Welcome to the Smoker Spotlight, where cigar smokers and their passions are the focus. This is a place for cigar smokers to be featured and share the passions and talents they practice along with the leaf. Meet the cigar smoker.


Smoker Spotlight: Behind The Visor

I am very excited to introduce Jaime Valentino of Behind The Visor Magazine to you on the Smoker Spotlight! Jaime is the creator of the online magazine “Behind The Visor”, is a writer, sportbike enthusiast, and fellow cigar smoker. I had the privilege of being featured in an interview on his online magazine, but more importantly have gotten to know a great friend who understands the importance of combining the passions we have in life. Meet Jaime Valentino:

Teresa (SHCC): When people hear the word “motorcycle” or “sportbike”, different opinions may come to mind. What does it mean to you and what is the first thought or memory that triggers in your mind?

Jaime: When I hear the word sportbike or motorcycle, the first word that comes to mind is freedom. There is a freedom to riding a motorcycle that people who don’t ride don’t understand. There are sensations you experience, a sharpening of the senses, a discipline of the mind that leads to relaxation. I love the fact that there are so many paradoxes to riding, such as discipline leading to relaxing.
Underneath the crazy, rebel exterior of a lot of bikers is the strongest mental strength of any people I have ever come across.

What inspired you to ride? What inspires you now?

When I was about ten years old, a neighborhood friend got a small 50 bike. I swear, it was held together with duct tape, nails, twigs, and the endless hope of ten year old boys doing their best to both get into and stay out of trouble. I took one look at it and said, I wanna ride. My friend taught me to shift and how to use the throttle. I went up and down his backyard and was hooked. I experienced the power of an engine…wind on my face…such focus (that discipline of the mind)….and freedom. From that point on-I knew that motorcycles would be a part of my life.

Now, I am still inspired by that inherent freedom. That same feeling from when I was ten. I try to recapture that moment every time. But, also I now feel the discipline that leads to relaxation has transformed me in many ways and shaped my views. I got caught up in the rat race like everyone else who trys to lead a good life. It never fit me. I am different and I know it. I always found myself fascinated by people who led lives based on experience rather than money. Whether they were famous or not. Motorcycles fit that completely. Riders dont ride for the money, safety, or because they have to. They ride for the experience. That inspires me now. Experience life.

How does your perspective from the road influence your perspective in other areas of life?

Riders see the road differently than regular riders. We have to take things into consideration someone on 4 wheels will never even think about. For instance, car drivers are sitting in traffic frustrated trying to ‘get to somewhere’ all the time. They sit cramped listening to talk radio or music or even worse texting or talking on the phone. They are imprisoned. If Im on my bike-the destination is secondary to the ride itself. I dont want to hear ‘news radio’. I want to hear the wind. I don’t want to feel cramped on a hot, poly-leather seat. I want to stretch forward and hug my body into the machine to fully feel the road.

That has helped me to maintain perspective in life. To not be so goal oriented I lose the joy of the journey. To concentrate on those things that are experiential and not valued solely by the price tag or brand. To slow down. Everyone is rushing all the time in all ways. To what?

How do you involve your passion for bikes with your passion of cigars?

Pleasure. Life is filled with difficulty and hardship. No one gets out alive or un-scarred. But, life is not meant to be defined by hardship or even work. Cigars are there for no other reason than to be enjoyed. They are an experience-the same as riding. I found that just as people who don’t ride don’t understand, people who don’t smoke cigars don’t understand the pleasure of enjoying this experience that is both solitary and social (just like riding). Just as bikers ride alone-they often ride with others. It is both solitary and a fraternity of sorts. Cigar smokers enjoy their cigar but usually in the presence of other smokers who also have a passion for them.

What is one of your favorite experiences involving bikes and cigars?

It was when a whole group of my friends rode to a local cigar shop. We were out in the parking lot with our bikes and our cigars. Helmets, motorcycles, gear, Arturo Fuente, Davidoff, and the sun. It was good conversation. Good company. Good cigars. I can’t tell you how many people passed us in the lot and told us how jealous they were of us. It was one of the moments you neither forget nor want to end. The smell of motorcycle engines mixed with cigar smoke in the gentlest of breezes. Nothing but our friendly banter and the occasional sound of motorcycle gear moving could be heard. I love that.

For someone who has never had a look into the sportbike community, or anything about sportbikes for that matter, how would you describe it or what would you want them to know?

I would tell them it’s probably not what they think. And that sportbikers in particular are a unique bunch. You may see someone zipping down the road and leaning hard into a turn and think-he or she is crazy. How could they do that? My response is, how could they not? Sportbikers know the risks-better than you. But, they still want to experience the ride.
I would also try to destroy the myth that sportbikers are uneducated risk-takers. Look at the Moto Chics. An all woman motorcycle club. Their president is a fashion design teacher in Manhattan. They have lawyers, teachers, artists, and consultants in their club alone. Their mission? To give women a safe place to meet and learn how to ride safely. To be educators and

Also, sportbikers are inclusive. If you can ride-you are one of us. Period. Bus driver or high powered attorney-it doesnt matter. Two wheels. One love. The same with cigar smokers. In the cigar environment-we don’t care what you do. If you enjoy cigars, we have a common bond. It is a great equalizer. Two common traits to sportbikes and cigars. We come from all walks of life. We don’t care what you do, only that we have a common bond.

