Mad Men and the City: The Gold Violin
Don and Bets share a happy moment at the Stork Club. Jimmy Barrett will ensure that the evening goes right into the "garbage."
New York landmarks figure prominently in key plot twists during Sunday night's important episode of "Mad Men." Jimmy Barrett, content to "Grin and Barrett" no more, calls Don "garbage" for carrying on with his wife, Bobbie. The showdown happens during a party at the Stork Club. Roger Sterling, impressed with "New Girl" secretary Jane Siegel's snug pink sweater, asks where she got it -- so that he can make ensure his daughter never buys it. (She bought it S. Klein's on the Square, in Union Square, of course.) And Jane, all of 20 years old, proves herself to be quite adept at the office politics game. She survived getting fired by Joan Holloway by turning to Sterling. It comes up that she lives on Jane Street in the Village, a fact that Roger finds all too delightful as he assures her that her job is safe. And now, on to the show:
* Klein's -- The defunct Union Square institution, S. Klein on the Square, comes up in a flirty conversation between Sterling and Don's secretary, Jane. Roger manages to find out not only where Jane bought that sexy sweater, but he also pointedly asks whether she also lives in the neighborhood that was home to the store, Union Square. (He finds out later that she lives in the Village.) So could Roger have his latest office concubine in the making? She is cold to his flirtations -- until she needs him later to keep her job. We shall see. As for Klein's, it closed in 1975, and the building was empty for about a decade during the neighborhood's rough days. The site now holds the pyramid-topped Zeckendorf Towers, a major catalyst in the area's revival. The place was famous for its deep discounts, and many a New Yorker of a certain age remembers hitting up Klein's in a scavenge for deals. Ethel Mertz herself says she hunted for bargains at the store in an episode of "I Love Lucy." It also comes up in "All in the Family." Now you can add "Mad Men" to the list. More on Klein's here. And click here to see a Walker Evans photo of the store on Union Square East.* Stork Club -- Today, it's the site of a pocket park named after CBS pioneer William Paley, but in 1962, the Stork Club, at 3 E. 53rd St., was in the twilight of its years as one of New York's swankiest nightclubs, where the rich, the famous and those chronicling their adventures intersected. It was precisely the sort of place where Jimmy Barrett and his bosses at ABC would celebrate Jimmy's 39-episode deal for potential Candid Camera-killer "Grin and Barrett." Just three years after this episode was set, the Stork Club would be no more. We've always had a weakness for Stork Club memorabilia -- get your own ashtray on eBay. Or better, head down to Moon Indigo at the Showplace Antique Center in Chelsea, which has a mouthwatering collection of Stork Club collectibles.
* Jane Street in the Village -- Last week, we knocked the show for having Peggy live in "Prospect Park," especially since in the early 1960s, much of Manhattan or Brooklyn Heights would have been within reach of a working girl blazing up the career ladder. In this episode, we find out that Don's secretary, Jane Siegel, lives on Jane Street in the Village. Roger Sterling is charmed by this discovery, and so are we. It sounds just about right for a well-appointed young professional woman starting her career in 1962. The Village was not yet entirely the preserve of financiers, actors and lucky rent-stabilization holdouts. Here's a good overview of Jane Street history, which informs us that there were were once so many writers living there that it was called "author's row."
* Murray Hill -- Now if Jane Street was the place for writers, then account executive (and, as he will oft remind you, published author) Ken Cosgrove should be the one living on Jane Street, or chasing the haunts of name-brand authors like Arthur Miller and Truman Capote across the river in Brooklyn Heights. But, no, much to our surprise, Ken lives in, gulp, Murray Hill. Now, in 1962, Murray Hill was a much quieter neighborhood, without the twentysomething scene on Third Avenue that you either love because you're part of it, or you passionately detest. It was a time when the hood was more serene, with more families, old-timers and the deep-pocketed townhouse crowd, and nary a "Dormandy Court"-style tower in sight. And yes, you can walk to your job on Madison Avenue, which, Ken tells us, he choose not to. Based on events in this episode, we suspect that the married but gay Sal will be making excuses to pop into the neighborhood to bump into Ken, or heck, return that lighter he seems to have kept as a curious token.
* Give a hoot, Draper family! Woodsy the Owl and his PSAs urging you to "help keep America looking good" clearly would have never originated in the mind of Don Draper. The Drapers' suburban picnic, possibly somewhere near their home in Ossining, ends on a most distasteful note. After a pleasantly relaxing afternoon, the couple is reclining on a picnic blanket, with Bets resting her head on Don's stomach; both observe that they should do this more often as they take in the bucolic delights. Shortly after, they get up to leave and an inebriated Don chucks his empty beer can into the field, while Bets shakes her blanket onto the grass and leaves crumpled napkins and other trash behind. To add insult to injury, their young son is taught to urinate behind a tree. No matter, they will drive home in Don's gleaming new Cadillac Coup De Ville. Well, we can hope that by the early 1970s, environmentalism will catch up with the Draper bunch.
* Meet the Mets -- It's the late spring of 1962, and the Mets are in their inaugural season, hoping to fill the void in the hearts of New Yorkers left by the Dodgers and Giants, and even pairing their team colors (blue for the Dodgers, orange for the Giants.). Anyway, Ken Cosgrove, our author friend from Murray Hill, has scored tickets to a Mets game, and he says, in the kind of phrasing that has forever haunted the Mets, has "great seats for probably a terrible game." And he would have watched the game not at Shea Stadium, which would not be ready for two years, but at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan. When the games at Shea began, it was the end for the Polo Grounds, which is now the site of a public housing project by the same name.
* Martinson Coffee -- Sterling and Cooper wins an account to freshen up the image of Martinson Coffee (nee Martinson's). The New York area coffee was prized among many and can be found in ShopRite stores to this day, we've read. It was founded in New York City 1899 by a Latvian immigrant Joseph Martinson, who soon became a pioneer in vacuum-sealed coffee. The show makes references to using puppets to sell Martinson, a reference to Jim Henson's early Muppets, who appeared in commercials for this and other coffee brands. Will interest perk in Martinson now that it's been name-dropped on "Mad Men"? You can order it online. And here's a discussion on NYC coffee brands.
* Museum of Early American Folk Arts -- Don has been asked to join the soon-to-open museum's board, a sure sign, Cooper tells him, that he has arrived as a power broker in society. ("Philanthropy is the gateway to power," advises Bertram Cooper.) The museum opened in New York in 1961, about the time the episode is set. It eventually became the American Folk Art Museum. More on its history here. Find out more about the museum today here. We know we'll be looking for Don Draper's name in the lobby the next time we visit!
-- Rolando Pujol
Must-read "Mad Men" blogs:
Basket of Kisses
Television Without Pity forum
Jimmy Barrett lets Don have it