'Mad Men' stars January Jones, Jon Hamm, John Slattery and others opened up about everything from how they found their characters to what’s really inside all those liquor glasses on set.
Who remembers what happened 17 months ago? No one! Jace Lacob re-watched Season 4 of Mad Men to remind you where we left Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Joan, and the rest of the characters.
Television, like advertising, is typically a swift-moving beast. But it’s been a staggering 17 months since Mad Men aired its last episode. At the time, no one could have predicted that it would be March 2012 before AMC aired the highly anticipated fifth season of Mad Men, which returns this Sunday evening with a sensational two-hour season premiere.
The reasons behind the delay are known far and wide, as protracted and very public contract renegotiations behind the scenes of Mad Men resulted in a longer than expected hiatus between seasons, and the show’s devoted audience is only too keen to catch up with the staffers of 1960s advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Strict embargoes on the content of the season premiere (“A Little Kiss”) prevent us from spilling too much about the long-awaited return, but creator Matthew Weiner will surely allow it to be described as gorgeous, provocative, and well worth the wait. Despite its, er, rest, Mad Men isn’t at all sluggish; in fact, Season 5 kicks off with an installment that propels the plot, the characters, and some of the show’s most important themes, amid a turbulent time of change that is personal, political, and social.
Given the lag between seasons, it’s only natural that you’ve forgotten the details about what happened during Season 4. Just who did Don (Jon Hamm) end up with at the end of the season: was it vivacious secretary Megan (Jessica Paré) or driven career woman Dr. Faye Miller (Cara Buono)? Why was Lane (Jared Harris) beaten by his severe father? What passed between Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Roger (John Slattery)? Who was Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller)? From Don and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) to Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Sally (Kiernan Shipka), get back up to speed on all of the players before the new season of Mad Men begins.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm)
Season 4 began with a question: "Who is Don Draper?" It was posed by an Ad Age reporter who was writing a story about Don and the success of nascent advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but Don was reluctant to speak about himself. Don adjusted to life as a bachelor, living in the West Village, and frequenting prostitutes. (He especially enjoyed being slapped around.) His post-divorce relationship with Betty was strained at best, and he also attempted to get back in the world of dating, going out several times with actress Bethany Van Nuys (Anna Camp).
En route to Acapulco for the holidays, Don made a stop in Los Angeles to visit Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton) and was stunned when he learned from her niece Stephanie (Caity Lotz) that Anna has cancer and only a few months to live. While he tried to talk to Anna about her condition, Don found that he couldn’t bring himself to do it and instead left, after signing his and her names (“Dick + Anna, ‘64”) on the wall. At work, Don met Dr. Faye Miller (Carla Buono), a freelance consultant doing market research for the agency who predicted that he will be married again in a year.
On the night of the office Christmas party, Don drunkenly slept with his secretary, Allison (Alexa Alemanni), and then refused to acknowledge their illicit affair. Allison then broke down during a market-research session and threw a brass cigarette dispenser at Don, quitting. She was replaced by Ida Blankenship (Randee Heller), a gruff and inept career assistant who had previously worked for Bert Cooper (Robert Morse). Don’s drinking habits took a nasty turn and he blacked out, waking up in bed with a different woman than the one he went to bed with, an entire day unaccounted for in his memory. He began to date Faye, while keeping their relationship a secret from their coworkers. Don was forced to introduce Faye to Sally when she turned up at the office. While Faye attempted to calm a tantrum-throwing Sally, she proved to be useless and Sally turned to receptionist Megan Calvet (Jessica Paré) for comfort.
Aug 16, 2009, 5:48 AM EDT—Want to read like Don Draper? Just follow The Daily Beast’s Ayn Rand–loving, Nazi-satirizing reading list.
