When Kevin was invited by Matt Guss to be the Keynote Speaker at the 2015 Seattle Pipe Club Annual Dinner, he was truly honored. The Seattle Pipe Club is one of the largest in the country with 340 members. Kevin was so excited that he called me from the Chicago Pipe Show to tell me that we were going to Seattle in January.
January seemed a long way off from May at that time. In the meantime, I have since learned to smoke a pipe, by only the best of course, but am still considered a newbie at the hobby (I still have a hard time lighting a pipe and of course keeping it lit—kind of important). Kevin thought it would be fun to hear my version of The Seattle Pipe Club Annual Dinner and asked me to write this article. I plan to chronologically tell you about some of our Seattle experiences that led up to the main event and then provide my version of the day of the dinner in full detail.
On Wednesday, January 21st we flew out of Tampa via Detroit and landed in Seattle around 5:15. After collecting our luggage and our rental car we made our way downtown to our hotel, had a quick bite, a few drinks and collapsed in travel exhaustion.
Thursday morning we woke quite early, still on East coast time, and leisurely planned our day. Our friend, Jennifer, who has visited locals in Seattle, recommended a small breakfast place she said was named Citizen Kane. As I got ready, Kevin vigilantly searched for this restaurant. There was no Citizen Kane but he certainly learned a lot about the movie. Through some crafty sleuthing and a few text messages to Jennifer, we finally deduced that the restaurant was named just Citizen. The place was a total local hangout and the food was amazing!! We loved it! It was worth the effort.
Lori in front of Citizen
After breakfast we walked to the Seattle Space Needle to do the tourist thing. It was a normal misty and cold Seattle January day so the view was not as spectacular as on a sunny day, but breathtaking all the same.
Downtown Seattle from the Space Needle
We then ventured next door to the Chihuly Glass and Garden exhibit. I could gush on and on about this adventure, but suffice it to say, if you ever have the chance, it is so worth your time. We learned so much about this amazing artist and his works are sensational!
Next we took the monorail, just outside of the exhibit, over to The Pike Place Market. We watched the famous fish flying through the air and walked about a bit. We stumbled into a really cute French bistro named Maximillien and decided to have a quick bite and a couple of drinks. While we were there, I realized that in booking our dinner reservations, I had cancelled a reservation at this exact place in favor of another highly rated French restaurant. I am so glad we stumbled into Maximillien because the entire experience was superb from the drinks to the food to the service.
Entrance to Pike Place Market
We would shop here all of the time if we lived in Seattle
The famous throwing of the salmon caught in mid-air (circled in red).
Maximilien is an excellent French restaurant with a great water view at Pike Market.
Around 2:30 we made our way back to our room to practice Kevin’s presentation. This was the first time I had heard it and it was great. It was effortless for Kevin to talk about his baby, PipesMagazine.com. I made a few suggestions and we practiced again. I say "we" now because I was to be in charge of the A/V portion and needed to practice the cues for the slideshow and audio parts. After a few hours we started getting ready for our dinner.
We ate that night at a seafood restaurant called AQUA by El Gaucho. It was down at the waterfront. The atmosphere was lovely and Kevin had already preplanned what we were going to order — The Seafood Bacchanalia – A huge platter of King Crab, Lobster, Giant Prawns, Scallops and Swordfish. It was a decadent display and equally tasty.
The Seafood Bacchanalia at Aqua by El Gaucho
Friday morning was our last chance to be total tourists so I planned some great outings. First we had breakfast once again at Citizen. Yes, it is that good! I believe in those two breakfasts I managed to drink every one of the spiked coffee drinks on the menu.
Afterwards, I dragged Kevin on Seattle’s newest attraction, The Great Seattle Wheel — aka The Big Wheel. It is basically a Ferris Wheel, with closed in gondolas, located at the pier. I loved it and Kevin enjoyed it. The views were spectacular though we were still having another one of Seattle’s famous misty, cold January days.
The Great Seattle Wheel
We never go anywhere, or do anything, or have any fun. 😉
We then quickly made it over to our reserved tour, the famous "Ride The Ducks" land and water adventure. Yet another tour that Kevin so sweetly humored me by going. Our tour guide was hilarious! He was aptly named Ed Venture. Ed played hysterical songs as he guided us through downtown Seattle and into Lake Union on the land and sea vehicle which was our ride. He must have changed his hat thirty plus times to match either a silly joke or the music he was playing. We were absolutely freezing at the end, but both of us had a blast and were glad we went. After some food and drink we made our way back to our room for more practice.
Captain "Ed Venture".
Ride the Ducks is Historical and Hysterical
That evening we dined at my favorite restaurant of the trip, The Georgian. It was a massive elegant place, all white with huge, gorgeous chandeliers dripping from the ceiling. Our waiter said that the restaurant had been in operation for 90 years, yet he had only been there for 28 of them. The French food was scrumptious and the service just as superb.
The Georgian – a fine dining French restaurant located in the Fairmont Hotel.
The big day had finally arrived. Saturday morning we awoke early and ordered room service for breakfast. We practiced the presentation a couple of more times. Kevin felt ready and we were both excited to make our way to Fife, WA for the Seattle Pipe Club Dinner to be held at Smokey Joe’s Cigar Lounge. It is ironic that The Seattle Pipe Club has to hold their dinner thirty minutes out of the city of which they are named, to find a place that allows smoking in their establishment.
