The importance of cigars in our culture
GIVE THAT MAN A CIGAR!
By J. Vincent Martin
I've often wondered if smoking a cigar makes a guy funny, or is it just that funny guys smoke cigars?
Now, there's no doubt that Groucho Marx was a funny guy. After all, who can forget him flicking his cigar as he told us of his famous African adventure. To quote: "Last year when I was in Africa, I got up at three o'clock in the morning and shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he managed to get into my pajamas, I'll never know!" Then of course, there was W.C. Fields who once replied after flicking his stogy, "You say your little boy swallowed a bullet? Well, give the tyke some castor oil, and whatever you do, don't point him at me!" The list goes on with George Burns, Redd Foxx, Ernie Kovacs, Alan King and many, many, other purveyors of wit and humor. There were also some pretty wise individuals, like Winston Churchill, who knew which end of the stogy to light too.
In fact, there was another cigar smoker that most of us probably never realized was a funny guy. That particular fellow was also endowed with the wisdom to be able to put a nation back together again after a long and a hellish civil war. He was none other that Ulysses S. Grant, famous Civil War General and former President of the United States. Now, there are more than a few laughs attributed to Grant, but these are my two favorites. So I thought Iíd just share them with you to make a point.
In the early part of his presidency, Grant gave an impromptu to interview to a young reporter from the New York Herald Tribune. It took place right after a band concert in Grant's honor. The reporter approached Grant and asked, "Well, how did you enjoy the concert, Mr. President?" Grant replied with a vague expression upon his face, "Well, I guess the music must have been good, the people seemed to enjoy it."
"But, what about you, sir, the reporter asked? Didn't you enjoy it?"
Grant took a cigar out his vest pocket and lit it. Then he smiled, "Well, to be honest with you, son, I'm tone deaf. So I couldn't tell you if the band was good or not. In fact, I'm afraid there's only two tunes I can distinguish between." The reporter sympathetically responded, "I'm sorry to hear that, sir." Grant took a puff on his cigar and paternally replied, "Don't be, son, it was enough to help me to win the war." Sensing a scoop, the reporter quickly asked, "Which two tunes are those, sir?" Grant flicked his ash and smiled, "Why, Dixie, and tunes that ain't Dixie, of course."
A few weeks later, the old weathered general granted another interview to the same young reporter. This one took place in the oval office, and perhaps, there's as much wisdom in the tale as humor. Especially, when itís viewed in light of the recent divisive presidential election debacle.
The first question the reporter asked him was, "Well, how do you feel about politics, now that you're president, General." Grant just pulled out a cigar from the desk drawer, leaned back in his plush leather chair, and lit it. Then he smiled to the young reporter, "My opinion of politics hasn't changed at all, son." The reporter followed up by asking, "Well, what exactly is your opinion of politics, Mr. President?" Grant just tapped the ash off the tip of his cigar and smiled, "Well, let me tell you a little story, son."
"Right after that horrible war, I needed some time alone to get my thoughts in order. So I decided to go to up state New York by myself and do some bear hunting. The weather up there was pretty bad, and after a week in the woods, I was running low on provisions. So I got on my horse and took a ten mile ride over to the general store in a nearby village. It was a miserable snowy day, and after a week in the woods, I guess I looked pretty scruffy, alright. So when I walked through the door, one of the fancy dressed dandies sitting around the pot belly stove was quick to comment on my appearance. He just stared at me and said, `Good grief, man, you look like you've just returned from Hell.' I just chomped down on my cigar and replied, `As a matter of fact, you happen to be right, sir.' That prompted one of the other dandies to ask with a smirk, `Well, tell us, man! What is it like in Hell?' I just smiled back at him, and addressed his colleagues, `Why, it's the same as it is here, gentlemen. Lawyers and politicians are closest to the fire.' "
Yes, thereís definitely something wise and witty about a fellow with a cigar, alright. So in the end, it doesnít really matter whether my guy or your guy won the election. For history has taught us all, that the winner will always be president of all of the people. So like Grant, JFK and all the others that have sat in that chair, as long as there's still stogy in the desk drawer, thereíll always be a laugh in the oval office, and the uncanny wisdom that goes with it..