The show Mad Men glamorizes the life of Madison Avenue executives. The smoking, drinking, and casual sex run rampant in the office. But many viewers at home wonder if the show accurately depicts the time period and this particular lifestyle. On Aug. 31st, 2009, USA Today published an article entitled, “Veteran ad exec says ‘Mad Men’ really were about sex, booze.” In the article, Bruce Horovitz interviewed Jerry Della Femina who is a “Mad Man.” According to the article, Della Femina started “at age 16 in a Manhattan ad agency mailroom. Currently, he is the chairman, CEO, and executive creative director at New York agency Della Femina/Rothschild/Jeary and Partners.” The article discusses Della Femina’s life during the 1960s, particularly addressing drinking, smoking, and sex. But according to Della Femina, “all the drinking, smoking, and sex depicted on Mad Men may be an understatement.
Image credit: Jennifer S. Altman for USA Today
Also while reading the article, I drew the conclusion that Roger Sterling resembled Jerry Della Femina. For example, he talked about company lunches and that he would walk through the front door of the restaurant and “the bartender would see us and start shaking the martinis…without even asking, the second one would arrive.” This reminded me of the time Sterling told his waiter that he never wanted to see the bottom of his glass. Della Femina was also an avid smoker as was Roger Sterling and admitted to smoking “three to four packs a day.” Another similarity I saw between the two was their infidelity. Sterling cheated on his wife several times. Della Femina admitted in the article that most marriages did not survive during this time period. He even mentioned how his ended after 24 years.
Another interesting aspect of the article was when Della Femina talked about working with tobacco companies. At Sterling Cooper, many of the characters smoke Lucky Strike cigarettes and I just assumed they smoked them because they liked them, not necessarily to impress their client. Della Femina explained how his company used to work with the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds. According to Della Femina, “the R.J. Reynolds guys would get off the elevator on our floor where we had two of those ashtrays filled with sand. The RJR guys would claw through the sand to see if there were butts from any other brands….They wanted to know what our people were smoking.”
I really enjoyed the article and I appreciated the insight that it provided into the world of Mad Men. Although I know many things about the show are historically accurate, I had just assumed that the show had played up the drinking, smoking, and casual sex aspect just to create drama and make the show more compelling. I truly found it hysterical that all of these elements seemed like an over exaggeration turned out to be an understatement. I think the article complemented the show very well and I was able to draw many apt comparisons about the show that I had not previously known were true.