Beyond sportbikes, you have an amazing way of sharing your perspective which is seen through your writing. You consider yourself a writer first- how has this role played throughout your life and especially now?

Thank you for that compliment.
It has defined me in so many ways. I am always thinking how to put what I am seeing in my mind, whether it’s a story or an article, onto “paper”. I try to not just experience something myself…I try to be an observer as well. So, I can share the story with my readers. It creates a dual experience in life. I do whatever-ride, smoke a cigar, enjoy a bottle of wine, or Tango. That is the experience. But, as I do that thing-I am taking in all of the experience as best I can…so I can relate it to my readers in such a way that they will feel they are there too. It has intensified many experiences in my life. I am very thankful to God for the gift of writing. I feel, for all the difficulty involved in writing, it is dwarfed by the joy of intense experiences and getting to see my readers “feel” as though they were there with me. I get to experience life a few times over…

Your blog “Behind The Visor” has grown into a magazine of its own- congratulations! What was the transition like from a blog into an online magazine and where do you see it growing from here?

Thank you!
It was 100% organic. I like that it grew of its own accord and in ways I never imagined. It started with me writing about nothing more than the things I found passion in and a different perspective of life. My readers, whom I love, really took to it and pushed its growth. As the blog grew, I realized it could no longer just be me yapping about how to make the perfect cup of coffee (although-I will still write about those things). When interviews with large names like B&E Protective Services (pro bodyguards who protect NFL stars like Keith Bullick and music stars like Jay Z) and pro woman sportbike stunter Mai-Lin of Germany, started coming in-I knew it was time to transition. And it was done with hard work and ease. No complaints from me.The magazine is going to expand-no longer just about J and his passions. I have other writers, whom I immensely respect, coming in to share their perspective as well. And we are going to expand on sportbike philosophy even more so. If you believe in and enjoy what you do-then all the hard work is worth it.

What is something about you that may surprise people?

My faith. All I am, everything I have-including my different view of life is a gift from the Lord. I know it-far more now than I ever have before in my life. And I am extremely grateful for all of it.

One last question- From your many travels, what has been one of the greatest finds? A book, a bike, a place, a friend- what is something that your passion has lead you to discover?

People. My greatest treasure has been the people I have been blessed to work with, interview, and spend time with. I am honored that God would bless me in such a way. There are so many, I would love to mention them all, but can’t. People like Moto Chics President Roberta Frey-who is a faithful and good friend. World singer and performer Montserrat Franco who is the definition of culture and class. Big E and Bo at B&E Protective Services who define working hard at what you do. Mai-Lin, who taught me that life is for the bold and all about experience. And you. If I had not had a passion for cigars and writing-you and I would never have crossed paths in any way. And I would have missed out on someone truly special.

This has been such a privilege! Thank you for giving us such a great perspective and for sharing your stories with us. Be sure to check out Behind the Visor: http://www.behindthevisor.net

Photography credit: Leftie Montes  (Times Square Red Steps shoot)


Smoker Spotlight: Strongman, Chris Rider

I am honored to introduce strongman, Chris Rider, as the first official featured cigar smoker of the Smoker Spotlight! This section is dedicated to those who have a strong appreciation of the leaf in their lifestyle. They are not “in the industry”, but they are a part of the community. It is time to turn the focus to the cigar smoker and the passions and talents that make them unique. Meet Chris Rider!

Name: Chris Rider
Occupation: Professional Strongman
Age: 34
Height: 6’04″
Weight: 295

Chris Rider is an internationally known Master Strongman. He became extensively involved in training and physical culture in the fall of 2000. After training in many disciplines such as powerlifting, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, martial arts and fitness, Chris discovered his ability to perform what is known as “Oldetime Strength Feats” which are centered around hand and lower arm strength.

Chris began training professionally in March of 2007 under the tutelage of Grandmaster Strongman Dennis Rogers. By June of 2008, Chris became one of the few strongmen to have items on display at the world-famous H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas- the largest collection of strength related items in the world. At this time Dennis Rogers declared Chris as “one of the strongest men on this planet” for the feats he performs.

A few of Chris’ major strength accomplishments are:
* Bent an 8″ adjustable wrench into an “S” shape – second of two men known to do this
* Tore a thumb sized notch from a mini deck of playing cards – first man known to do this
* Tore a thick phonebook and a license plate together at the same time – first man known to do this
* Bent a 3/8″ x 12″ steel spike at chest level – first man known to do this
* Towed a twin engine Baron Aircraft uphill while attached to his hair

Chris has demonstrated his strength feats throughout the United States as well as in Europe, for a wide array of venues.


Teresa (SHCC): How did you first get into cigars?