Despite the booze, clothes, and midafternoon romps, knowledge on Mad Men isn’t exclusively carnal. Around the curves of the show’s hedonism is a different kind of sensibility, a more high-minded one: colleagues burn when copywriter Ken Cosgrove lands a story in The Atlantic (“Tapping a Maple on a Cold Vermont Morning”); Don Draper stumbles through New York, puzzling over Frank O’Hara’s 1957 Meditations in an Emergency.
Of course, this is Madison Avenue we’re talking about. Don’s reading tends to be as much about enrichment as enlightenment. If the ad man wants to know What Women Want, he picks up Rona Jaffe’s 1958 The Best of Everything. Faced with a similarly challenging conundrum, selling tourism to Israel (What Jews Want), he grabs Leon Uris’s Exodus.
As the third season of the AMC show premieres Sunday, The Daily Beast offers some advice on how to read like a Mad Man:
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
by Sloan Wilson (1955).
Gregory Peck starred in the film version released one year later. Comedian Jimmy Barrett piques Don by nicknaming him “the man in the gray flannel suit.”
The Organization Man
by William H. Whyte (1956).
The Black Swan of its day, Whyte’s book became the standard text on the workplace and its impact on American society. A writer at Fortune, Whyte profiled the same corporate heads that Sterling Cooper, the advertising firm of Mad Men, try to woo.
3.5 million viewers tuned in for two-hour premiere.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Mad Men’s fifth-season premiere received 3.5 million viewers on Sunday night, after a 17-month hiatus from the airwaves. That’s a 21 percent increase from the fourth-season premiere in 2010, which was the show’s previous all-time high. The critically acclaimed show had been delayed for more than a year because of a protracted renewal negotiation between the show’s creator Matthew Weiner, production company Lionsgate, and the channel that houses the show, AMC.
What was Don’s wife crooning? Before it was a seductive birthday song, ‘Zou Bisou Bisou’ was an early hit for a young ’60s muse, as well as a Sophia Loren movie tune. See its pop origins.
Along with youth, Don Draper’s new wife, Megan, apparently has a sharpened sense of seduction. When picking a siren song to perform for Draper’s 40th birthday during the season-five premiere of Mad Men, Megan passes over hits by American pop’s reigning songstresses in 1966—Nancy Sinatra, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield and the like—and instead chooses a flirty French tune written as a teen confection, Zou Bisou Bisou.
Of course, the song also speaks to Matt Weiner’s own powers of seduction, as the popular series’ writer continues to ensure that musical precision remains part of Mad Men’s allure.
But what, exactly, is Megan singing? And what are the song’s origins?
Roughly translated, “zou” is a casual exclamation and “bisou” is a sweet kiss—a peck on the cheek to say hello and goodbye. So the lyrics hash out to:
Oh! Kiss kiss / My God, they are sweet! / …Oh! Kiss kiss / the sound of kisses /…Oh! Kiss kiss /…That means, I confess / But yes, I love only you!
The original version was recorded by Gillian Hills, a Brigitte Bardot lookalike who found fame as a French yé-yé girl—one of a handful of young, female European singers who catapulted yé-yé music into an international movement, popular among teens during the era. (“Yé-yé” refers to exclamations of “yeah yeah!” during rock and roll. )
“Zou Bisou Bisou was a summer smash for a 16-year-old, my first record, the summer of 1960,” Hills, who still records music and also works a visual artist, told The Daily Beast in an email.
With the debut of the fifth season of Mad Men on Sunday night, and Newsweek’s special commemorative 1965 issue devoted to the AMC show on stands now, the cast sat down with The Daily Beast for an intimate series of videos. January Jones, Jon Hamm, John Slattery and others talked to Ramin Setoodeh about everything from how they found their characters to what’s really inside all those liquor glasses on set.
January Jones’ Bra Trick
A former model who turned to acting, Jones says she didn’t want to over prepare for her role as Betty Draper—she only read The Feminine Mystique and Revolutionary Road. In the video below, Jones talks about her first job playing Gwyneth Paltrow in a TV commercial, what she thinks of the Betty Barbie and how the series’ undergarments help prop up her character.
