NYT's Michael Grynbuam got to smoke cigars with Republican mayoral hopeful in an extraordinary fundraiser in Queens Monday night and reports. “I haven’t smoked a cigar in I can’t tell you how long,” Mr. Lhota said before admitting his last celebratory smoke was on New Year’s Eve.
Elio Forcina, a lawyer who organized the event, introduced Mr. Lhota to an owner of the Habana Hut, adding that the proprietor, as a high school student, had once stuffed Andrew M. Cuomo, a classmate and the future governor, into a hallway locker. The owner vigorously shook his head. “It was my brother! Not me!”
“Your brother put Andrew Cuomo in a locker? Wow, wow. That’s great,” Mr. Lhota said, reaching for a cigar cutter.
Many of the attendees — almost all male — knew Mr. Lhota from his days as a deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration, where he was known to indulge in cigars and Scotch. It was a habit he picked up in college, at Georgetown, where his roommates preferred the Caribbean blend of Macanudo Hampton Courts.
George Frangoulis, who served with Mr. Lhota at City Hall in the 1990s, recalled many smoky Christmas dinners with Chianti, cigars and a seafood feast, with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mr. Lhota holding court. (Mr. Giuliani, he said, kept his cigars in a Tupperware container.)
Mr. Frangoulis said that Mr. Lhota often used cigars to put subordinates at ease, right before grilling them on a recent foul-up. “It was a communications device; he’d get everything out of you.”Like Mr. Lhota, Mr. Frangoulis said he has had to cut back. “I’m 52,” he explained. “I love my teeth.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich, who's a staunch supporter of Mr. Lhota, despite of the Queens county's backing of John Catsimatidis. “We’re behind Joe 1,000 percent,” Mr. Ulrich told the crowd. He then predicted that Mr. Lhota would easily best a rival, John A. Catsimatidis, in the primary. “These are very hard-working, middle-class people,” he said. “These are the voters who will put Joe over the top.”
“If you’re together with a bunch of friends and you’re smoking cigars and you’re having a drink, the most important component is the discussion and the talk and the revelry,” Mr. Lhota told Mr. Grynbaum as the evening drew to a close.