Chris: I had my first cigars in my late teens, a few of my role models would routinely enjoy a fine cigar and I decided to give them a try too. After many years away from the scene I was reintroduced in 2010 by one of my clients, now I am enjoying the relaxation of lighting up a fine cigar and the laid back atmosphere cigar lounges provide.

How did you discover you were a strong man?

In October of 2006 a friend of mine whom I worked with told me about a fellow he had seen tear a phonebook on TV. I told him I thought it sounded like a cool thing to be able to do and he asked me if I could do it too. Having never attempted doing this before I said I didn’t know if I could or not. With that I grabbed a phonebook off the shelf in the office and tore it in two the first time I tried. In disbelief of the accomplishment we began laughing thinking this had to be a fluke so I grabbed a second book, this time nearly two inches thick and went right through that book as well. From there I was hooked! I began trying my hand at all sorts of the oldetime strength feats I had heard of as a child from tearing decks of cards and license plates to breaking chains and baseball bats to bending spikes and twisting horseshoes, all with success on the initial attempts.

What was the reaction of your friends and family when you first discovered this talent?

Disbelief, lol! All of these things came very naturally to me and I could do them with relative ease from the very start. I would have friends and family try to do the things I was doing and much to my surprise no one was able to. Even well accomplished weight lifter friends of mine couldn’t perform these strength feats I was doing with minimal effort. This earned me a reputation locally of being a very strong man quite quickly.

I know we met through our mutual friend, Dennis Rogers. I would love to hear the story of how you two met!

After having a lot of fun with the feats for several months I began to research the strongmen of both past and present on the Internet. It seemed like everything I would look up spotlighted one person in particular – Dennis Rogers. After reading of Dennis’ accomplishments, including many standing world records, I decided to order his training products and train as a professional. Under his guidance my strength continued to soar and my accomplishment list grew. Notably, about four months after training with the principals he outlined, I was able to perform a feat that prior only Dennis had achieved – bending an eight inch adjustable wrench into an “S” shape by hand. This feat has yet to be replicated by anyone other than the two of us. I kept Dennis up to date on my training progress and accomplishments via email and phone before meeting in person at a performance he was doing in Virginia in September of 2007. The following day I bent another 8″ “S” wrench under his watchful eye and became a protege of his at that point. Since that time Dennis’ has declared me one of his top students, a Master Strongman, and “one of the strongest men on this planet” for the things I do. What started off as coaching in strength training has evolved into mentorship and us becoming great friends. To learn more about my mentor, Dennis Rogers, you can visit his web site at http://www.88pounds.com .

Do you find other strong men in the community also appreciate cigars?

I have found that the cigar crowd is deeply diversified. There certainly are other strongmen who enjoy relaxing with a fine cigar but as a whole it is up to the individual and their preferences. I have made many friends with a wide range of occupations in my local lounge, the Union Cigar Club in Gettysburg PA.

Do you have a favorite cigar or style of cigar? If so, which cigar or style and ring gauge?

I have gravitated toward Maduro wrapped cigars with a ring gauge of 48 to 52 with a medium to full body.

Is there anything you would like to see happen in the cigar industry? Either in the cigars or in the community?

For someone to develop a good ventilation system that is not overly loud or leaves the lounge frigid.

What made the transition of incorporating your strong man talents with wine and art?

One of the great oldetime feats is known as “scroll work”. With scrolling, the strongman takes a long length of steel, typically in excess of 4′, and creates a decorative and artistic design. Fellows such as Siegmund Breitbart, Alexander Zass, Slim the Hammerman Farman, and The Mighty Atom have been of great influence to me for the designs they created. They would perform a signature scroll as part of their show repertoire. I have a few designs I came up with to do in this capacity as well, but I really enjoy creating unique, one of a kind art pieces using 20′ lengths of steel. After creating several abstract designs and developing a following for my art, I was commissioned to create a wine bottle holder for local executive. I enjoyed the challenge of sculpting the steel, all by hand with no heat or tools, into functional artwork. Since that initial piece I have come out with a wine rack series that has grown to include not only the original scrollwork sculptures but a limited edition print series showcasing my designs as well. It is great for me to have an outlet to combine my strength and creativity.

What was it like bringing your pieces into the cigar shop- that must have been wonderful!

I enjoyed a wonderful reception at the Cigar Inn on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. The owners and clientele expressed great interest in my strongman demonstrations & artwork and as a result one of the owners, Bass Fakih, has put pieces of mine on display. I will be making an appearance on January 10, 2011 at the Cigar Inn, if you are in the NYC area be sure to stop by to say hi and have a fine cigar at an incredible lounge.

Your sculptures and prints are available online now, yes? Where can we view them?

Yes they are. You can view and purchase my artwork at http://www.handbentdesigns.com/gallery.html .

One last question, What do you consider to be an ideal relaxing day- what for you, does that involve?

A good days work, some steel bending, a hard workout, and finishing up with a fine cigar and good conversation with friends. In closing I’d like to thank you for the interest in my work and for the contributions you have made to the cigar industry.

This has been an absolute honor! Thank you, Chris, for being a part of this and sharing your talents with us!

Hand bent steel wine racks, sculptures and fine art produced by Professional Strongman Chris Rider.


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