My stint with Mad Men

Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

The proverbial water cooler must be awash in the deconstruction and analysis of the last episode of Mad Men. (Spoiler Alert: if you haven’t seen it, stop reading!)

The AMC series, Mad Men, held a special place in my heart. I worked in an Orlando ad agency in the early 70’s which mirrored, in a Southern redneck kind of way, the show and its debauchery, creativity and, did I say debauchery? The boss’ desk always sported a half-empty carafe of bourbon in an office shrouded in smoke. I was the mousey secretary/receptionist at the front desk with the job of fending off sales calls, typing letters on my Selectric, placing ads in newspapers and mailing out invoices to clients. Eventually I was writing a few lines of boring copy touting the construction of new apartment complexes in the area. But I was no Peggy Olsen, believe me.

It was a heady time in Orlando with clients making top-secret sales of property in the Kissimmee area to a mysterious buyer who would eventually turn central Florida into the top tourist destination in the world. In between being chased around the desk and fielding account execs’ wives’ calls (“He’s in a meeting at the moment”…yup, locked door meeting with a female media salesperson!), a lot of business somehow got done.

But, as fast and furious as those times were, earning ad men the big bucks, the money disappeared when the economy took a nose dive. The boss’ bright orange Corvette, I used to love driving around town for errands, had to be sold and, eventually, the heavy drinking led to depression. Once, returning to the office after lunch, it took 2 hours before I realized the boss was passed out at his desk.

The culture of the business and the times was destructive. Many of those giddy with success did not know how to handle their personal and professional crash. Others reinvented themselves and forged on as we hope was the fate of Don Draper. I can only wonder, however, if everyone actually got the joke of the last episode if much of the audience demographic wasn’t even alive when “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” originally ran.

For me it was a satisfying ending to a classy, sophisticated show which reminded me of a wonderful and weird time in my life. And, yes, I do believe Don went back to New York and penned the iconic ad which we were all humming for years to come.

Circa 1970

Circa 1970

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