On the surface, everyone looks great. They have fine suits and slick cars and tight haircuts. They are masters of their industry and serious people. The slightest ding chips the paint, though, and we see that there are serious fissures beneath. It could all crumble at a moment’s notice, and the dust will run through Don Draper’s hands.
We all deserve a little fun before the disaster, though, and Peggy Olson is having hers. After a day at Jones Beach, Peggy and the gang pile into Joyce’s car for the drive back into the city. Peggy ends up on the lap of — who else?? — Abe, who is more than happy to accommodate. After a bumpy ride with a gal on your lap, what’s a guy to do but follow her up to her apartment for a quick roll in the sack? And who can blame these kids? It’s 1965 and shit is about to hit the fan. Better make good on the positive energy that friction produces before it gets too hot for everyone and the real sparks start to fly.
Behind every good man is a better woman. It’s true of all men and especially true of “Mad Men.” The women incite and temper the men; they inspire and confound them. They are why we exist.
Don and Dr. Miller have fallen into a full-fledged affair with afternoon quickies, shared keys and everything. When she told Don a few episodes back that he’d be married within a year was she laying the foundation for herself to fill the role of the new Mrs. Draper? Her special skill is drawing information from people, often without the subject realizing it. Will she work that voodoo on our Man of Steel and to what end? Who cares, they’re knocking boots on a workday. God bless ’em!
Every decade marks a changing of the guard. The previous generation finally reaches the peak and holds on for dear life as the upstarts claw and climb their way up and over, usually ignoring how their predecessors carved a path. It’s a maddening exercise for all parties as the old guys aren’t ready to pack it in, which infuriates the youngsters. And yet this ritual is as unavoidable as that in which the sun and moon partake every day.
When a young Cassius Clay won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics he was nothing more than a talented fighter with a flair for dramatics. Nobody knew then that he would revolutionize boxing and stand as a figure for a new kind of politics, a new kind of pride, a new kind of attitude … nobody knew he would be The Greatest and use that stature to change the way people thought about race, the war, and justice. No, in 1965 the newly renamed Muhammad Ali was an upstart who taunted and teased his way into a fight against “the unbeatable” Sonny Liston.
I often have the same thought when watching war films, especially those that strive to make the horror of war as realistic as possible: How does anyone return from that and conduct a normal life? I’m often reminded of when I went to see The Memphis Belle with my grandfather, himself a retired Air Force man who was a B-17 turret gunner over North Africa. He told me how hard one scene in particular was for him to watch. The squadron encountered German fighter planes and the crew of the Belle watched as planes around them were cut in half by flak, machine gun bullets and crashing German planes that refused to go down alone. These were bombers that carried their friends. My grandpa lived through the exact same experience and saw that very thing happen to his friends. And yet, somehow he was able to go on with his life. It couldn’t have been easy and it certainly isn’t easy for Roger Sterling.
It’s March 1965 and the Japanese surrender is nearly 20 years in the past but for Roger the war is still too close, still too vivid and still too painful for him to simply shake hands and do business with people he was trained to kill and who so many of his friends died fighting. Life goes on and business is part of life but when Pete arranges a meeting with Honda motorcycle company, a company looking to expand to automobiles in the very near future, Roger is simply not ready.
It was a pivotal year, 1965. The initial shock and euphoria of the Beatles landing on our shores hadn’t yet faded but we were all getting used to basking in it. Our year of mourning over the Kennedy assassination was officially over even if the ramifications of that deep, deep wound were yet to be fully realized. It was a point when people of a certain generation had to make choices and had to decide who they were, where they were going, and what they stood for. It was also when the first cracks of the generation gap were truly being felt, and it was more than just in musical tastes. One generation was struggling to define itself while another was struggling just to get a foothold before the whole shithouse went up in flames.
Because I am in marketing and advertising, I love the scenes that involve the business of being a Mad Man…er, that is…an ad man. Don and Roger are caught on an excruciating call with their top client, Lucky Strike’s Lee Garner Jr., and trying like hell to get off the phone. But this is what you do when the majority of your business is with one client: you treat him like the king he is. Lee knows his importance to Sterling Cooper Price & Draper and is probably calling them on a daily basis to cry about the latest tobacco legislation or advertising restrictions on “sin” products. Agencies are more than service providers for clients, they’re often whipping boys, psychiatrists, and shoulders to cry on. Client services are rarely limited to what’s on your rate card.
