“Repeal Prop. 10 Meathead Tax.” The crude cardboard sign is fastened to the awning above Ben’s Smoke Shop, which usually advertises “Cigarettes From All Over The World.” Imagine the chagrin of Mike Mead, Ben’s second-generation owner, when he found that the guiding light behind Prop. 10--the initiative that imposes a 66-cent surtax on every dollar on a cigar and 50 cents on a pack of cigarettes to pay for early child-development programs--would be achieving pink terrazzo immortality only a spittoon’s distance from his front door.
“I actually called and asked if there was a way I could get a petition going to have his star not put there or to have it removed,” Mead, 30, says, placing a mammoth Dominican cigar in an ashtray. “But they said there’s no way.” He could, however, deny the use of his electrical outlet to amplify the heartfelt hosannas for this scourge of California smokers.
Rob Reiner, political victor and Walk of Fame inductee, is magnanimous. As for his star, “I don’t know if it will survive Hollywood’s oldest smoke shop. I just hope the people don’t take it out on my star. I went through the initiative process. I did it legally, so let’s . . . don’t get crazy.”
While Mead has limited himself to joining the petition drive to overturn Prop. 10, he admits that the thought of desecration, in the form of large droppings, if not jackhammers, did cross his mind. “We were going to get a horse or something,” he says. “But I don’t want to go to jail.”