John Slattery: I Was Naked!
For his debut as an actor, John Slattery (who plays Roger Sterling) didn’t need a wardrobe department, because he appeared without any clothes on stage. For those of us unfortunate enough to miss it, he recalls that experience, as well as answers a very important question: do casting directors ever ask him to dye his white hair?
Jon Hamm on Groupies
Does Don Draper appeal more to men or to women? Hamm offers his theory on how both relate to Draper and explains why the show’s fans are drawn to him for different reasons.
Join modern-day Mad Men Lance Jensen, Lincoln Bjorkman, Tor Myhren, and David Lipman for a live chat during the first hour of the 'Mad Men' Season 5 premiere Sunday March 25, at 9 p.m. ET.
Hot on the heels of the release of Newsweek's highly anticipated 'Mad Men' issue, The Daily Beast's Brian Ries will play host to four well-regarded advertising executives—the modern Mad Men—for a live chat during the first hour of the show's Season 5 premiere. The chat will be embedded in the frame below, and readers are invited to take part. We'll kick things off Sunday March 25, at 9 p.m. ET. If you'd like to join the conversation on Twitter—we'll still feature your tweets in the chat—the hashtag is #MadMenChat.
At a time when we can tune out commercials with a quick click, one cutting-edge Ad Man is finding ways to dump the old system and sell motorcycles—without ads.
Jeff Rosenblum is drinking tea at Soho House, a private club in lower Manhattan, and explaining to me that most advertising doesn’t work, and that the entire advertising industry is stuck in the past and desperately needs to be blown up and reinvented—not exactly what I’d expected to hear from a guy who runs an advertising agency that counts Suzuki, Universal Theme Parks, Capital One, and General Mills among its clients.
Courtesy of Questus Partners
“Advertising hasn’t changed since the 1960s,” says Rosenblum, 40, the cofounder of a 50-person agency called Questus that specializes in digital media and just won an Agency of the Year award from iMedia, a publication that tracks the online marketing industry. “But we’re on the verge of a revolution. People are starting to realize that there are more effective ways to build a brand than through advertising.”
Rosenblum is so passionate about this that he’s even made a documentary film, The Naked Brand, in which he bashes his own industry. “My father looked at it and said, `So what’s your master plan here? Because it looks like you’re going to get hoisted with your own petard,’” Rosenblum says. But the son disagrees: he thinks the revolution is coming whether people like it or not, so he might as well become part of the destruction.
In his film, he argues that companies for decades have behaved abominably and then used advertising to cover up their behavior. The Internet, by giving consumers a voice, has rendered that strategy useless because consumers can now sink a brand with a blitz of online complaints. His advice to big brands: instead of pumping millions of dollars into advertising, why not invest that money into actually fixing your company? Don’t just say you’re great—actually try to be great. Once you’ve done that, you can use social media to spread the word.
In this brave new world, the role of advertising agencies would change as well. Instead of being a pack of well-paid liars, ad agencies would act more like consultants, helping companies figure out how to fix their businesses and improve their brand reputation based on actual accomplishments.
The problem is that most big agencies either can’t or won’t adapt to this way of thinking. They’re still cranking out 30-second spots and splattering banner ads on Web sites, even though it’s become clear that we’ve all become very good at tuning out those advertisements. The big ad agencies stick with their 50-year-old business model because they don’t know what else to do. As a result, Rosenblum says, the entire advertising industry, which is worth $150 billion in the U.S., $300 billion worldwide, is about to get blown to bits.
Rosenblum has always considered himself something of an outsider in the ad business. He cofounded Questus 12 years ago with Jordan Berg, a buddy from the University of Vermont. Neither one of them had any experience in advertising. Rosenblum was working in market research. Berg was an artist. “I think the fact that we didn’t have a background in advertising has been a huge advantage,” Rosenblum says.