Don Draper is a problem solver. It’s what he does for a living and it’s how he’s defined himself as a human. It is how he described their roles as advertisers to Peggy when she was striving for more art than science in her work. For his clients, Draper applies his creative force to make ads that solve business problems. In his life, he’s applied his charm, powers of persuasion and financial wherewithal to everything from caring for senile family members to rearranging the living room furniture. For a man whose very identity is based on intricate lies that continually cause problems, Don Draper is an adroit problem solver.
Of course, there are some problems in life that have no cure and for people like Don that is crushing.
Don Draper‘s inspiration has finally been revealed! While working on this week’s Mad Men write up (it’s coming, I promise) I came across yet another fascinating clue related to the inspiration that brought us Don Draper. It’s something Mad Men fans and advertising knobheads like me debate and ruminate over as we sip Old Fashioneds and browse the vintage shops. Everyone from Draper Daniels to George Lois has been deemed the Draper model, but this newest entry might be my favorite: Darrin Stephens from Bewitched.
Steve D. caught Harry Crane’s suggestion that Don meet with Bill Asher in L.A, noting that Asher was “director & later producer of the old sitcom ‘Bewitched,’ which debuted in the fall of 1964. Asher was married to Elizabeth Montgomery, the show’s star. Darrin Stephens, the husband in the show, was a young Madison Ave. advertising executive at the ad agency of McMann & Tate. Darrin was in the ‘creative’ dept. & his boss was Larry Tate, slightly older than Darrin & silver-haired. Darrin was married to a beautiful blond. She was a witch. Hmmmm … any of this sound familiar?”
Now that is amazing cultural referencing within the plotline. God damn the Mad Men writers are good.
I love Christmas. I always have. I especially like pop music Christmas songs from the late-50s and early 60s. They sound so perfect, so happy, and so…well, jolly. But the best of the lot generally include a naughty wink and a nod or a touch of sadness at the thought of loved ones you won’t be seeing this year or ghosts of Christmases past. It is these songs that make up the soundtrack of Christmas 1964 at Sterling Cooper Price & Draper.
What better image of the ideal mid-century American Christmas than that of tree shopping with the family? There they are: Sally, Bobby, Betty and…Henry (AKA, New Daddy). And who should emerge from the shadows but poor, damaged Glen Bishop, the boy the whole neighborhood felt sad for as the product of [gasp!] DIVORCE. Now it’s Glen who’s dishing out the sympathy to young Sally, herself just recently entering this broken family world. Glen drops some wisdom on Sally to score the guilt gifts now before Betty and Henry start in on Family 2.0. Gotta hand it to him, the creepy little bastard is smart.
There was a scene sometime back where Don Draper is in an elevator with a woman and two dopes who are regaling in sexual conquests and fantasies about office girls. The woman is clearly uncomfortable with the conversation and Draper responds with a pointed but subtle gesture by telling one of the cads to remove his hat in the presence of a lady. He puts a fine point on it by removing the hat for him and shoving it into loud mouth’s chest. It was what Mad Men creator Matt Weiner described as an illustration of “the coarsening of America” that took place as a bi-product of the liberated 1960s. From the looks of season four’s premier, that coarsening has infected Mad Men itself.
Season Three ended shortly after the Kennedy assassination, putting it in late 1963. Given the fact that Don Draper is talking to an Advertising Age reporter about the crazy year his upstart agency has just had (culminating in what appears to be a ground breaking ad for Glo-Coat Floor Wax), we can guess that we’re somewhere in 1964 or so. That means it’s a Mod Mod Mod World and by the looks of the décor at the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s headquarters, Manhattan has gone Pop Art.
Proving that 2012 really does mark the end of the world, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner mentioned that he plans to close out the Emmy Award-winning drama (and GLONO obsession) before the lease on Roger Sterling’s Lincoln expires. This season, slated to kick off in July, is the series’ fourth leaving a scant two more seasons. Of course, we heard this talk with The Sopranos…and Scrubs…and any number of shows who overstayed their welcome, not to mention their creative juice.
The A.V. Club reports that Weiner told reporters at last week’s National Association Of Broadcasters that he could “not see writing or even continuing the series past a sixth season.” As much as I love the show, I agree with the A.V. Club’s assessment that it’s much better, from a story perspective, to have an end in sight. It will serve the story better to be driving toward something, rather than meandering aimlessly until some stuffed suit pulls the plug. And I do NOT want to see Draper in polyester. Joan at a key party…? That’s a Showtime spin-off.