Pipe Smoker: Aaron Spelling

You probably recognize the name Aaron Spelling, especially if you lived through any part of the '70s, '80s, or '90s when the television shows that he produced dominated prime time. His shows included The Mod Squad (1968-'73), Charlie's Angels ('76-'81), The Love Boat ('77-'86), Hart to Hart ('79-'84), Dynasty ('81-'89), Beverly Hills 90210 ('90-2000), and Charmed ('98-2006). There were more; a lot more; a list of his shows contains more entries than there are lines in this article. Spelling was an actor, writer, and most famously a producer. His success was enormous, as was his pipe collection, which numbered more than 600 pipes.

Spelling's start in the entertainment industry was as a writer, a field he became interested in from childhood. He was eight years old when he suffered a psychosomatic paralysis of his legs for a year, caused by the stress of unremitting anti-semitic bullying, and reading was his escape. He admired the works of Mark Twain and O. Henry, and was motivated to pursue a career writing fiction for the entertainment industry.

However, his first Hollywood job was as an actor in the noir film Vicki (1953), in which he played Harry Williams, a secondary character who was revealed as the murderer of Vicki. Spelling then had roles in Dragnet, I Love Lucy, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

S.T. Dupont Sandblasted Zulu (All pipes pictured are from Aaron Spelling's personal collection)

S.T. Dupont Sandblasted Zulu (All pipes pictured are from Aaron Spelling's personal collection)

He married actor Carolyn Jones in 1953, who may be most remembered for her Academy Award winning performance in The Bachelor Party (1957) and later as Morticia Addams in The Addams Family (1964-'66). She and Spelling divorced in 1964, and he married again in 1968; he and his second wife Candy were together until his death in 2006.

Writing and Pipes

Spelling accepted that his acting abilities were limited, and his shift to writing started in 1954 when he sold a script to an anthology show, Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theater, and he subsequently wrote scripts for Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre (1956–61), Playhouse 90 (1956–61), and Wagon Train (1957–65).

In his autobiography, Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life, (1996), Spelling mentions his pipe smoking in the early Hollywood years:

Whenever I looked at pictures of writers in Hollywood, they were always smoking a pipe. So I started pipe smoking when I moved here. I figured it helped make you a better writer. I also learned that smoking a pipe is the greatest crutch a writer has in the world. The producer asks you a story question, and you take your time, load your pipe, and light it. By the time you're finished, you've thought of an answer for him.... Pipe smoking didn't help me break into script writing. That all came from contacts.

He continued smoking pipes throughout his long career. In Stories from Candyland (2009), Candy Spelling mentions her husband's pipe smoking:

Aaron always had a pipe in his mouth, and his desk had pipe holders and pipe supplies we had collected from all over the world. The pipes were much more prominent even than his TV mogul trappings of scripts, notes, and head shots.

While working from 1956 to 1961 for the television series, Zane Grey Theater, he wrote 20 teleplays and began producing episodes, and he soon learned that he had a particular knack for being a producer.

A producer's job is mainly one of management, working with writers to develop a script, securing any rights necessary, and hiring the director and crew. The producer is responsible for keeping the production running within budget and on time, and coordinates the post-production work of editing, commissioning music, and marketing.

Early Productions

S.T. Dupont Sandblasted Apple with 14K Gold Band

S.T. Dupont Sandblasted Apple with 14K Gold Band

Soon after his tenure with Four Star Studio Productions, which produced Zane Grey Theater, he partnered with Danny Thomas in Thomas-Spelling Productions, which produced The Mod Squad (1968-'73) The show was a hit and the first of his big successes, and was about three reformed juvenile delinquents who became unarmed undercover detectives. It received six Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe nominations.

In 1965, he was awarded the Writers Guild of America Award, and in 1978 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His first Emmy was in 1989 for Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special for his television film Day One, about the Manhattan Project and the development of the atom bomb.

Spelling's second Emmy was for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, honoring And the Band Played On (1993), with themes revolving around HIV and AIDS, and he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1996. The number of shows he produced was staggering, and his work made a monumental impact on pop culture throughout his career.

Most of his shows were the soapiest of soap operas, all with some kind of twist and enormously popular. He made a substantial fortune and lived an opulent lifestyle, building and living in the largest home in Los Angeles, a mansion of 56,500 square feet with 143 rooms, including three rooms for gift wrapping, a 7,000 square foot master suite, a gym, a movie theater, a room for Candy's doll collection, a flower-cutting room, a barbershop, pool, tennis court, bowling alley, and four two-car garages.

Spelling's Estate

His wife Candy inherited the bulk of his estimated $600 million when he died in June of 2006 from complications following a stroke. His two children, daughter Tori (who starred in her father's show, Beverly Hills, 90210, and son Randy, each inherited only $800,000, which is a miniscule portion of their father's fortune and difficult to live on when after being raised with every luxury imaginable. Spelling changed his will only two months before his death. He had Alzheimer's Disease and reportedly thought that $800,000 was enough to last each of his children their lifetimes. The will had a "no contest" clause that would prohibit anyone contesting it from receiving any inheritance whatsoever. It was not contested.

