Monday, August 30, 2010

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Episode 6: Blotto!

Get a couple hundred ad men in a room and you're going to see some serious drinking.

Episode six, titled "Waldorf Stories," of "Mad Men"'s fourth season, whirls around the sixth annual Clio Awards, held—natch—at the Waldorf=Astoria. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is up for a trophy, for the oft-mentioned film-like Glo Coat floor wax TV commercial—and Draper can barely conceal his wish to take home the prize. He does. But this, of course, gives him a grand excuse to celebrate. And in the world Don Draper, celebrating means two things: heavy imbibing and carousing.

In last week episode, Don took a slight break from the booze, and was at the top of his game, deftly snatching a Honda account from the jaws of defeat. This week, he's back on that toboggan ride to insensibility. It's Draper's Ray Milland moment. That's right, a Lost Weekend.

The imbibing begins early, with Roger's, and even Joan's, encouragement. "I've been to the Clios before," said Roger, reaching for a glass. "We're going to want to show up prepared." When the clients for Life cereal run late, Joan opens up the liquor cabinet in the conference room to one and all. A close-up shows Chivas 12, White Rock ginger ale, Seagram's 7, 7-Up, Canadian Club, Coca-Cola, J&B, among others. "I'll have a 7 & 7," said cocky young art department man Joey Baird. "You have legs," replies Joan coldly. Don, however, gets table service. "Make it simple, but significant," he says.

At the Waldorf, the tinkling of ice continues. Usual stuff, Martinis and whiskey. "Gentleman, let's pace ourselves," says the master of ceremonies after Duck Phillips, Don's former nemesis, shows up three sheets to the wind. One of the ads to win, interestingly, is for Byrrh. The French aperitif, a blend of red wine and quinine or tonic water, was on the decline in the 1960s.

At the Friday night Clio after-party, held at the Pen & Pencil (Freddy Rumsen's old hangout), we get a fairly close look at the back bar. I saw bottles of Wild Turkey and Jim Beam, bourbons I hadn't seen on the show before. The beers on draft included Schlitz, Pabst, and Schmidt.

As the scene dragged on, and Roger and Don grew more unattractively inebriated, the film stock appeared to grow grainier, I guess to match the haziness taking over Draper's head. After an uncompleted pass at marketing colleague Faye Miller, Don goes home with another female, a fellow Clio winner. He wakes up 36 hours later with another woman he doesn't recognize, wakened by the phone, on which angry ex-wife Betty tells him he's late to pick up the kids. Don thinks it's still Saturday. He's missed a day. Booting the woman (a diner waitress) out, he falls asleep and loses another day, Sunday. In his drunken stupor, he also managed to pass off a tagline of a job applicant as his own to the Life cereal people. He doesn't realize this until Peggy alerts him. This forces him to hire the the supplicant, a man he considers an idiot.

Also in the episode, we learn through flashbacks to the 1950s how Don, a fur salesman, actually hooked up with Roger Sterling. Seems Draper took the seasoned ad man out for a several-Martini breakfast; the next morning Draper told Sterling that the elder man had offered him a job. Roger, having blacked out himself, did not remember. Which parallels Don's current muddle. (It's heavily hinted that Don conned Roger into the job.)

Nice line in the flashback, after Don offers to buy drunken Roger lunch. "I'm stuffed," said Sterling. "I had a jar of olives."

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