Get Up Close and Personal to Don Draper and the Cast of Mad Men
Want to go deeper into Don Draper — into his mind, his home . . . his wallet? Head to Queens and “Matthew Weiner’s ‘Mad Men,’” the Museum of the Moving Image’s show, opening Saturday, on the making and magic of a monster hit.
Since its kickoff episode in July 2007, the AMC show’s garnered 15 Emmys, four Golden Globes and global acclaim. Along the way, it gave us people — Jon Hamm’s dapper Draper, John Slattery’s silver fox Roger Sterling and Elisabeth Moss’ poignant Peggy Olson — we won’t readily forget.
And now it’s time to say goodbye: “Mad Men” begins its seventh and final season April 5. But it’s not going quietly. There’ll be screenings, talks and hoopla all over the country, from the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Naturally, as befits a series set in New York, the best stuff is happening here.
Only at the Museum of the Moving Image can you walk into Don’s office, the one he used since Season 4. Indeed, some “Mad Men” maniacs may be tempted to vault the Plexiglass barrier, sink into Don’s chair, and fondle his pens and pencils.
Others may tap their inner Betty — the frosty blonde played by January Jones — and try rifling through the fridge of her re-created suburban kitchen (Seasons 1 through 4).
The folks at Moving Image are ready.
“Our security guards are on alert,” says curator Barbara Miller, and she’s only half joking.
She and her team enjoyed access to all things “Mad Men”-related when the series finished filming a year ago. They plumbed its warehouses north of Los Angeles — where the show was shot — and trucked everything, from costumes to cereal boxes, to Queens. The sets were reassembled in the Kaufman Astoria Studios next door before being installed in the museum’s 4,000-square-foot, third-floor gallery.
Not only are the office and kitchen re-created here, but so is the room where Weiner and his writers wrote the first half of the final season. Note Don Draper and Company’s head shots on the walls — and the bottle of ibuprofen on the table.
We need to see this room why? “This [exhibit] is a glimpse at the creative process behind the making of a series,” Miller says. Mostly it’s a look at how one man’s vision turned into a mass obsession — one of the most widely discussed and dissected TV shows of all time, right up there with “The Sopranos,” the show Weiner worked on before getting “Mad Men” off the ground.
There are 33 costumes and dozens of clips, including Megan Draper’s sexy serenade (“Zou Bisou Bisou”) for Don’s 40th birthday party and the rhinestone-collared dress that actress Jessica Paré wore while singing it; weaselly Pete Campbell’s hats and trousers; and Peggy’s secretarial skirt and woman-of-the-world coat dress (the one she wore while dining with her lover, ad man Ted Chaough). And among them all are Weiner’s scribbled notes, old family photos and pages from his journal from 1992.
It was in such notes, while working on TV’s “Becker,” that he sketched out a story about a man raised in a brothel who adopts another man’s identity and becomes a ’60s success story. Actually, the man in the story was blond and named Pete, but still.
Miller, the curator, says that pulling back the curtain on Weiner’s process only adds to the show’s mystique.
One of her favorite things in the exhibit lies in a glass case, like holy relics or artifacts at the Met. It’s Don’s “box of secrets” — the one his half brother, Adam, mailed to him at Sterling Cooper, and it contains clues to Don’s previous life — back when he was a young GI named Richard Whitman.
Also under glass are Don’s checkbook (he banked at Chemical!), sunglasses, a rumpled pack of Lucky Strikes and, sticking out of his wallet, his “operator’s license,” which is what they called a driver’s license back in the day.
No detail was too trivial for the show’s researchers, who not only charted every real-life event during Don’s (fictitious) journey but timed every sunrise and sunset in his day. So maybe it shouldn’t surprise us to find actual tiles — one black, one blue — from the Draper family bathroom.
But that’s nothing compared to the kitchen, where that Plexiglas divider extends several feet in — just deep enough to let you take a selfie with Betty’s table, replete with her “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook” and ever-present ashtray.
And then there’s Don’s office, the Pan Am building — or photo thereof — visible from one window, and the portable bar not far from his desk. On that bar stand the three horsemen of the Madison Avenue apocalypse: Canadian Club Whisky, Smirnoff vodka and Beefeater gin.