Did they really smoke that much? A Newsweek secretary-turned-Washington correspondent says the on-screen sexism, drinking, and smoking capture the office culture of the early ’60s.
It’s a rainy morning in Los Angeles, and Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy in the television series Mad Men, is standing outside the stage door smoking. On the set the actors are restricted to herbal cigarettes, which is why she has ducked out for what she calls “the real thing.” I explain who I am (a reporter from Newsweek) and why I’m there (I started as a secretary), and she exclaims, “I am you!” Moss’s character, Peggy Olson, is a striving Norwegian-American Catholic girl from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (coincidentally my birthplace, too), who starts her career in 1960 as a secretary “straight out of Miss Something secretarial school,” she says. That was the path then for women, and as Mad Men enters its fifth season on AMC March 25, Peggy has gained recognition for her skills as a writer, rising from Don Draper’s secretary to his trusted No. 2 in the creative department at the fictional ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Her success is not without cost, as she puts her personal life on hold. Moss says a woman like Peggy “didn’t want to take men down and cause a ruckus; she loves writing, that’s all, and wanted a chance to do it.”
Women weren’t supposed to be openly ambitious in the ’60s. When I started at Newsweek As a secretary, I was thrilled to be where what I typed was interesting. I was the daughter of immigrants, my father had a deli, and my mother made the potato salad and rice pudding. It didn’t occur to me that I could be a reporter or a writer, but the frustrations that within the decade would produce a women’s movement were taking root at Newsweek.
The two days I spent hanging around the set of Mad Men were like entering a time capsule that took me back to that period in the ’60s, everything from the pencil skirts and stockings with garters to the electric typewriter that was the latest technology. Critics have assailed the way everybody on the show smokes, glorifying a nasty habit that carries significant health risks. But that’s the way it was then. The public high school I attended in Queens even let us out for a smoking break.
Luck Be a Lady: Mad Men accurately reflects the Madison Avenue advertising culture that created the Marlboro Man and had doctors offering testimonials about their favorite brand of cigarette. When Draper, the agency’s creative director and Mad Men’s protagonist, comes up with the tagline “It’s toasted” for Lucky Strike, he’s told that all brands are toasted. Without missing a beat he says, “Everybody else’s tobacco is poisonous. Lucky Strike’s is toasted.” The remark illustrates the central theme of Mad Men, the making and selling of the American Dream by Madison Avenue in the early ’60s—before civil rights, feminism, and antiwar protests forced a great awakening on the ruling class. The actors who play these retro characters are all too young to have experienced the ’60s and think of the era as “the good old days,” but that’s true only if you happen to have been born white and male and heterosexual.
Much of Mad Men revolves around Draper’s extramarital exploits, and the callous way he treats the women he beds, including his wife. But he isn’t exactly what he seems, and in some ways he is more respectful of women than any other character on the show because he is able to recognize and reward merit without having his manhood threatened. Peggy benefits the most, achieving professional status at a time when that was not commonplace for women, and yet she struggles with what she’s missing. “Should I have married? Should I be having babies? For a 26-year-old, the pressure of having children is very present,” Moss says of her character, who secretly gives up a baby after not even knowing she was pregnant. The biological clock had yet to be named, but it ticked loudly for 20-somethings then, and the more Peggy succeeds at work, the fewer options she believes she has in her personal life.
It’s hard for Joan, the siren queen of the secretarial pool, played by Christina Hendricks, to watch Peggy get ahead. Joan is the embodiment of what society has told her: a job is a step on the way to creating a family, a dating game until she meets the right person. Joan has a torrid office affair with a senior partner and doesn’t feel shame or guilt. She knows she’s a prize, and if she plays her cards right, who knows? She marries a doctor, but he’s not what he seems, and there is a scene where he rapes her. Date rape and marital rape were unheard of then, and Hendricks turned it into a teachable moment off the set when people would say, “When you sort of got raped?...” “What does that mean, ‘sort of?’?” she would reply. “Just because there wasn’t a knife to your throat?”
