because it would soon be closing for the weekend. My business would be taking me to another city on Monday, and this was my only opportunity to visit and sample my favorite, illicit-brand of cigars--Cohiba.

I must admit I am a bit amused by a policy that prohibits the import of a product into the United States that is so readily available in the rest of the world. Why do we in our infinite wisdom embark on such "causes" alone and without the consensus of the rest of the world? Looking at the bright side of this issue, I suppose the deprivation brought on by the embargo has heightened my sense of appreciation and enjoyment of these fine cigars when they can be obtained.

Upon arriving at Davidoff, I was greeted by a friendly and helpful staff who led me straight to my beloved Cohibas. I could not light my first cigar quick enough and enjoyed a second one on my way back to the hotel. Due to the prohibitive cost of these babies, I bought just enough to get me through what proved to be my most memorable trip ever.

As soon as I got back home, I visited my local tobacconist on Christmas Eve and relived the many memorable moments of the trip and, of course, the cigars. Much to my surprise, the owner announced that he had a special gift for me. And what a surprise it proved to be: a fresh, unopened box of Cohiba Lanceros. I rushed to open the box and share a savored cigar with my friend.

What an irony that I have traveled so far to receive the same cigar right here at home. Who says there is no Santa Claus?

Michael Tarnowicz
Enfield, Connecticut

* * *

Dear Marvin:

It was wonderful to meet you at the Big Smoke in Miami in January.

During my 10 years as a yacht captain, one of my truly favorite moments is when I carry my humidor up to the flybridge to enjoy a cigar with the stars. In the anchorage of a small Caribbean island, with nothing but the occasional silhouette of a high-soaring frigate bird and my Davidoff, I am constantly reminded of what all my elders said to me very early in life: "Do what you want with your life because it goes much faster than you think."

Marvin, thank you for bringing me Cigar Aficionado and for bringing another piece of happiness into my life!

Capt. Michael Schueler
Lat. 25.46N Long. 80.11W

* * *

Dear Marvin:

I am a freshman at Washington and Lee University. I was introduced to your magazine by a friend of my mother's. I actually find Cigar Aficionado quite enjoyable. I am amazed to read of the plethora of people who are fanatical about cigars. Husbands including the right to smoke their cigars in prenuptial agreements is hard to believe. I am not afraid to admit that the young, conservative 19-year-old lady that I am just may take up the distinguished habit of cigar smoking.

Heath B. Acuff
Lexington, Virginia

Editor's Response: Heath, we warmly welcome you.

* * *

Dear Marvin:

I was a raw, rude and tasteless 18-year-old college freshman in 1970 at Tulane University. I began my cigar career inhaling raw, rude and tasteless "Dino" cigars at Tulane football games with my fellow frat brothers. We intelligently chose "Dinos" because one fellow brother was nicknamed "Dino."

I was rehabilitated and saved on a fateful weekend jaunt in Houston with roommate Tim Heffron and Bill "Dino" Pappas. At Heffron's home, his old man graciously gifted us with our first handmade imports--Dominican H. Upmanns.

At the conclusion of dinner at Heffron's on the first evening, the men lit up in the dining room, and surprisingly, the women (Mrs. Heffron and her daughter) enjoyed the air. The room was enveloped with a thick haze, but the feeling of friendship and warmth was overwhelming.

My father recognized and respected my new love, and he purchased for me my first box of cigars--Macanudos. They remain my loyal choice of smoke today.

My mother and I agree on little about life, but even she always appreciated and enjoyed the elegant Macanudo aromas that wafted about the house.

My wife's imposition of martial law in our home prohibits the smoking of cigars indoors. My wife, Cynthia, claims an allergy to cigar smoke. My three-year-old, Joshua, says all cigars are "stinky," although he collects the labels as trophies of slain cigars. My one-year-old, Caitlin, has not cultivated a negative opinion...yet. I remain an outlaw in my castle, smoking only outdoors when the weather is kind.

Ironically, as a generous gesture of peace and love, a holiday gift from my wife was The Ultimate Cigar Book, signed and inscribed by author Richard Carleton Hacker at my wife's request.

I am allowed to read the book indoors.

Jonathan H. Kaufman, Esq
Port Washington, New York

* * *

Dear Marvin:

I took up cigar smoking when I was in college (20 years ago). At 18, it was a bald-faced act of hero worship; I wanted to become a writer and my favorite novelist, Thomas Mann, loved his cigars. In recent years, as my income has risen a bit higher than it was in those days, I've been able to enjoy a slightly pricier range of smokes, though I'm afraid a regular diet of Cohibas is still a long way off for me.

Which brings me to the delightful experience I'm enjoying these days, which I would like to share with some fellow cigar smokers who read your magazine and just might be a tad envious. If they are I'll be pleased; it's been a while since I was the envy of anyone.

I work for the U.S. State Department (which has strict no-smoking rules, incidentally, but so far they haven't been able to ban it in my living room, though I'm sure that's in the works). My current assignment is the U. S. Embassy in Moscow. Now, Moscow can be a topsy-turvy place these days, but the city has wonderfully redeeming features that make it worthwhile being here--like the kiosks that now are just about everywhere. They sell almost everything you can think of, and if you know where to look, you can find Cuban cigars. Reasonably priced Cuban cigars, if you can believe that. A few months ago, I picked up a box of Havanas (I believe the brand was Fonseca) which, after a few days in my humidor, were a sheer delight, and the box of 25 cost me the equivalent of about $42. This and other Cuban brands are to be had in Moscow; all you have to know is where to look. And if the dollar-ruble exchange rate is good, you can get some real buys on them.

But I think it's also true that those who say the glory days of old Havana are gone, at least for now, are right. Having sampled a few Cuban leaves here and also in South America when I was stationed in Brazil, I can honestly say that the cigars being produced in Honduras and the Dominican Republic bat in the same league, and some of them (I'm thinking specifically of Arturo Fuente here) are actually better than some of the Cuban brands. Until the embargo against Cuba finally is lifted and everyone can freely make his own comparison, I am one cigar smoker who can assure those who feel deprived that the Cubans, while still the standard of course, are no longer the only game in town.

But finding them in Moscow kiosks is still a treat.

Kelley Dupuis
U.S. Embassy
Moscow, Russia