Holy Smoke!

Today’s International Herald Tribune has nice piece by Ralph Blumenthal based on a visit to Le Thor, the village in Provence where Pierre Salinger, JFK’s Press Secretary, made his home. Concludes with this story, which will touch the heart of every cigar smoker:

Here in Le Thor, Mr. Salinger’s penchant for fine wine and cigars is fondly recalled. A centerpiece of the museum is a large wooden cigar box, all that remains of a gift that Nikita Khrushchev presented Mr. Salinger during a visit to Moscow in 1962. The 150 cigars had come from Fidel Castro and violated the newly installed embargo. President Kennedy was aghast, directing Mr. Salinger to surrender the cigars so Customs could destroy them.

Years later, Mr. Salinger reflected ruefully that he could have done that himself, “one by one.”

Sigh. In the Summer of 1968 I took an impoverished elderly friend to dinner at l’Epicure, a lovely French restaurant (now sadly gone) in Greek Street in Soho. After dessert, I asked my guest if he would like a cigar. His face lit up: yes, he said, very much. So I summoned the waiter and said we’d like to see a selection of his better cigars. He went off and whispered to his boss, when then approached us and, bending down, asked me in a confidential tone “Would either of you be an American gentleman, Sir?”. “Certainly not!” I replied indignantly. He smiled, bowed and withdrew, returning a few moment later with… a box of Cohibas. Bliss!