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Sylvester Stallone: Movie Star, Private Cigar Smoker

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

In between the first two Rocky movies, Sylvester Stallone starred in F.I.S.T., which stands for the fictional Federation of Interstate Truckers union, and also alludes to the fighting in the movie. This was a rags-to-riches-to-rags story about a Cleveland factory worker, played by Stallone, who becomes a union boss only to fall because of ties to organized crime. Stallone had been a cigarette smoker for many years.

The Switch to Cigars

Stallone, born in 1946, had given up smoking cigarettes during the first Rocky, in 1976, seeing them as a health hazard and thinking “that cigarettes looked somewhat silly on adults.” During the filming of F.I.S.T. in 1977, Stallone found that cigars helped him get into the character of Johnny Kovak.

“[I]t seemed that the character should appropriately be smoking a cigar,” Stallone told Cigar Aficionado. “So I started, in 1977. I had a neophyte's approach to smoking, but I enjoyed it. It was very odd, but as soon as I had a cigar in my hand, it would catapult me much faster into the character's sensibility than without the cigar. I guess that's very odd. But it makes a cigar an unusual tool.”

The cigar in F.I.S.T. became part of Stallone’s character.

“A cigar does that because we've grown up seeing cigars as having a connotation of power or prestige, or at least the man who smokes them seems to be very glamorous and almost monolithic compared to a cigarette smoker. A guy who smokes a cigar seems to be a very confident human being. After that point, I went back to cigarettes once or twice and then I quit totally. Cleaned out my lungs for three years and then went back to smoking cigars intelligently, for lack of a better term, from a connoisseur's point of view.”

Stallone’s Favorite Cigars

Stallone, well-known as an art collector, has said many times that he favors cigars made by Arturo Fuente. In particular, Stallone really likes the Fuente Fuente Opus X, not only for their flavor.

“Well aesthetically, it's beautiful,” Stallone has said of the appearance of the Opus X. “I collect art, and quite often I'll look at a cigar and if it's blemished or the color isn't quite right or I see some fraying or the lines are not architectural, I'm turned off by it. This (the Opus X) seems to have everything.”

When he wants to smoke something a bit smaller, Stallone favors the Cuban Robusto Partagás Serie D. No. 4 or a Romeo y Julieta Cedros, a Lonsdale. Here too, Stallone is not quite smoking-the-band, but he does appreciate their artistic qualities.

“The old Partagás were fantastic. Really some great old bands. I wish they'd go back to that more often. That Art Nouveau and that kind of Gibson girl look; I guess it's Neo-Classicism.”

The Magic of a Cigar

Stallone has also waxed mystical about the qualities of a cigar. He appreciates them for their art, obviously, but also for how they can transport the smoker.

“I guess you could say that a good cigar is a magic carpet ride. It really transports you to another realm of consciousness where, when a cigar is good and the conversation is good, you are now into a heightened sense of awareness. You are as close as you can get to an altered state without drugs as possible, I believe. I believe that a good cigar, a glass of wine and a good conversation is as close to euphoria as you can get in a legal sense.”

Private Smoker

Unlike many of his cigar-loving contemporaries, Stallone is not generally seen smoking in public, or even in movies. Stallone is friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a co-star in The Expendables movie franchise, who relishes being seen with a cigar in movies and in real-life.

Stallone likes to smoke on the golf course, a game he obsesses about, though he says he doesn’t “bring the good stuff” there. He likes to light up after he’s played a hole especially well. Otherwise, Stallone considers smoking a cigar a “private affair,” something he looks forward to at the end of a day’s work.

“I will purposely deny myself several cigars during the day so that I look forward to that evening cigar with greater relish,” saying a bottle of wine or some Armagnac often accompanies the cigar. “I could never continually smoke -- I could but I wouldn't be as excited about that expectation at the end of the day or while playing golf. I know when I play golf -- golf for me is equated with cigars -- I look forward to smoking. Going to the golf course, I know I'm going to light up there. The smoking isn't going to bother anyone and I can have a good old time.”

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