Spelling also left his pipes behind. Candy Spelling mentions them in her book, Candy at Last (2014):

Aaron was a tobacco pipe smoker and had a collection of about six hundred Dunhill and Sasieni 4 Dot pipes. He amassed this collection because he would smoke each one only between twenty and thirty times and then was done with it. When he posed for portraits for the television network, he insisted on being photographed with his trusty pipe. I came to know more about pipes than I ever thought I would because of Aaron. I learned how much tobacco to put in them to break them in and the different kinds of mouthpieces available. Aaron preferred the fishtail because he liked to hold the pipe in his mouth when he was working.

There were also dozens of S.T. Dupont pipes in his collection, mostly gold-banded but many without accents. Spelling's estate reached out to Kevin Godbee of PipesMagazine.com. "They contacted me directly through their PR agent via the contact form on PipesMagazine.com," says Kevin. "I then asked for advice from Rick Newcombe and Frank Burla on how to handle it."

S.T. Dupont Sandblasted Canadian with 14K Gold Band

S.T. Dupont Sandblasted Canadian with 14K Gold Band

"Aaron Spelling's widow had hired a woman to handle the sale," says Rick. "She found PipesMagazine on the internet and contacted Kevin Godbee, who had just started his online magazine. He also had just read one of my pipe books, so he recommended that the two of them call me. It turns out the woman knew me from years before when she was representing a writer who wanted to be syndicated. She said she felt comfortable with whomever I recommended. I told her that Sykes Wilford was trustworthy and extremely competent."

During a marathon pipe cataloging and valuing session, Brian Levine, Kevin Godbee and Sykes Wilford cataloged the entire collection in a suite at Pheasant Run during the 2010 Chicago Pipe Show. The collection‚ minus four pipes that Kevin bought from the estate for himself‚ was sold in its entirety through Smokingpipes in 2011 and 2012. More information about the sale from Kevin's perspective may be found here on the PipesMagazine website.

Spelling's Pipes

"They were mainly Dunhills in Group 3 and 4 size," says Brian. "Mainly sandblasted, straight Canadians and long Billiards. There were very few bent pipes. Almost all were straight sandblasts from the '70s and '80s. There were no tampers or cleaners; I'm not sure he even cleaned them; they were all in good shape, not over smoked at all." That fits with Candy's Spelling's statement that her husband smoked his pipes only 20-30 times each before retiring them.

Brian speculates that Spelling probably bought pipes several at a time in the shapes he liked whenever his current rotation reached the stage when he no longer smoked them. The archives at Smokingpipes reveal mostly Canadians but with a few Zulus, Bulldogs, Lovats, saddle-bit Billiards, a few straight Apples, a couple of Operas, and some miscellaneous odds and ends. His preference was definitely for longer, straight pipes of elevated pedigree.

Spelling's influence in the entertainment industry was vast, and his effect on popular culture is felt throughout the industry to this day. Millions of people enjoyed and continue to enjoy his shows, finding escape and entertainment in his productions, while Spelling himself seems to have found not only a successful career but a profound enjoyment of his pipe smoking throughout his impressive life.

Dunhill Shell Briar

Dunhill Shell Briar

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Estate Pipes Famous Pipe Smokers


    • Saurasri Sen on June 12, 2021
    • Nice article and fabulous pipes! But which blends did Spelling enjoy most?

    • Chuck Stanion on June 12, 2021
    • @Saurasri Sen All I could find was a reference on the Kramer's Pipe & Tobacco website (https://www.kramerstobaccoshop.com/blends) in the description for Kramer's Extra Mild: "This special balanced combination of Cavendishes and Virginia tobaccos is ideal for a gentle, mild smoke - and has been enjoyed by Corey Allen, Jesse Lasky, Jr. and Aaron Spelling (and we just happen to be in 90210)." Spelling's autobiography and his wife Candy's two books both mention pipes, but do not identify blends.

    • Reginald Brackish on June 12, 2021
    • (Re: above.) Kramer's Extra Mild, for one.

    • Saurasri Sen on June 12, 2021
    • Thank you both Chuck & Reginald. And special thanks to Chuck Stanion for bringing out such enjoyable & enlightening articles.

    • ROBERT MOORE on June 13, 2021
    • Great article on an industry icon! Now, what tobacco did he put in those pipes??

    • Joseph Tousignant on June 13, 2021
    • If Candy Spelling was half the woman Aaron thought her to be when he married her, she should have given the children from his previous marriage at least $10 to $20 million each! Obviously Aaron was not fully competent to make such a drastic change in his will just a few months before his death at age 83. It would seem to me that Candy was the impetuous and driving force in such a decision made so soon before his death, in shutting them off from a fair inheritance,....a purely selfish move. The "no contest" clause that would prohibit anyone contesting it from receiving any inheritance whatsoever, is the kicker that tells me Candy was the instigator of the will change!Candy,..you REALLY can't take it with you. There are no U-Hauls behind a hearse!

    • Phil Wiggins on June 14, 2021
    • Beautiful Pipes Awesome A!!!

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