About a year ago it came to my attention that Danny Bonaduce enjoys the occasional cigar. Most recently Danny has been the morning radio personality on Philadelphia’s 94 WYSP, but has had a storied career in television (Partridge Family, Breaking Bonaduce), professional wrestling and boxing. His 2002 autobiography, “” was a New York Times best seller and is quite a good read. Earlier this week, Danny was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his day and speak to me about cigars and life and was very easy to talk to. He has some interesting insights on cigars and life. I recorded our conversation and transcribed it verbatim.
I asked if I could record our conversation and Danny responded:
You’re much better off with the pace I talk. Until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I can’t turn off the show pace. I speak a thousand miles an hour.
In the course of explaining who I am and what I do, Danny got a head start on the interview:
Interestingly enough, I was out in Reading last night…Reading, Pennsylvania. There’s a place called Landis Corvette and they’re a sponsor of my radio show, and the commercial says “Hi, this is Jimmy Deo, retired wrestler” and I told them “You know, one of these days you should put a wrestling ring in your parking lot and I’ll wrestle you, it’ll be fun” …because I did all that stuff with Hulk Hogan. I ended up doing it last night and got seven stitches to the head, it was a little rough. He just started his own cigar company. I mean literally, he was debuting them last night at the wrestling match.
Interesting…..so did you smoke any?
No, not before the match, but I have one right here. I usually have them with a drink, so I won’t get to it until later in the day. So I can’t tell you if they are good or not, but he seemed incredibly proud of them.
That is a cool coincidence, because Reading isn’t that far away, it’s right up the road.
Oh, you could actually go try one of ’em man, ’cause he started, like, a club and stuff. I mean, I’d never heard of it before last night, so I was getting the run down while I was getting ready to wrestle. He used to be a pro for years and years and years and just because I’ve been on TV wrestling with Hulk Hogan for 8 or 9 weeks that’s all the wrestling I know, so I was like, scared. He was talking about his cigars and stuff and I’m going “wait, wait, wait, what happens after you hit me in the head with a trashcan?”
Are you still smoking a cigar every now and then?
Yeah. Every now and again. But, you know what? Cigars to me are, well, to be honest with you, more significant because I, not that I don’t acknowledge Christmas as a, ah….I was born Roman Catholic, so I acknowledge it as a holiday, I don’t get all crazy about it but I give gifts and stuff like that, but birthdays and Christmas in my own house, not for my kids, or friends, or something like that, I don’t really acknowledge because I was homeless for 2 full years after the Partridge Family and made it back again, so I don’t play the lottery, I don’t buy myself presents on my birthday or Christmas. It’s like, I got all the presents, like, I can go buy anything I want any time I want. These days mean nothing to me because it’s a “special Tuesday”. So, cigars are kind of like that to me, except that I do acknowledge them, but it has to be ‘a very special Tuesday’. There has to me a reason for me to sit down with a brandy or a cognac and smoke a cigar. I just don’t do it in the house for no good reason. There has to be…either I did a personal good job and I’m not celebrating with anyone, or it’s me and a bunch of guys in a cigar club. But, both things are once or twice a year. Cigars are significant to me.
Are there certain cigars you’ve really enjoyed?
You know, in most of the world we don’t….I don’t know how many people are aware of this, but you can go to Cuba, you just can’t spend American money there. We don’t boycott the island; we just aren’t allowed to spend money there. So we go to Mexico, Canada, England or anywhere you can get , you know, Cubanos no problem, which are always good, but, for the most part, I am given cigars, and somebody says that “You’re going to love this”, and I don’t know what particular brand they are. Usually, to my surprise, because often I like a good drink with my cigar, they are often wrong about the drink, but they’re almost always right about the cigar. I’ve never had a cigar from a person who said “You’re going to love this” and not thought, at least, “This is very good”. But the drink they told me to go with it is often a huge miss. It’s funny that people are more accurate about their tobacco than their alcohol.
Taste is so subjective….
It’s completely subjective, but when you come to something as strong as an 80% or an 80 proof spirit, that’s not subjective that’s hit you in the head and if it hits you in the head improperly you notice.
