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Out of the Humidor

By CA Readers | From Armand Assante, Mar/Apr 2008

Dear Marvin,
I've enjoyed your magazine for many years and the December 2007 issue hit a chord close to home. The article on Errol Flynn was a treat to read and thank you for keeping history alive. My father, Roberto Insua, who passed away in 2005, was born in Havana in 1914 and worked as a newsreel photographer and producer. In the mid-1930s, he became involved in the development of Cuba's early motion picture industry. His interactions with Hollywood led to the development of the Union for Cuban Cinematographers of which he served as president in the 1940s. His work included being in front and behind the camera in Cuba's first motion picture with sound in 1939: La Serpiente Roja.

During the filming of The Big Boodle, he coordinated and supervised the Cuban technicians working on the film. As you note in your article, Cuba's film industry was tiny compared to the productions out of Hollywood, but the Cuban film industry played a positive role in Cuba and U.S. relations at the time.

Reading your article brought back memories of my father telling stories of his work back in Cuba before the revolution. His recollections of Errol Flynn were always positive. My family immigrated in 1960 to the United States after Fidel's move to power. Fidel had taken my father's life work away from him and he needed to start over again in the U.S. My father began working for the television and motion picture industry in Miami during the 1960s and we moved to California in the early '70s where he was an editor on various projects. My father lived the rest of his life in the U.S. appreciating its freedoms and the opportunity it provided his family. He was never able to see his beloved Cuba again.

My father's cigars of choice were H. Upmanns and Partagas, and I have great memories of him enjoying his cigars with his friends while they reminisced about their days back in Cuba interacting with actors from Errol Flynn to Rita Hayward.

I am fortunate to have some behind-the-scenes photographs from the filming of The Big Boodle; they will always be of great personal value to me.

Thanks again for a great magazine.

Morgan Insua
Valencia, California

Dear Marvin,
As many readers of this auspicious publication devoted to the sensory pleasure known as cigar smoking may not be aware, May 31, the last day of the fifth month of the year, is unfortunately a tragic day in world history. It is the day that the member states of the World Health Organization created World No Tobacco Day in 1987. [WHO stated,] "It draws global attention to the tobacco epidemic and to the preventable death and disease it causes. It aims to reduce the 3.5 million yearly deaths from tobacco-related health problems."

Now, let's think about this for a second. Last time I checked, smoking was a choice. I don't ever remember anyone ever forcing someone to smoke a cigar or cigarette. Granted, some people don't handle the "addictive" properties associated with smoking tobacco products very well. But it is still a choice nonetheless. As far as I'm concerned, this is just one more fact that Darwinism is alive and well and thinning the world population through survival of the fittest. Like it or not, something is going to kill you sooner or later. Your intelligence or lack thereof usually weighs heavily into how soon that really is. Smoking several packs of cigarettes a day is probably going to substantially influence your life span. Smoking the occasional handmade, Latino cutie—thigh-rolled, high-quality cigar is probably not. Look at George Burns.

Luckily, not all world powers are members of this fascist so-called health organization. Liechtenstein has chosen not to participate in this WHO-sponsored tobacco-free anarchy. This 62-square-mile, European landlocked, winter-sports tax haven has stood up to the might that is the U.N.-sponsored WHO and just said, No! I say, Good for you, Liechtenstein.

So as a gesture of nonviolent protest against a conspiracy of global proportions, I plan on lighting up a filter-free, well-aged tobacco product this evening while sipping on an ethanol-based beverage. Thank goodness the tyrants at the WHO have yet to impose a World Alcohol-Free Day. Just don't get me started on the Nordic countries, especially the Faroe Islands!

Marc Kovacs
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Dear Marvin,
Imagine my surprise when I returned from my lunch hour to find that our office DHL driver left a copy of your magazine on my desk. He and I pretend that we are each other's favorite celebrity; to him I am Sarah Brightman, to me he is Tom Selleck.

As for the real Tom Selleck, his down-to-earth attitude and humility are the real qualities which endear him to the public. Good looks on the outside fade, but a heart and soul endure along with his talent and choices of work material. He is one of a kind and if anyone ever wants to make me smile, all they have to say is "Tom Selleck."

Hannah Campbell
Havertown, Pennsylvania