Smoking Out Cigars' Appeal

attributed to Sigmund FreudOver at Ugly Al's the other day Cheapest Light Cigarettes, the men were inside the humidor, considering their options--dozens of brands, sizes, prices. I'd never been cigar-shopping before. Curiosity drew my eye from the pricey Dunhills to the cheap Ugly Styx.

It was easy to see how a sense of romance may draw one to the Romeo Y Julietas and a sense of humor to the Big Butts. And I wondered: Would smoking an El Rey del Mundo make a man feel like The King of the World?

Even someone who doesn't care for those nicotine-delivery systems known as cigarettes may understand the allure of an occasional cigar. If offered, I've been known to accept and indeed enjoy the taste and the aroma, up to a point. What is, for me, a once-in-a-blue-moon amusement--an affectation, if you insist--is for others a passion. The enjoyment of fine hand-rolled cigars, customer Tom Huggins explained, is not so unlike the enjoyment of a fine dish at a great restaurant.

Talk to cigar purveyors and they'll tell you that a fad fueled by celebrity smokers, magazines like Cigar Aficionado and a kind of backlash against puritanical political correctness is now fading. Smoke, a handsome club on Glendale's Brand Boulevard, is one of many that came and went. Yet the more significant fact is that the cigar is a very durable product. Step inside Gus' Smoke Shop in Sherman Oaks and you're in a building that has been selling tobacco since 1927, back when there was a livery stable in back. Seventy-one years later, Gus' is doing just fine.

One reason, aside from the sensual pleasure, is the cigar's deep cultural roots and mystique. It is an instrument of social ritual, particularly among the male of the species.

A smoke shop "is a place for guys to go--to talk about cigars, life, their wives . . . A place where guys get together and bond," Huggins said after lighting up at Ugly Al's in Northridge Cigarettes Supplier. "You get millionaires in here, working guys. A lot of it's just small talk. And typical guy humor."

Huggins, a cable maintenance worker for Pacific Bell, started smoking two years ago. "It's a hobby--bought myself a nice humidor. It's a nice piece of furniture. I know when I go home, I can open it, look at my cigars and just smell them. I enjoy it."

It is all so innocuous, so innocent--so far removed from the days when gentlemen would retire to the parlor with cigars and cognacs to discuss business and politics, while the ladies would talk about fashion and whatever else ladies talked about.

Much has changed, of course. Once, in the early 1980s, I was invited to a gathering of about 10 people in the formal dining room of a major downtown corporation Buy Cigarettes Online Uk Cheap. The trappings were cool and elegant, connoting prestige and privilege.

We were served by a man dressed like a butler, and a powerful executive presided over a stiff, unsatisfying discussion. As we nibbled our desserts and sipped coffee, the butler reappeared with a tray of cigars. Later I was told that, not so long before, the butler would offer cigars to men and roses to women.

Premium smokes, as opposed to cheap stogies, have long been symbols of power. Cigars and politics go together, and not only in smoke-filled rooms. The most famous portrait of Winston Churchill caught the steely anger in his eyes after the photographer snatched his cigar from his grip. Some brands, such as Alberto Feo, Royal Jamaican and Espanola, call their largest cigars the "Churchill." Some other brands call their larger cigars the "El Presidente."

Politics remain a hot topic in smoke-filled rooms like Ugly Al's and the dozen smoke shops along Ventura Boulevard. Competitors are united in their abhorrence of one political initiative in particular--Proposition 10, the "Early Childhood Development Initiative."

Championed by actor-director Rob Reiner, the initiative, if passed, would increase the "sin taxes" on tobacco goods to a level equivalent to the levies on cigarettes. The idea is to both discourage an unhealthful habit and raise funds to benefit young children. If Proposition 10 is approved by voters, the cigar and tobacco tax will increase from 26% to 61.5% next Jan. 1.

"Oh, it's going to pass," Jimmy Hurwitz said with a shrug. "Most Californians don't smoke Cigarette Tobacco For Sale."

Hurwitz is the reigning Gus. He was a customer and a "burnt-out corporate vice president" when he acquired the store in 1985 from the previous Gus, whose real first name was Norman. Norman had bought from the original Gus, who had bought the original shop, then called Boyd's.

A cigar store Indian is kept inside to greet visitors. Dozens of shapely pipes are displayed in a glass case. There is a pillow stitched with the sentiment of Mark Twain: "If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven Duty Free Cigarettes, I shall not go!" This being Sherman Oaks, there are glossies of celebrity customers. Out front are Jack Nicholson, Tom Selleck, Alec Baldwin and Michael Richards. Down the hall are Alfred Hitchcock, Edward G. Robinson, Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin.
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