If Scent of a Man Is for You, Go to a Club Where Cigar Is King
Robert Davi walks into Nazareth’s Smoke Lounge-Members Only and quickly snuffs his cigarette. This club is for cigar smokers.
The actor--who played the drug lord in the James Bond flick “Licence to Kill"--explains that he never touches cigarettes himself. He’d just come from reading for a role, and “the character smokes.”
Davi settles onto one of the tufted brown leather sofas and joins a small circle of puffers. “This is heaven,” he says. “No one complains about smoking. It’s a fraternity of people who appreciate a fine smoke.”
That fraternity includes doctors, lawyers--and actors. Brass plaques on the temperature-controlled, humidity-controlled lockers bear the names of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Don Johnson.
“When I started, there was no anti-smoking movement,” explains Nazareth Guluzian, the dapper proprietor. That was eight years ago. He thinks of his club--which happens to be across from his cigar shop in Beverly Hills’ upscale Le Grand Passage--as a haven. “Cigar smokers hate cigarettes, and cigarette smokers hate cigars.”
His members, who also disdain pipes, include a few women but, in essence, this is a men’s club. The magazines here are GQ and Esquire. The footed brass ashtrays, the burgundy carpet say this is where men meet.
On a recent afternoon, attorney Alfred Sapse and Danny Malletin, a general contractor, are smoking and schmoozing with mortgage banker Shelly Volk, who’s a bit out of sorts. His sniffles are preventing him from savoring his fat Rothschild, but ask him to talk about cigars. . . .
“People who share a cigar also share a love of travel and food and wine. We like all the things to ensure one doesn’t live too long.”
Lest the anti-smoking crusaders come down too hard, these lovers of the leaf are quick to point out that cigars aren’t inhaled. (True, they do smell. But the club’s special air filters suck out most of the smoke and some of the aroma.)
Cigar-lovers make other distinctions. “People who smoke cigarettes are very tense. People who smoke cigars are very relaxed,” Malletin says.
Cigarettes also lack mystique. With cigars, he says, “There’s a certain ritual.” The cutting and lighting. The anticipation of an hour of pleasure for, say, $4 to $6.
Although this is a club, the 110 members pay no dues. By unspoken gentlemen’s agreement, they select their cigars from Guluzian’s stock of 50,000.
Guluzian is pleased. Sales are up, way up. Cigars are in. Candice Bergen posed for an Esquire cover holding a cigar, ditto Linda Carter in Vanity Fair, David Letterman for TV Guide.
An old-timer walks in, is greeted by name and initiates a lively discussion about the film he’s just seen, “Scent of a Woman.” He never lights the cigar he is holding--doctor’s orders.
A kinder, gentler Los Angeles is evoked in “Time Was,” a book of reminiscences by people 60 and older.
The contributors include Virginia Watson, who as a stage-struck child of 12 moved with her family from Indiana to Highland Park in 1934.
Reading recently from her story for a gathering of seniors at Angelus Plaza, she recalled taking the “W” streetcar to Broadway and the Orpheum Theater with two siblings in tow. For a quarter, a kid got a movie and a stage show:
”. . . When the lights dimmed and the curtains slid gracefully open, the magic began. A newsreel, maybe the March of Time, with the urgent voice of the announcer. I remember especially pictures of Hitler’s youth movement--thousands of healthy, young, blond boys in shorts performing feats of strength . . . accompanied by people shouting in unison, ‘Heil, Hitler!’
“Fragments of those newsreels stayed with me all during World War II. But at the time . . . we tolerated the newsreel while we waited patiently for the movie to start. Often the movie was with Dick Powell, my favorite, and had a lot of singing and dancing in it.
“What I remember most about the stage shows was the melodic theater organ . . . thundering, throbbing music pulsed through the cavernous theater. Delightful, tripping trills and funny little fast-fingered, light-hearted movements indicated a comic’s walk; a swooping thud for a pratfall; a swinging three-quarter beat as a waltzing couple glided across the stage. It put stardust in your eyes and melody in your mind. . . .
“All of us in the theater experienced the same emotion together--not in the least like watching a small television screen today in your own living room, alone. There was a lot of dancing, which we loved--soft shoe, tap and couples in silhouette, the woman’s dress floating romantically as they turned and dipped. There were dogs and seals, acrobats and singers, violinists, birds and jugglers. . . .
“We marveled, we gasped, we applauded. . . . You could stay and see the whole thing over, which we often did. . . . Out on the sidewalk in the cool night air we walked along the lighted street to the corner to wait for our noisy, yellow metal-wheeled chariot. We climbed aboard and sat, drowsy and swaying, clanging our way back into the . . . everyday life of the Great Depression.”