Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Honey, 1963 is calling and they want their sofa back."

It's interesting. Somehow when we weren't looking, or at least I wasn't, we went from the 1980s with it's football player shoulders and chunky gold necklaces back in time to restrained, or is that repressed, pill box hats and stetsons. Well, at least our furniture has according to Crate and Barrel. Everything from the geometric shapes to the modern colors can be found in their catalog these days. Then there are the clothes that I keep seeing, most of which appear to have been inspired by Jackie Kennedy.

I am speaking of course of Mad Men Mania - that intellectual drama set in a fictitious advertising agency on Madison Ave in the early 1960s. I finally started watching the show a few months ago - just an episode or so at a time every few weeks until I received seasons 1 & 2 for the holidays. Then my sleepless nights were filled with Don Draper, rather Dick what's-his-name, and his seemingly endless stream of willing ladies. There they were, filling their lungs with smoke like the Marlboro Man, eating spaghetti sauce from a jar and pouring gin and tonics in the office. And never telling anyone, not even those closest to them, who they really were.

And now, close to 50 years later, we are dreaming of the era in such detail that our furniture is sliding back through the wormhole to catch a little of what they had.

Don't get me wrong. I'm watching the show as well. I just received Season 3 and am starting to watch it. The shows are somewhat like a good book. Full of characters you want to know more about, story lines that entice leaving you with the feeling that you were just a voyeur for a few moments and now would like even more than just a taste. Don Draper is the true antihero - a man who is an identity thief, has committed fraud, went AWOL from the US Army during a war, married one woman, sleeps with scores of others and isn't above blackmail. Yep, exactly who I would want being the "face" of my company...NOT!

I can't say that I am surprised. Little known fact about me - I wanted to be in advertising. No, really. I did. I have a file filled with sample ads I created over a period of about 10 years. My sketches aren't that great, but my copy is pretty good. I storyboarded all of them and even shared them with the companies I was creating them for, I worked for them at the time. My interest was so keen I actually had an informational interview on Mad Ave. soon after graduating college. But the reason I am not in advertising has nothing to do with whether or not I could hack the vultures of Madison Avenue. It was whether or not I wanted to and the answer was no.

The gentleman who was kind enough to have me come in to sit in on a meeting with Nabisco and answer all my questions afterwards had a limp. Worse than that, really - he had a brace, or an artificial leg, I wasn't sure which. I had no issue with it, I modified my walking pattern so I could match his stride. His co-workers were a different story. Of course Mad Ave has a frenzied pace. Like the Internet a few years later, the corridors of this particular office were filled with scrappy creative types who knew the person standing next to them was their competition. At one moment while we were passing by a hallway intersection, someone stuck their leg out and my guide fell, flat on his face. Rather than walk around him or even, heaven forbid, offer to help him stand those wonderful men and women who graced the halls at this advertising company went out of their way to step over his body as you would a pile of trash in the street. It was incredibly symbolic and made me realize just how much I didn't want to be in advertising.

So, as I watch the anti-heros and all their foibles, I enjoy their stories. But I am still perplexed as to how these people who's lives are filled with scandal as they manipulate what we want to eat, drink, wear and drive on a daily basis have been able to, as a fictional show, determine what we want to have in our homes as well. Last time I checked, the 1960s were filled with strife and were a time of utter change. Yet we are seeming to romanticize this period, and these people - none of whom I am able to relate to - so much so that it is no longer necessary to go to an expensive furniture store or to Good Will to find a sofa ala 1963.

It's an interesting phenomenon. And I am not saying I am not a part of it - I am. But I don't see myself running out to buy the furniture because Don Draper or Pete Campbell sat on it. No, if I buy that furniture it will be because my house, which was built in the 1960s, calls for it.

Anyone want a gin and tonic?

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