David Bruce: Tobacco Anecdotes

• As coach of the Boston Celtics, Red Auerbach used to pull out a cigar and smoke itwhenever the Celtics held a commanding lead in the final seconds of a game. This was done not so much to insult other teams as to insult the “higher-ups” of the NBA. Mr. Auerbach once said that when the higher-ups of the NBA were picking on him, he tried to find something he could do to aggravate them. However, he didn’t have any luck until he smoked a cigar one day while coaching a game. After the game, the higher-ups sent him a note saying that smoking cigars while sitting on the bench didn’t look good. Mr. Auerbach said that since reading the note, he has never been without a cigar.

• Soccer superstar Julie Foudy did a lot of work for an anti-smoking campaign, and in April of 1996 she visited the White House, where Donna Shalala, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, gave her a tour. Ms. Shalala stopped outside the Oval Office, where she asked a Secret Service agent if the President was in it. The agent said the President was, so Ms. Shalala said, “We can’t show you the room if he’s in there. Come on, let’s go down to the Cabinet Room.” The Secret Service agent was wrong, as Ms. Shalala and Ms. Foudy bumped into President Bill Clinton as he turned the corner. Ms. Foudy said, “We were just looking for you,” and they chatted for a while.

• Professional golfer Bryon Nelson once was offered $500 to endorse the cigarettes of a certain tobacco company. This was big money at the time, and Mr. Nelson accepted it. However, he had second thoughts when Sunday School teachers started writing him to ask, “How could you?” These letters upset Mr. Nelson, and he contacted the tobacco company and tried to give the money back. Unfortunately, the tobacco company refused to let him out of his contract and so the advertisements stayed in circulation.

• Ice skater Peggy Fleming’s father knew how to handle teenage smoking. When she was a young teenager, Peggy got hold of a pack of cigarettes and lit one up in the garage. Her father walked into the garage, saw her smoking, and said, “Hmm, you’re smoking? Great. I feel like smoking too. Why don’t we smoke together?” They ended up smoking the whole pack of cigarettes together. Young Peggy got sick, and she never smoked again.

• Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, started to smoke while her father was President. He would not allow her to smoke inthe White House, so she used to climb up to the roof and smoke there. About his daughter, Mr. Roosevelt said, “I can do one of two things. I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”

• Rod Serling found becoming a published author difficult. Early in his career, the magazines he submitted his work to sent him forty rejection slips in a row. However, once he began to become successful, his workload on such projects asThe Twilight Zonebecame enormous, and he smoked as much as four packs of cigarettes a day to help stimulate him enough to keep up with it.

• Rev. Gustave Weigel, S.J., once lit a cigar and began puffing on it contentedly following an interfaith dinner. A fundamentalist Protestant looked on, disgusted, and asked, “Don’t you Catholics believe that the body is a temple?” After the priest replied, “Yes,” the fundamentalist asked why he was putting smoke in it. Father Weigel replied, “You put sausage in it.”

• Famous pianist Adolphe Henselt suffered so badly from stage fright that he used to stay offstage until the very last minute, then rush onstage to play his solo before running offstage again. Once, he had to rush so quickly to the piano that he wasn’t able to put out his cigar first, so he had to smoke throughout his solo.

• Nelson Mandela’s father, Mphakanyiswa, probably died because of a heavy smoking habit. During the last days of his life, he coughed heavily, looked ill, and lost weight. Just before he died, he asked for his tobacco and pipe. Smoking stopped the heavy coughing, and he was peaceful as he smoked. He died an hour later with his pipe still lit.

• In the late 19th century, Francis Hodgson Burnett, author of A Little Princessand The Secret Garden, smoked, although smoking by women was considered scandalous at the time. Often, she took a puff from a cigarette in one hand, then took a bite of a cream peppermint in her other hand.

• A man who had fathered 16 children once appeared on You Bet Your Life. Groucho Marx asked, “Why do you have so many children?” The man answered, “Because I like my wife.” Groucho took a drag on his cigar, then said, “I like my cigar, too, but I take it out sometime.”

• TV commercials for the European jeans manufactured by Diesel sometimes addressed contemporary issues. One commercial was headlined, “How to smoke 145 cigarettes a day.” In it, a talking skull asks the viewers, “Man, who needs two lungs anyway?”

• Early cigarette advertising slogans were misleading, if not outright lies. The slogans “More doctors smoke Camels” and “Your mouth feels cleaner, your throat refreshed” seem to imply that smoking is healthy and does not make the smoker’s breath reek.

• Want to keep teenagers from starting to smoke? Columnist Sandy McIntosh suggests giving tobacco products new brand names. Instead of calling them Camel, Marlboro, and Virginia Slims, let’s call them Immature, Loser, and Pimples.

