MAD MEN: WHAT IT WAS REALLY LIKE
Award-winning advertising legend Jane Maas reveals what it was really like in the heady early days of advertising in this exclusive extract from her book Mad Women.
“Was it really like that?”
As soon as people ﬁnd out I actually worked at an advertising agency in the Mad Men era, they pepper me with questions. “Was there really that much drinking?” “Were women really treated that badly?” And then they lean in and ask conﬁdentially: “Was there really that much sex?” The answer is yes. And no. Mad Men gets a lot of things right, but it gets some things wrong, too. So I thought I’d give you a typical day in my life on Madison Avenue in 1967, three years after I began working at Ogilvy & Mather as a copywriter.
6:30 A.M. My husband, Michael, brings a cup of coffee to me in bed. It’s a morning ritual and one of the many caring things he does for me. I know not many wives are so cosseted.
“Don’t ever mention this when we’re with people from my ofﬁce,” he cautions me. “They’ll think I’m henpecked.”
He’s not. We have a wonderful marriage—and a sexy one. Michael is a former Marine Corps ofﬁcer, crisply handsome, with just a bit of gray starting to show in his black hair. He attributes a recent promotion at his architectural ﬁrm to this premature streaking; he’s now in charge of all building plans for New York Telephone, his ﬁrm’s most important client. He stands beside the bed, already dressed in a blue Brooks Brothers suit, a white shirt (cuffs showing), and a bow tie. (Architects usually favor bow ties because they don’t swing over drawings and smudge them.)
“You look very nice. Going to the ofﬁce this early?”
“I’m inspecting a site on Staten Island. Want to meet for a drink after work?”
I light a cigarette, the ﬁrst of the day. “Don’t think I can. We’re going to have casting calls all afternoon and I may not be able to leave by ﬁve.”
“Well, try to be home in time for dinner. The girls miss you when you’re not here.” He bends down and kisses me.
“So do I. Have a good day, Mops.”
Mops is the family nickname for me. It’s a shortened form of Mopsy, one of the rabbits in the Beatrix Potter nursery tales. Michael gave me the name when Kate was born. His mother read him the tales when he was a little boy, and I think he remembered incorrectly that Mopsy was the mother rabbit. It sounds like a maternal kind of name. I don’t remember what the mother’s name really was, but she was a good mother. I don’t think I am. My priorities are job ﬁrst, husband second, children third. It’s the only way for a woman to survive in the advertising business. And in the marriage business. I have a second cigarette with my coffee, then get up and check on my children. Kate, age eight, is in her room getting dressed in her Nightingale-Bamford school uniform: blue jumper, white short-sleeved blouse, and knee-high socks. She is a real moppet, blond and blue-eyed, quiet, introspective. In the next bedroom, Mabel, our live-in housekeeper, is supervising four-year-old Jenny. Jen is Kate’s polar opposite: brown-haired, brown-eyed, noisy, exuberant. Mabel asks if I can drop Kate at Nightingale while she takes Jen to nursery school. I have a second cup of coffee and another cigarette; I’ve already lost count.
8:15 A.M. I walk with Kate the few blocks from our apartment at 4 East Ninety-ﬁfth Street to her school on Ninety-second Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues. Kate reminds me that the school fashion show is at two o’clock today. “Are you coming to see me, Mommy?” I know that Kate is one of only a handful of girls chosen to show off fashions for the school fair. The outﬁts the girls will wear onstage today will be sold at the Clotheshorse Booth tomorrow. It’s a big deal for her, but I have a full day ahead of
me at the ofﬁce. “I don’t think I can, darling. We have a ton of meetings today.”
Kate is used to this. She is disappointed, but she doesn’t protest. “I’ll try,” I offer. It doesn’t sound convincing to Kate, who just keeps walking, her head down. It doesn’t even sound
convincing to me. But we’re casting the Dove-for-Dishes commercial this afternoon. I have to be there.
We arrive at Nightingale-Bamford, one of the top girls’ schools in the city. I kiss Kate good-bye and watch her walk up the stairs to the landing, where the headmistress is greeting the girls, as she does every morning. Kate curtsys, as is the custom, she and the headmistress shake hands, as is also the custom, and she goes inside. I get on the Fifth Avenue busand head downtown.
The Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency, where I am a copy supervisor, is at Forty-eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, convenient to Saks and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, depending on
whether you want to shop or pray. And within easy walking distance of Grand Central for the blue-blooded account guys (and they are all guys) who commute to Westport and
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