Eleanor Clift on martinis, late nights and being a working woman during the Mad Men era at Newsweek.
Tina Brown on This Special Issue
Welcome to Newsweek’s time machine. To celebrate the start of a fifth season of the TV show “Mad Men,” set in a Madison Avenue ad agency in the 1960s, we’ve retrofitted this issue to the restrained design style of those times.
The idea arose from a conversation with the show’s creator, Matt Weiner, who remarked that the buzzing content of the 1960s Newsweek was frequently the subtext of his show. The office psychodramas in “Mad Men” ran parallel with a serial melodrama in the news that Newsweek covered with panache: civil rights, women’s lib, the Kennedy assassinations, Vietnam, man on the moon—even the dominance of that new tech phenomenon the Xerox machine.
We invited the Hill Holliday ad agency in Boston to collaborate on our cover shoot, and its creative director, Lance Jensen, had a brain wave: wouldn’t it be eye-catching for our pages to reflect not just the editorial look of the ’60s but also the advertising idiom of the time? The concept caught fire, and soon creative directors from agencies all over were diving into their vaults to dust off visuals from old accounts like Spam, Tide, Dunkin Donuts, and Hush Puppies. Ad agencies like Brand Cottage, not around in those days, went retro just for kicks. I spent a happy hour before Christmas trawling through ancient footage at the BBDO agency that featured an on-camera office tour conducted by a voice of God. A snippet: “And here we are at the entrance of Madison Avenue’s thriving advertising agency with that requisite of all successful agencies, a very attractive receptionist” (zoom in on winsome blonde).
We were in luck for the writer of the “Mad Men” cover story. Who better than Eleanor Clift, our Washington politics maven, who also happens to be our only Newsweek staffer from the 1960s? She wasn’t a writer back then, of course: female writers at Newsweek were verboten until the 1970s, when editor Osborn Elliott was confronted by 46 angry women in a class-action suit led by attorney Eleanor Holmes Norton, whom Elliott described in his memoir as “highly articulate, tough, militant, black—and pregnant.” They won, and Norton went on to be a congresswoman. At that time Clift was a secretary-cum-researcher, married, as it happened, to a Madison Avenue exec. She wittily testifies to the accuracy of the long-lunch and ladies’-man existence of many of her macho co-workers (who referred to their female colleagues as “dollies”), and in a personal “eureka” moment comes to see that her own biography is not unlike that of Peggy, the “Mad Men” character who strives her way out of the typing pool.
*Prices adjusted for inflation
The content of this issue is new, and about today, but there are echoes aplenty from the past, all uncannily like the present. David Frum underlines the significance today of Romney’s 1968 campaign for the Republican nomination—Gov. George Romney, that is, Mitt’s dad. George was one of the East Coast liberals slaughtered by the right-wing assault on GOP moderates symbolized by the nomination of Barry Goldwater (“Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice”)—who was, in turn, slaughtered by Lyndon Johnson.
The iconic political commentator of the ’60s was the Cold Warrior Joseph Alsop, whom the KGB tried to compromise by photographing him having hotel sex with a young Russian male. Luck again: it happens that the brilliant actor John Lithgow plays Alsop in “The Columnist,” opening on Broadway in April. Today, writes Lithgow, the only media personality wielding a fraction of Alsop’s power is Rush Limbaugh.
Did they really smoke that much? A Newsweek secretary-turned-Washington correspondent says the on-screen sexism, drinking, and smoking capture the office culture of the early ’60s.
What was the inspiration for Newsweek's 1960s issue? In an interview airing at 11:35 p.m. on ABC, 'Nightline' goes behind the pages with editor-in-chief Tina Brown.
January Jones talks about her bra, John Slattery on whether he's been asked to dye his white hair, and more. Watch video.
'Mad Men' has wrapped up an intense season. See what books appeared on the show, and Sam Jacobs put together a suggested reading list.