• George Burns smoked cigars on stage, but he was always careful not to blow smoke into his wife and partner’s face. He always walked out on stage to find out which way the smoke would blow before his and Gracie Allen’s act.

• After Dorothy Hamill won the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games, a reporter asked, “What are you going to do now, Dorothy?” She joked, “I’m going to smoke a cigar.”

• Many Native Americans regard tobacco as a sacred plant. Often, they give tobacco to the Creator.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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David Bruce: Tobacco Anecdotes

• Walt Disney was a heavy smoker. At work, he needed a light, and artist Ken Anderson had a new cigarette lighter. Unfortunately, he had overfilled it and not tried it out yet, so when he tried to lit Walt’s cigarette, a small bonfire exploded in Walt’s face, burning his mustache and the end of his nose. Walt said, “What the hell are you trying to do?” He left the room. Mr. Anderson said, “Then all these other people filed out of the room, and I was sitting there alone. I could have died. In fact, dying would have been a pleasure compared to the way I felt.” People avoided him the rest of the day. He remembered, “I actually cried that night.” The next day, Walt had a blister on the end of his nose and he had shaved off his mustache. However, he invited Mr. Anderson to eat lunch with him in the studio cafeteria, and he made sure that all the Disney employees saw that he was talking to Mr. Anderson — and not firing him. Mr. Anderson said, “It took a pretty wonderful humanitarian to do what he did.” Walt also did a good deed during World War II for the employees who worked for the Disney London office, although the Disney Studio was losing money. Great Britain suffered food shortages during the war, and each week he sent a care package to these employees. Disney London employee Cyril James told Disney theme park publicist Charlie Ridgway that “many times that was virtually the only food they had each week throughout the war.”

• British couple Kevin Barclay and Sharon Wood used to smoke dozens of cigarettes a day, but they quit smoking after a veterinarian told them that their smoking was bad for the health of their pet parrot. The veterinarian, Glen Cousquer of the South Beech Veterinary Surgery in Essex, southeastern England, said, “One of the key things that we need to get right with parrots generally is air quality. This particular bird presented with very severe respiratory problems. The owners were instructed to do everything they could to improve the bird’s environment. I think I must have shaken the owners up quite badly, because the next time I saw them they actually had booked themselves into one of these anti-smoking clinics and were determined to stop. They’ve gone five weeks.” The couple’s quitting smoking has helped their parrot, whose name is J.J. According to the veterinarian, the parrot “is doing really well. It is certainly going to improve his life expectancy.” (Ditto for the parrot’s owners.)

• Joseph Barbera of Hanna-Barbera fame once walked into a room in which were a friend named Sy Fisher and, unknown to him when he walked in and started talking, a VIP named Duke Ducovny. When he walked in the room, he smelled pipe tobacco and he saw Sy with a pipe. He said to Sy, “This is terrible. What kind of person would smoke a pipe? Pipes are an abomination. I can’t stand pipes. …” Then he saw Duke, who was also holding a lit pipe. He immediately pointed to Duke’s pipe and continued, “…except that one. That, Duke, is one hell of a pipe, a great pipe, and that tobacco is straight from heaven. Sy, what’s the matter with you? If you are going to smoke a pipe, why don’t you take a lesson in class from Duke here? Get yourself a pipe just like his, ask him what kind of tobacco he’s smoking, and buy yourself a load of it.”

• Enrico Caruso smoked, and he insisted on smoking. While at the Imperial Theater of Berlin, he started smoking in his dressing room. The stage director visited him to tell him that no smoking was allowed in the theater. Mr. Caruso replied that he needed to smoke in order to calm his nerves. The stage director left him, but soon the opera superintendent visited him to tell him that no smoking was allowed in the theater. Mr. Caruso replied, “Dear sir, I regret infinitely, but I have already said that I feel very nervous, and if I am not allowed to smoke in peace, to my great regret I will not sing this evening.” The superintendent suggested a compromise: Mr. Caruso could smoke as long as a fireman was in the dressing room with him. Mr. Caruso agreed to the compromise, and as he finished each cigarette the fireman took the butt from him and threw it in a bucket of water.

• Jamie Farr, who played Klinger on M*A*S*H, attended a party at which were many other celebrities. He and strongman actor Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked very good cigars, but Donald Sutherland, who was sitting nearby with Cary Grant, got up and told Mr. Farr, “Jamie, would you mind putting out your cigar. Mr. Cary Grant and I have terrible allergies, and the smoke is really annoying.” Mr. Farr was willing to let his cigar go out, but he asked Mr. Sutherland, “Arnold Schwarzenegger is sitting between you and Cary Grant, and he is smoking the same cigar I have here. He still is. Why didn’t you ask him to put out his cigar?” Mr. Sutherland replied, “Jamie, if I had wanted to do that, I would have done it with a note — and signed it ‘The Phantom.’”


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