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Cigar club goes up in smoke

DOWNTOWN - It was a feast for kings where the fairer sex and anti-tobacco types would hesitate to enter.

Men. Meat. Scotch on the rocks. And yes, clouds of cigar smoke filling a back room of Morton's Steak House on Monday evening when more than 20 "Men being Men" came together for one last hearty stoke on a stogie in public - lawfully - in the state of Ohio.

Smokers have until 12:01 a.m. Thursday to light up in bars, restaurants and virtually all businesses within the state. After that, the statewide ban on indoor smoking goes into effect.

Monday's gathering was a chance to celebrate the end of a long romance of smoking cigars and cigarettes in Cincinnati clubs.

"We've had many great evenings," said Harry "The World's Finest Smoke-Ring Blower," Garrison. Garrison, of Westwood, began perfecting his craft when he was 18. He was so good, the now 71-year-old did his shtick on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" 26 years ago.

As Garrison and the other "Men being Men" puffed away, rapturous reveries rolled off their tongues as they spoke of their world journeys, momentous events and of course, the cigars that made them memorable:

The diminutive Dominican cigars, the heavenly Havanas, the nirvana from a Nicaraguan - will always hold a place in their hearts and gatherings, which come Thursday will likely be across the river or in their homes.

As Garrison spoke of old Communist Budapest and the bargains for Cuban cigars back in the day, Jack Johnston of Madeira rushed up to the table.

"We've decided that Men must be Men again !" he declared.

"We're mad as hell," rallied Scott Carter of the West Side.

Whether it was the intoxication of sweet smoke fumes, malt liquor or an excess of testosterone, many of the men vowed to have the smoking ban repealed.

But work on that, they quietly conceded, would have to begin another day. Monday's feast of kings, which many said could only be bested by yachts on the deep blue sea and a few fishing poles - and of course cigars - was more about, to put it simply, Men being Men.

"Good drink. Good food. Good stories. Reminiscing. And yes, cigars," said Carter.

Source: Cincinnati Enquirer