I started watching the AMC series Mad Men like everyone else because it looked so cool, and its about the coolest people, and one of the coolest periods in recent memory (at least for those of us who lived through those cool times.)
Like many people, I am amazed at the attention to details that they manage on the show.
I was born in 1960 so I am on the tail end of those who can clearly recall everything about back then, but enough of the show hits me in the emotional center of my brain to make me remember things and feelings that otherwise would have remained buried in there.
For instance I’ll get a sudden flash of recognition as a character walks by a wall near an elevator or a lobby, or the instant recall of a skirt or dress or some item that I knew.
All of my senses can come into play when I’m watching the show – and it can happen just from seeing some small item like the genie vases in the Draper’s apartment (see below).
My father Bernard Safran worked at the Time Life Building in Manhattan just like Don Draper.
He walked the actual halls, took the elevators, went to meetings there, had drinks in offices and ate weekly catered meals with suited men and kitten heeled women. In fact he was there a lot, from 1959 when the building opened, till 1966 when he stopped working for Time Magazine.
My Dad painted 73 cover portraits for Time. He was one of “The Stable” – a group of artists who were regularly commissioned and brought in to do cover art.
He worked closely with some of the most powerful men in American journalism at the time (no pun intended), including Otto Feurbringer and Jim Keogh and Henry Luce Sr. These men helped define American foreign policy and held a lot of power and sway.
In his book, The Powers That Be (Alfred A Knopf, New York 1979) David Halberstam writes about how even President Kennedy was intimidated and bullied by them.
These are the guys that my Dad would stay late with to have a drink.
Or he’d stay late with them to put the magazine to bed (get it into production and printed) which was a social event with lots of booze and food, and big name guests and other artists and writers would sometimes join them.
He was in the senior editorial offices when major news was breaking and so was privy to events before most people even knew they were happening.
So its kind of neat that my Dad’s painting of Conrad Hilton was included, nay, dare I say, featured in episode 306 of Mad Men – A Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency – (its one of the best episodes too in my opinion). Look for when Connie shows Don Draper that he’s on the cover of Time Magazine…
Well, how about that!