With the cigars, and I have a fairly good palate for both, I would notice a poorly crafted cigar. You could notice it by the way it falls apart…you can notice it by the way it continually goes out or continually stays lit, depending on where you are and how often you’re puffing on it. There’s a lot of significant “tells”, for lack of a better word, with a good cigar. Where, if you don’t like the taste of a drink, that’s that.
Honestly, who’s going to come up to you and give you a cigar and say “Hey, this sucks, your going to hate it”?
Actually, nobody, but there are people, like I said, they’ve been mostly right with cigars, but there are people who, because of my reputation or what people think about me, often recommend to me a recreational past-time of some kind and say “You’re going to love this” and I hate it. People think “Let’s go out and get into a bar fight or take a bunch of drugs.” Things I wouldn’t ever do. I did them when I was in my 20s, but they made the papers. People are going to think being impolite to your wait-staff is cool. You know, I use to be a bartender. There are a lot of things that people think are cool that I do not. But mostly, it’s surprising, and I don’t think I would have even taken notice of this had you not been on the phone, but it’s surprising to me how accurate people are about their cigars. People are mostly inaccurate about everything. If they weren’t I wouldn’t have a radio show to disagree with everything. That’s what I do basically.
What do think is easier to get: Drugs or Cubans?
Drugs. I wanted to answer honestly. In Philadelphia, I’d say drugs by far but that’s only because I never took drugs in my adult life in LA , I’d have told you, no, I’d still have told you drugs, absolutely. I would think anywhere in the US if your a guy who dresses like I do and knows where the neighborhood is, you can get drugs in 5 minutes. I don’t know where they keep, you know, contraband, in the sense of, you’re smuggling in a substance that’s legal everywhere but here. You know, there’s guys in suits and ties doing that stuff, and there’s guys with leather jackets and gloves with spikes on them selling drugs, so I’d pull over to the guy with the gloves and the spikes and go “Whattaya got?” and I’ll get whatever I want. To find a good Cuban cigar, you gotta know where the rich people hang and the rich people are actually still scared…can you believe there are people actually scared of getting arrested for having a Cuban cigar?
There was an advertiser in LA on my radio station of a cigar club and they had like a secret room that you had to know them for years and then they’d break out with the Cubans but they’d clip any band off it, it was very weird. I believe there’s a ton of things that are illegal that I could get you faster in any city in America than I could get you a good Cuban cigar.
What is your favorite place to smoke a cigar?
My favorite place to smoke a cigar? I will give you specifics on this, my friend. On a leather green recliner, that should be red, but they didn’t have any, that are called library chairs, in my library, next to the fireplace, with a glass of something. I’ll say cognac just to be cool, but I’m a much bigger fan of vodka, but I would say they don’t go together as well, but I’m sure they do, I just do that to myself because cigars, like I said, are a celebration, something really happened. Some special guest will come on my radio show and before they hung up the phone instead of me thanking them they said “That was the best interview ever Danny, thank you for not caring about this thing and really…that was great Danny.” I’ll come home and go, “Tom Hanks could not have been more pleased with being on my show today.” That would be an event to smoke a cigar. Winning a boxing match, absolutely, first thing I do after a fight. First thing I do is smoke a cigar. And that’s usually without a drink because I’m in a place that doesn’t serve any kind of alcohol for the most part.
How do you feel about smoking bans?
I think they’re perfectly reasonable, especially here in Philly. In Los Angeles, you know, I was born here in Philadelphia, but I lived for 30 years in Los Angeles, and during that time they put the smoking ban in and there were a couple of restaurants that were grandfathered in because they had an extension where parts of the roof would open, so you could smoke. I wrote my entire book at a bar called Mirabela, I think. I wrote it in a bar, in long hand, and then would dictate it when I got home. But I’d write it while smoking and drinking at Mirabelas. So, I have never boycotted a bar, but I just quit a month ago, a 3 pack a day cigarette habit, but I’ve lived in Chicago in the winter, and the fact of the matter is this is another reason that cigars are a celebration. You don’t go outside in the freezing rain or snow to get a couple hits off your cigar. You don’t do that. You recline, you relax. In my estimation of life, somebody is peeling grapes for you while you’re drinking and smoking your cigar. It’s a moment in time, it’s not a rush outside, get your fix and get inside. I can wait a month, I can go, OK, I’m fighting this guy, or I’m doing this thing or I’m racing this car, and if I win, I happen to be looking at a picture of me winning a race right now, that’s what made me think of it because I don’t really race cars but I just happen to have won once. I will go home and smoke a cigar because it’s called for. That’s the thing about me and cigars. I’m not a casual smoker; my cigar must be called for.
