Mad Men and the City: A Night to Remember

(Credit: Urbanite)

Don comes home to find Bets deep in despair about their troubled relationship. She's been drinking, rummaging through his personal effects to find evidence of an affair and is still wearing her party dress from the night before.

By Rolando Pujol

Oh what a night all right! Sunday’s “Mad Men” was an incredibly important episode, with Bets finally confronting Don about his philandering ways, and Don ending the episode with the company of a cold bottle of Heineken from his office’s well-stocked fridge -- a trip back home to Ossining is not in his immediate plans. Heineken ironically plays a key role in the dramatic chain of events that leads Bets to confront the truth about her husband (with a little bit of help last week from affair whistle-blower Jimmy Barrett.) But, lest we forget the purpose at hand, let's see how people, places and things in the New York area, as well as in pop culture, figure in the show’s plot twists. And away we go:

New York area references

A&P: A&P supermarkets, officially known as the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company and headquartered in Montvale, N.J., turn up in a discussion about the marketing of imported Heineken beer to upscale housewives. Don suggests placing end-aisle displays of Heineken at supermarkets such as A&P, where affluent suburban housewives shop. One of those housewives, Don knows, is Bets, and at a dinner party she hosts that features an international cuisine theme, she offers Heineken, imported from Holland, as the drink of choice. Today, A&P retains a strong presence in the New York area, and also holds other supermarket brands in its stable, including Walbaum’s, Pathmark and Food Emporium. Here's an old commercial for A&P, back from its "Ps&Qs" campaign of the early 1980s.

The Saw Mill River Parkway: Duck Phillips drives up the pastoral, scenic Saw Mill River Parkway to reach the Drapers' dinner party in Ossining. He mentions that he almost got off in New Rochelle (where he used to live with his family before he got a divorce). This is a misstep, because New Rochelle is nowhere near the Saw Milll. Nor is Ossining, for that matter, but it is closer, and the Saw Milll is a more sensical way to reach this part of Westchester. To see what driving options Duck had, check out this map from 1960, which is not terribly unlike the one he would have likely kept in his glove compartment -- this episode is set in 1962.New Rochelle, Old Lyme, Larchmont and Glen Cove:

Affluent suburban communities, each on or near Long Island Sound, receive repeated mentions in this episode. New Rochelle, we told you, is where Duck lived before his divorce. And in the television land of 1962, it's where Dick and Laura Petrie lived on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." At the dinner party, we hear of boat trips between Old Lyme, Conn., and Larchmont in Westchester County, two well-to-do communities. And yes, the famous tick-borne disease takes after the name of this and a next-door town. Finally, Glen Cove is mentioned -- it's where Joan Holloway once fantasized about moving, and her fiance, who wants to keep Joan at home eating bonbons and fetching him water, reminds her of her desire to move to this Long Island community. Glen Cove has a special place in our heart, because it's where Roger Thornhill is taken after being kidnapped in "North by Northwest," which we also discuss in an earlier edition of Mad Men and the City.

Dutchess County: And while we're on geographical name-dropping, we musn't forget Dutchess County, which Bets tells her dinner guests is the source of the lamb at her otherwise internationally themed party. Dutchess County was still a largely rural, farmland-rich place in 1962, and for folks such as Bets living in central Westchester, it definitely was (and still is) the country.

References from pop culture

Utz Potato Chips and Danny Thomas: Utz is back, with Jimmy Barrett as usual. We see a nifty animation at the end of the commercial with the slogan "Utz are better than nutz," including an adorable wink from the Utz cartoon girl. Of course, Bets is watching "The Danny Thomas Show" (or really, "Make Room for Daddy," Alan Sepinwall points out), when the Utz commercial comes on, reminding her of that horrible night at the Stork Club when Jimmy confirmed her worst fears about Don. The TV set also shows some ghost images and other typical reception problems of the era, as we've seen in a few other episodes.

Heineken: We learn that Heineken beer is trying to compete at the tap, when in fact they should be reaching out to suburban housewives, who aren't ashamed to have Heineken in the family fridge. Bets' purchase of Heineken proves the point, and helps sell the advertiser on Sterling and Cooper's approach. The "experiment" does not amuse Bets, and is what finally puts her over the edge. It's also the beer Draper is drinking in the last scene, when he's stuck in the office with no place to go: His wife has kicked him out. Note: Heineken was also an advertiser in the episode, reminding viewers in a slide at the end to not drink and drive. It's also currently displaying banner ads on the AMC site with fun facts about Heineken. Here's one: "Good people bring home Heineken" was a slogan from the 1960s .Heineken also says the beer was first imported to the U.S. just three days after the end of Prohibition, coming in through Hoboken, N.J..

Pride furniture wax: We see a can of Pride furniture wax on the Drapers' dinner table during a crucial scene where Bets has a meltdown, and destroys a chair after discovering it was wobbly. Read more about Pride and its parent company, S.C. Johnson Wax, in this Time magazine article. A quote from the piece: "In an industry where Pride is a product and Pledge outsells competing furniture polishes 2 to 1, Johnson has cleaned up millions." Pledge is still around, but Pride is no longer part of the family of products touted on Johnson's Web site.

Fresh female deodorant: Another vanished brand, Fresh roll-on deodorant appears in a commercial. Here's an even older ad for the product, which says you can write to the Chrysler Building for a free jar!

Maytag: Maytag washers make a hilarious appearance. It turns out the company is angry at Sterling and Cooper for placing its ad on the "ABC Sunday Night Movie," which features a plot point invoking a murderous Russian agitator. Thing is, an ad later appears for a Maytag product, "The Amazing Agitator." Yikes! Harry Crane has some explain' to do, and before his TV department (which is actually just him) gets gutted, he enlists the help of Joan Holloway, who does an ace job reading scripts for possible conflicts, even smartly pushing "As the World Turns" on an advertiser when she alerts him of an upcoming "special summer storyline." But, this being 1962 (and Roger Sterling not keen on doing former flame Joan any favors, we reckon), a new character, Danny Lindstrom, is brought in to assist Crane in the TV department, at a cool $150 a week. Is this the end for Joan's new calling beyond the secretarial pool? We doubt it. She has a flair for the work. By the way, the Maytag repairman, left, would not be introduced until 1967, but we couldn't resist illustrating the bullet point thusly.

Miracle Whip: The salad dressing is mentioned in a crack about Father Gill, when he visits the office to make copies of the CYO dance flier (and to try to convince Peggy to lift her burden of guilt that is keeping her from "Communion" with the community.)

CYO: The Catholic Youth Organization is referenced in an interesting plot line that brings Father Gill and Peggy together again. Peggy once again finds herself advising Father Gill at his prompting, this time using her Madison Avenue skills to develop a flier for the CYO Dance Committee. The one she comes up with, with its suggestive name "A Night to Remember," runs into trouble with the CYO, and gives the episode its name. Here's a link to the CYO from the Diocese of Brooklyn. No information about any potentially salacious dances, alas.


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Must-read "Mad Men" blogs:

Basket of Kisses

Star Ledger story

Television Without Pity forum

AMC's blog

Video clip

Bets confronts Don about his cheating ways

Tags: mad men , advertising , manhattan , history , television

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