We arrived an hour and a half early to get everything set up and were immediately greeted with gusto by Matt and Jon Guss. Having never met them I was very impressed to be welcomed with such open arms.
(Left to Right) Sam Guss, Henry Guss, & Jon Guss
(Left to Right) Sam Guss, Matt Guss, & Henry Guss
After we had the audio visual equipment working to our satisfaction, we sat down in a lovely area surrounded by leather chairs and couches with a large table in the center that contained three new tobacco blends by the Club Master Blender, Joe Lankford. As a newbie, I did not have a clue which to choose, so I let Kevin guide me. The first one I tried was called Deception Pass. It was a northwest style Virginia Perique fusion with a bit of Turkish Orientals. I found it quite tasty. It had a bit of an apple tartness from the draw, which I enjoyed, that mixed into a smoky charcoal like flavor in the mouth. [Ed. note: To be released end-Feb via PipesAndCigars.com] The other two blends were named Pike Place – a Balkan mixture of Latakia, Turkish Orientals, Burleys and Perique. [Ed. note: To be released July 1 via PipesAndCigars.com]. The third new blend is named Potlatch. It contains Cavendish, Burley, Virginias, Latakia, Perique and Orientals. [Ed. note: To be released May1st via PipesAndCigars.com and at the Chicago Pipe Show.] I also tried Pike Place and found it less tart and more smoky flavored than Deception Pass. Kevin did not think I would like Pike Place, but I did very much.
Lori Brown, Kevin Godbee, and Sam Guss try the new Seattle Pipe Club Blends
At first I was very nervous to smoke with this group because I am horrible at lighting my pipe. When I say horrible, I mean I don’t believe before this day I ever did it properly by myself. I would end up blowing lit tobacco out of the pipe all over the place in my prior attempts. After observing some of the others, I noticed Jon Guss’s technique of drawing in the smoke and quickly letting it glide out of the side of his mouth several times. I tried this and voila, I had a lit pipe and didn’t burn anything or anyone in the process.
We met many interesting people from all over. A group of four had come from Vancouver and several that I met lived further out. It seemed that most of the members did not actually live in the city. It was enjoyable hearing everyone’s stories.
Kevin Godbee and Loral Pritche
Lori Brown and Gary Schrier
For the first hour and a half, beginning at noon, everyone mingled while hor d’oeuvres and cocktails were served. A silent auction, to benefit the club, was held during this time. I love silent auctions and I had my eyes set on several of the items. I have learned that the secret is to wait until the last second so as not to bid up the item too early. I fell in love with one particular pipe which ended up selling for more than I was willing to pay, however I did win a fantastic Xikar lighter and a handmade wooden three pipe stand.
After the closing of the silent auction, they hold what is called, The Lighting of the Clay Ceremony. Every attendee receives a clay pipe commemorating the year’s event. The ceremony itself was led by Gary B. Schrier, club co-founder and author of "Confessions of a Pipeman". I am not sure exactly what was said but we turned to the North, East, South and West (not sure in what order) and a proclamation was made as we smoked in each direction.
After the ceremony, dinner was served and an awards presentation was held.
Commemorative Clay Pipes for everyone were included.
And then finally it was time for the main event: Kevin’s Keynote Address. As Matt introduced him he hit the stage to the song "I Smoke a Pipe". He began his talk with a few tidbits of our adventures in Seattle and then moved right into the beginnings of Pipesmagazine.com. He talked about the beginning years and his vision to use Pipesmagazine.com to help grow and expand the pipe hobby. He explained how one opportunity, such as brokering the sale of Aaron Spelling’s pipe collection to SmokingPipes.com, in which he spent hours locked in a room with Brian Levine and Sykes Wilford, led to advertising revenue from SmokingPipes.com. He also spoke of the interview with Michael Gladis of the TV show Mad Men and how that led to an interview on NPR. We showed a clip of his Michael Gladis interview and an audio clip from NPR. All of these experiences and the creation of the radio show starring Brian Levine as host has led to the success of the website which garners more than 10,000 visitors daily. He spoke of Gary Schrier’s book and how his book made him think of making the website not just about pipes and tobacco in a bland way but to look beyond that and add some entertainment to the mix. And thus the creation of the cartoons, the caption contest and, of course, the Pipe Babes. He then took questions and answers of which there were many. Overall the presentation was a resounding success.
Kevin Godbee giving the Keynote Address at The Seattle Pipe Club Dinner
Watching the Mad Men Video Clip
Last but not least the Live Auction began. Always exciting. Kevin bid on and won a pipe still life oil painting of Smokey Joe’s that was donated by Seattle Pipe Club member George Bieda.
Painting by George Bieda won at auction by Kevin Godbee
Kevin Godbee & Jon Guss discuss their love of Dunhill Pipes
Master Blender Joe Lankford gives Kevin the lowdown on the new blends
What a great day! What great people! This being my first event of this kind, I left on a major high! I even said to Kevin that we should come back every year. I would like to give a big thank you to Matt Guss for extending the invitation and for hosting us at the event.
Matt sent a very nice email to Kevin after the dinner which said:
"Kevin it was sensational having you and Lori here. Honestly that was about the best presentation we’ve ever had in 14 years. Got many great comments/compliments! Thank you for making the trip and putting together such an entertaining and informative show. It was a pure pleasure having you."
Matt, I assure you, the pleasure was all ours!
Photos by Matt Guss, Lori Brown and Kevin Godbee
The Author, Smoking Her Pipe