Here’s a question since you brought up quitting cigarettes, are you afraid smoking a cigar will lead you back to cigarettes?
I think in a way, if they’re serious smokers such as I, the fact of the matter is they will. I will take the most gnarly cigar of any kind and pretend I’m not going to inhale it, and inhale it. I think, if you want to quit smoking and your a serious smoker, I think a guy that smokes half a pack a day, first of all, I have no respect for that guy, that guy shouldn’t smoke, he’s not addicted, he shouldn’t even smoke, they’re bad for you. At my point, 30 years of 3 packs a day, I got the shakes when I quit, I went to a doctor. “I can’t shake like this at work. People are going to think something. You have to help me here.” That’s a lot of nicotine, 90 cigarettes a day…wait, 20, 40, 60 cigarettes a day, I’m sorry. You know if you would describe me, they’d say: he’ll be on the corner, he’ll be smoking a cigarette, and he has red hair. The first thing you would say about me is he has a cigarette in his hand. So a guy that smokes that much will immediately inhale cigars. If you were to move from cigarettes to cigars and not continue to damage your lungs and/or throat I’d give it 3 months minimum. Because the joys of a cigar, you know, they’re had in your mouth not in your lungs.
If you could smoke a cigar with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Alright, history is like my favorite thing, man. Your going to have to give me a second…Off the bat I’m going with Thomas Jefferson, but I also might go with Voltaire, but there’s a….OK…no, I’m going with Socrates. Yeah, I’m going to go with Socrates. Because cigars do go out because they don’t have the chemical enhancement that cigarettes do and with a good cigar, with the right cigar, I am going to spend a day in the company of Socrates, and I don’t think you’d come out the same. A good cigar and Socrates… I think therefore I am…I smoke therefore it’s pleasurable. It’d be a nice day. Fuck, I’m really smart. <Laugh>
That’s a great answer. The first two were no slouches….but Socrates is a good one. Jefferson, Voltaire, yeah….
You know what? It’s funny because I often attribute a quote from Voltaire to Jefferson. Jefferson, is, I think, one of the greatest Presidents, obviously, of all time. Most Americans would give you Abraham Lincoln, which I will happily agree with, but, as a matter of fact, a manic depressive, but was known to smoke cigars. But, I found the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson…I mean…I live 4 blocks from the Declaration of Independence…and when you see it holding up, no matter what trials and tribulations hit it, it covers them 200 years later. It covers the FDA, it covers flight, it covers airspace. I mean, how is it possible for a man to have been so ahead of his time? With the tiniest bit of tweaking by mortals a 200 year old document is still exactly appropriate for today. Also, he invented the lazy susan for books and anybody who can read 4 books at a time I’m a fan of.
I think he grew tobacco too.
He did. And probably had it picked by Sally Hemings. <laugh>
Well, that about exhausts my questions for you…
Imagine….I’m getting married next week, the second I hang up with you; I’m going to go tell her something I think is really clever, and badger her like this! Believe me; I am aware that I am exhausting.
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding, and thanks to your fiancé and my wife for setting this whole thing up.
<laugh> So you’re the same guy as me?! We wouldn’t be talking if it weren’t for chicks….Cool! …Gives us time for manly stuff!
Danny can be heard every morning in Philly from on 94 WYSP from 5:30 to 9 and has his own website: http://dannybonaduce.net/ . Drop him a congratulatory e-mail fro his upcoming nuptials and mention you read about it here!
That’s about it for this installment. Until the next time,