They run us out of restaurants, harangue us on the streets, and often drive us out of our living rooms. It has become so noxious — or at least so obvious — that even “Newsweek,” that paragon of the mainstream, has declared that we are “ripe for rebellion.”

Cigar Smoking Mad

We are the true American pariahs, we 400,000 aficionados of fine cigars.

To which I say, Yes, but… Yes, our frustration level is at fail-safe from the relentless battering ram of the smoke fascists. Yes, our anger rises with every raid on our wallets by shameless politicians as we are subjected to “sin” taxes. Yes, we are made to suffer the unspeakable insults of being barred from places where cigarettes are welcome.


Unless we have the will to fight, the problems of 400,000 cigar lovers won’t amount to a hill of beans in this new world order.

If we are content with grousing among ourselves, comparing horror stories at fancy smokers, playing Jiggs to Maggie at home and Caspar Milquetoast in restaurants, we will go the way of the Armenians to the Turks, without even a Saroyan to document our days of pleasure.

But if we can harness our heat and turn it into a plan of battle, we will not only stand off the fascists, but we stand a real chance of winning the war. Because we are right.

Of course, the first thing is to believe we are right.

Sadly, too many of us have lost that belief. We think the fascists are fanatics, but, on the other hand, maybe they have a point. Cigar people never put it that way — I know guys who would invite me outside for suggesting it — but you don’t have to be Dr. Freud to figure out that there’s more to this prevailing passivity than the party line that we are, after all, gentlemen, and gentlemen abhor scenes.

Here are selected scenes from my many years in the trenches:

A wealthy publisher invites me to dinner at his penthouse. From past experience, I know not to take my poor little $3 panatelas. This man was getting Cohibas delivered to his door during the Bay of Pigs, and they are delivered now, along with the Monte Crista’s. An evening with this aficionado is like a night with Cole Porter during the reign of the Rolling Stones.

But at cocktails, no cigar. On the second martini, I get up my nerve. “Have you stopped smoking?” I say.

“My daughter-in-law,” he says. “She’ll leave if we light up. Please don’t say anything. After dinner we’ll go to the study, just you and me.”

At Le Club, I offer a Bolivar Royal Corona to a leader of industry. He slips it into a dinner jacket. “Wonderful,” he says. “I’ll smoke it at home tonight.” “Well, let’s do it now,” I say. “No, no, they’ll be trouble.” This is a private party, and he is afraid to light up in front of people who would give three fingers to have his business.

I am at the bar in a fancy French restaurant in Manhattan. I pull out a Punch Rothschild. The man next to me, a major figure in the newspaper world, says, “Are you going to smoke it here?” “You bet,” says I. He is incredulous. “I was walking in Central Park the other day,” he says, “and a woman jumped at me. ‘Put that stink bomb out,’ she said. It’s a reign of terror.” I asked him what he did about it. “Well, uh, well, I, uh, well, what could I do?”

Most people hate cigar smokers without reason. I love them without reason. So I didn’t say what I should have said: “You can act like a man! You don’t have to wimp off, like you’re committing a crime.”

On the beach at Fire Island last summer, a guy ordered me to put it out — they never ask, as you know — and I noted that we were on the sand and how could he? “My wife,” he said. “It bothers my wife.” They always put it on the little woman. My reply had them running to catch the next ferry to the city.

When did the robbery take place? When did we — the once-proud legatees of Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx, John F Kennedy, W. C. Fields, George Gershwin, George Burns, Mark Twain — when did we turn into closet smokers?

I think that we have been mesmerized, against our finest instincts, by the unrelenting assault of the Health Brigade, those nee-prohibitionists who will not rest until all civilized pleasure is removed from the world.

It is time to fight back, time to ring out in thunder that we are right and they are wrong.

The surgeon general, against all the winds that blow, has never proclaimed that cigar smoking is dangerous to health. But how many people know this? I find that even cigar aficionados are surprised to hear it. And I find that it is one of our greatest weapons against the fascists.

At Sardi’s upstairs bar the other day, I found myself two bodies away from perfume that you could smell in Hoboken. I was about to run downstairs when the guy accompanying this sweet-smelling lady told me to put out my cigar.

“We’re at a bar, pal,” I said. “It bothers her,” he said.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll make a deal with you.”

“What deal?”

“You give her a bath, and I’ll put out the cigar.”

He leered at me for a second, trying to look bad. Then he took the lady by the arm and said, “C’mon, honey, let’s go to a place where there are gentlemen.”

Gentlemen prefer cigars, we all know that. But I think we also know that most gentlemen would have put out the cigar. That’s why the gentleman is a dope.

We will never get it right until we go back to first principles and understand that they are the vulgarians, they violate propriety, they are the shameless who insist that everyone bow to their command.

They are also the bullies in the school-yard and, like all bullies, they back down when they see the face of courage.

The same will go for the restaurants, if we use our power. Cigar people are the biggest spenders in the world, and we are on the town, the prime customers of the best restaurants. And they have the gall to tell us, “I’m sorry, sir, cigar smoking is not permitted.”

Walk out when they do that. Just walk out with your party and see what happens. I lay 12 — 7 that they call you back on the spot. And 20 — 1 that they change their policy the next day.

I tried the following, and it worked in a hurry.

A friend was setting up a party at a club in the Village. I said, “Find out if they allow cigars.” He called back. “They say no.”

I called the joint and ordered a table for 12. The captain was delighted, eager to please my every whim as to what table and what time. Then I said, “By the way, are cigars permitted?” “Uh, no sir.” “Cancel it,” I said.

During the next few days, I had my friends call the place, women and men, ordering tables for four to 14. And then asking about cigars. And canceling. They immediately opened the bar to us, and today the world.

But I refuse to leave you thinking that I am promoting a defensive war only. Let me take you to the Hunt Room at “21,” a half a humidor ago. It’s a wedding party, thirty-something. Nobody is smoking, not a light cigarette in sight. I light up a Macanudo Hyde Park Cafe. A lanky brunette approaches.

“I want you,” she says.

“Say what?”

“You’re the only man here.” “Why?”

“You have the gorgeous nerve to smoke a cigar.”

Aspen Rae, Penthouse Pet January 2015

Granted now, this article first appeared in Penthouse Magazine some 30 years ago as of this new publication today. They claim a membership of 400,000 strong at that time, but we could find no similar statistics for current day. We did find an app (because everything needs an app these days) which could guide you to local areas where you can still smoke cigars, however — no matter how many of you there may be. More relevant to us in particular was the amazingly split debate on which Pet should grace this new presentation of smoky subjectivity in our header image. Eventually the boss decided to use Barbara Corser (Pet of the Month, August 1977) because this qualifies as a “Legacy” article in our new format. Still, there were important people on the other side of the vote that we might need on our side in the future, so we put the other option of Aspen Rae with a cigar (Pet of the Month, January 2015) here at the bottom. The location has less prominence, perhaps, but it also has the benefit of getting bigger when you click on it. (So there.) … In order to see either Barbara or Aspen in more likely cigarless glory, of course we should send you to PenthouseGold, thus satisfying a third faction of voters here.

So that wasn’t hard at all.

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