Booze and cigarettes — the staples of “Mad Men” — are everywhere here, both in giant blowup ads and the actual props. Remember, too, that cathartic scene when Don tells the Hershey chocolate execs the story of “the sweetest part” of his rotten childhood? Along with that clip, introduced with taped commentary by Weiner, you’ll find the ad agency’s ad — and, in another gallery, a secretary’s desk topped with a rotary phone and Rolodex, its open drawer full of Hershey candies.
Season 7’s episode “The Runaways” inspired a gallery full of contrasts. As you see from the clips they’ve got playing, it’s a tale of two parties, both in 1969. Betty Francis’ refined evening of chafing dishes, candelabras and long dresses — all on display — face off against Megan Draper’s beach party bacchanal, with its Dixie cups, Jiffy Pop container and empty jug of Almaden.
Less showy but more intriguing still is the small video jukebox featuring half a dozen songs that figured in the show. It’s an eclectic playlist, ranging from Bing Crosby crooning “Just a Gigolo” to Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” and Weiner’s commentary explains just why he chose it. And that haunting theme song? It’s “A Beautiful Mine,” by RJD2. Weiner says he heard it played on NPR’s “Marketplace” and loved that it sounded like falling.
But nothing speaks more eloquently to “Mad Men” fans than the show itself. And the clips here will leave you wanting even more — especially those featuring Roger, who for some reason seems to have been given short shrift.
One of the most moving clips playing here — set against a display of the clothes January Jones wore as Betty Draper, including her dowdy quilted pink bathrobe — is a bit from Season 1’s “The Wheel.” Betty, aware of Don’s infidelities, finds herself tearfully confiding in her daughter’s chubby friend, Glen Bishop (played by Weiner’s own son, Marten).
“Please tell me we’ll be OK,” she pleads.
Who knows? With the sun about to set on “Mad Men,” we know exactly how she feels.
“Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men” runs through June 14 at the Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria. Wednesdays through Sundays: $12 adults, $9 seniors and students; Fridays, 4 to 8 p.m.: free admission. 718-777-6888, movingimage.us.
6 other events in NYC celebrating the mad ‘Mad Men’ world:
New York isn’t letting “Mad Men” end without a splashy send-off. In addition to the costumes, sets, props and memorabilia that just went on display at Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image, other venues are doing whatever they can to celebrate the series’ cultural impact and enhance (translation: cash in on) your experience of the final seven episodes, kicking off April 5 on AMC. Here’s how the celebration unfolds.
March 14 through 19: “Required Viewing: ‘Mad Men’s’ Movie Influences“
The Museum of the Moving Image presents 10 films that series creator Matthew Weiner says inspired him as he began to think about the show and write the pilot script. The usual suspects — “The Apartment” and “The Best of Everything” — are here, but so are some surprises, such as the French film “Les Bonnes Femmes,” and “Dear Heart” starring Glenn Ford and Geraldine Page.
March 21: “ ‘Mad Men’: End of an Era”
The Film Society of Lincoln Center invites the show’s original cast to Alice Tully Hall to talk about their favorite scenes of the last seven seasons. Missing in action: Elisabeth Moss, who’s starring in “The Heidi Chronicles” on Broadway. The event starts at 7:30 p.m.
March 23 through 29: “Mad Men” Dining Week
For a mere $19.69 — the year that’s the setting for the show’s final season — you can have a ’60s-style lunch at 34 Manhattan restaurants. Choose between a two-course menu (appetizer and entree or entree and dessert, or — now we’re talking — two drinks). Some venues are mainstays of the era, including Delmonico’s, P.J. Clarke’s, Barbetta and the Carnegie Deli. A “Mad Men” tribute involving food seems like a strange choice, since most of the characters on this show usually enjoyed liquid lunches, but who knows? Book reservations at nycgo.com/madmendiningweek.
Throughout March: “The ‘Mad Men’ Reading List”
The New York Public Library will issue a collection of 25 titles read by Don and Betty and their friends over the course of the series. Select branches will offer copies of the books to borrow. Expect to see “The Group” by Mary McCarthy and “Meditations in an Emergency” by Frank O’Hara.
April 22 through 23: “ ‘Mad Men’ at the Movies”
BAMcinematek, the repertory film program at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, features a discussion with a cast member or Matthew Weiner about the films and their significance to the show.
April 28: At the 92nd Street Y, enjoy “An Evening With ‘Mad Men’ Creator Matthew Weiner,” who’ll discuss the show’s final season.
Runs through June 14; Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria; 718-777-6888 or movingimage.us
As originally printed in the NY Post