Tuesday, July 5, 2011


By the tens of hundreds, we find the ivory colored little tips from Tiparillo cigars. Any trip to the beach, no matter what season, we'll find at least 10, often many more.

They arrived on the smoking scene in 1962 from the General Cigar Company "improved" with a plastic mouthpiece so the cigar doesn't get chewed up and nasty—however, the plastic tip is often chewed to a frazzle end. We try to imagine a lonely fisherman pacing the deck worrying that little bit of plastic. Or an artist sculpting a Nike of Samothrace. Or maybe Tiparillos are just used because they are easy- the plastic tip could be clenched in the teeth leaving the hands free for tying knots, setting hooks, etc. 

BUT, why are there so many?

Tiparillo's became most famous for the 1964 ad campaign "Should a Gentlemen Offer a Lady a Tiparello?" This was the peak of smoking culture and the dawn of the liberated woman. The ladies in the ads were hardly what we'd call liberated—they were always showing lots of cleavage. "Should a gentleman offer a Tiparillo to a violinist?"depicts a 20 year old blond in a nightgown open to the waist barely covering her nipples. Her long pink-polished fingernails holding a violin and bow would never be able to press strings to make a sound. The infantile oral fixation married to smoking, focused on her bountiful chest comes to us almost as a joke. But it represents a historical moment. The anonymous hand proffering the cigar is a cast toward additional oral fixation. 

There were scuba diver babes with unzipped wet suits. The dental hygienist, holding the mouth mirror like finger pondering, should I? So weird. The copy says "the dentist is a little late, hey, why didn't you have a toothache sooner?" More cleavage, more blond hair. Twin busty census takers had you seeing double. The ad with a naked librarian with a book held up to her breasts says, "Maybe she'll have to put the book down if you don't offer a light."

These days the Tiparillo is used to make blunts. The cigar skin is emptied of tobacco and filled with marijuana. The flavored paper of the menthol variety is a particular favorite. In San Francisco we see them littering the gutters on their way to sea. We are also starting to find the empty wrappers for flavored papers made from plasticised aluminum which will last forever. Now you can dispense with the tiparello altogether. 

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