Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Episode 7: Misery Loves Company

I have noticed that in the current season of "Mad Men," as Don Draper gets more profligate in his draining of bottles, the younger members of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce have been quietly taking note and cutting back. Eager accounts man Pete Campbell used to sip on a whiskey regularly in an effort to be one of the big boys. On a recent episode, though, he was drinking an orange soda. And Peggy Olson often accepts drinks from Don and then puts them down without sipping from them. Times are changing. It's 1965. Don and Roger's drinking habits are starting to be seen as antiquated and old hat.

Also of the old school: Duck Phillips, who make a reappearance in the episode titled "The Suitcase," and is not at his best. He's fallen off the wagon again. We first see him in his darkened apartment (can bachelors not find flats with eastern exposure in 1960s Manhattan?), spilling Cutty Sark over himself. Later, he gets in a drunken brawl with the equally soused Don, who's just regurgitated the ample portion of whiskey he's ingested over the day.

Draper had an opportunity to go to dinner at Keen's Steak House and then the Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight, with Roger Sterling, Freddy Rumsen and the head of Pond's Cold Cream. But, getting a depressing message from California—and knowing when he called back he'd find out that his first "wife," the real Mrs. Don Draper, has died of cancer—he dodged the invitation. Then again, maybe he feared what Roger expected from their AA companions. To Roger, the dinner with Freddy and friend meant "we'll have to drink before dinner if we drink at all. And then there are all the stories about drinking where they begin by laughing and end up in tears." ("We can solve this problem with a flask," suggested Sterling.)

The other members of SCDP who attend the fight go to The Palm in indulge in "pre-fight dinner and cocktails." This was a great episode for old restaurant cameos. Aside from The Palm and Keen's (both still in operation), Peggy's boyfriend Mark planned a surprise birthday dinner for her at the Forum for the Twelve Caesars—a name that can easily bestir the nostalgic cockles of any historian of New York dining. A creation of the legendary Joseph Baum and Jerome Brodyof Restaurant Associates, and one of the first theme restaurants ever (the theme being ancient Rome), Forum was ridiculously opulent and over-the-top. It's execution included mosaics, waiters in purple velvet jackets (we see one in one scene) and grandiose menu descriptions (one recited by Peggy's brother-in-law Jerry goes "The Oysters of Hercules, which you with sword shall carve").

Forum opened in 1957 and was all the rage for a time. (It shuttered in 1975, having an all-too-brief reign. A.J. Maxwell's Steakhouse is now there, as well as one of the original mosaics.) Peggy ends up getting into a fight with Mark, so she never eats a single Oyster of Hercules. Instead, she works late with Don, spending time at a diner and a bar, where she has a Manhattan. (Like mother, like daughter—her mom has the same drink at the Forum.)

Miscellaneous liquor sightings: the creative team at SCDP drink bottles of bud in the bull pen. In the past, we've seen mainly Rheingold. The ushering in of the beer giants, and exit of the regional favorites? And at Don and Peggy's bar, we see Northport whiskey (previously seen as the whiskey of choice of Paul Kinsey) and the unmistakable neck of a Galliano bottle. Plus, open glasses of cherries, olives, and onions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a very nice analysis of the changing drinking mores at mad men. i wonder what happened to fielding beer in a can one had to open with a can opener like pineapple juice of old ? well im sitting here indulging in a nice cigarette and a johnny walker black ....alone in my apartment ...mad men comforts me ...