I Love You, Miss Blankenship

 Posted by on August 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm  Characters, Season 4
Aug 172010
 

I know we’ve only just met her, but I felt an instant connection with Don’s new secretary, Miss Blankenship.  You see, between her poufy hair, cats-eye glasses and Brooklyn accent, she is the reincarnation of my late, lovely, wonderful neighbor, Florence. “Flo” was a Brooklyn girl, saucy and strong, and a great friend to my mother, Anna, for nearly fifty years before her all too soon passing in 2008. When my Mom and Dad moved into their upstate neighborhood in 1958, Anna became friends with her new next-door neighbors almost instantly, and especially Flo, as they were both nice Italian girls whose grandparents had emigrated here from the big boot.  Flo and Anna were both raising big catholic families, and I always thought of them as the Betty and Wilma of our neighborhood.  As their beloved husbands toiled at their jobs all day, Flo and Anna kept their kids in line, often watching out for each other’s kids.  She never forgot her beloved NYC, and was heartbroken on 9/11 as she watched the events unfold on the news.  And despite living in upstate NY for over ½ a century and being married to a sweet New Englander, Flo never lost her strong Brooklyn accent, and I always enjoyed hearing it.

This brings me to the divine Miss Blankenship.  From the second she called “RAA-JUH! He’s here!” It was Flo reincarnated (albeit grey instead of black hair and Flo was much prettier!) I could hear Flo her calling her sons into dinner; “Jaaaahn! Baaahb! Pinkee! Brooksie!!!”  Speaking of dinner, Flo made the meanest pot of pasta fajouli this side of Rome, I can still smell it! I cannot wait to see more of Miss Blankenship in coming episodes, and see how she messes up Don’s life, but more importantly, I look forward just having that little sense of Flo’s spirit whenever she calls Don’s name! I’m sure Flo would love her! And I do too.

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  32 Responses to “I Love You, Miss Blankenship”

  1. That's just all kinds of lovely. What a fine tribute. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Very sweet!

    I was floored to learn that Miss Blankenship is played by Randee Heller, who is best known for her role as Daniel's mother in "The Karate Kid" movies. I didn't recognize her at all, and I'm usually pretty good at that. Must be the wig!

  3. I hope Don learns to love Miss Blankenship the way you loved your neighbor "Flo." Methinks not as much, but it will make for entertaining television!!

  4. She's the Queen to Roger's King of One-Liners.

  5. Therese, Thanks so much for this post! The world should have more Miss Blakenships, and I love her already. Whether Don (or Joan for that matter, who chose Miss Blankenship to "punish" Don) realizes it, I think Miss Blankenship has the potential to give Don a much needed lesson in humility, compassion, and just a plain ol' kick in the pants. Plus I can tell she's already going to be a hoot; a much-needed breath of fresh air in what's already looking like a very dark season. Perhaps she's the successor to Lois?

  6. I had to admit – I *loved* hearing the accent on the character the other night – not enough accents when a show is placed in a specific area!

  7. My Ma has a great Brooklyn accent and she moved away from Brooklyn in 1967. I recently saw her older sisters and younger brother, all speaking pure Brooklynese.

  8. #5 SF Caramia —

    I REALLY think Joan — judging by the look on her face when Allison left — did this as a wake-up call for Don.

    Joan understands the stakes for SCDP and how much is riding on a functional top-of-his-game DD. I think Miss Blankenship was a calculated move to knock some sense into Draper.

  9. #6 Judy- that is just what I thought. :)

  10. Miss Blankenship reminds me of a female version of Garry Marshall. The way she talks, her mannerisms, etc…..she has a similar 'schtick.' :)

  11. I love her. I bet the younger secys call her Mrs Battleship behind her back. But not to be mean, just because they see her as such a throw back. I love the hand on the hip when she's on the phone broadcasting her conversations…God love her. This is going to be great fun.

  12. Was she one of the secretaries in the photo Roger and Burt were looking at before the 40th anniversary?

  13. #8, Melly: I'm not sure that Joan was doing this as a wake-up call per se as it was a kind of "punishment" to Don for causing the departure of a stellar secretary whom Joan had helped to rise through the ranks. Joan can be a bitch on wheels when one of her secretaries screws up, like Sandy, but she's also fiercely protective of her "girls" as well. I think Ms. Blakenship is indeed going to be a wake-up call for Don–and not just because she's not a sex object–but I don't think that was Joan's motivation.

  14. This reminds me that there are born-and-bred New Yorkers and people who come to the city to reinvent themselves as New Yorkers. When newcomers fantasize about becoming New Yorkers, they aren't thinking about blue-collar people who live in attached brick houses in Astoria, Queens and ride the express bus to work (eg, the secretaries).

    Typically the two groups have little to do with one another outside of casual work contact. This was certainly true when I worked on Madison Avenue in the 70s.

    So, I've never felt that Don is much of a New Yorker for all his man-in-the-Brooks-Brother-suit look. The way he spends his time — boozing and womanizing — when he's not working is totally generic. He could be in any big business-oriented American city — Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louise, Dallas — come to mind.

    What does the guy do that is New Yorkish? We've never seen him go to a play or a museum, eat in an ethnic restaurant, schmooze with anyone unless he wanted to get "man on the street"opinions about advertising. He's not walking the streets at night, taking in the Fulton Fish Market or Chinatown or the Village. Don lives in an Edward Hopper version of NYC.

    It's boring.

  15. #14: Think of Saturday Night Fever and Working Girl, with the dream of moving to "the city" and the resentment of some of those who stay behind.

  16. I think Miss Blankenship is just what Don needs! If he has to help her focus on her secretarial duties, it might help him focus more on his job! I think she'll be a bit of a mother to him too–she'll probably tell him to eat better too!

  17. Therese, where upstate? I'm in Central NY (near Syracuse.) Actually Mrs. B reminds me of a classmate from Queens (different, I know) from when I went to school in White Plains.

  18. Great move on Joan's part — she's bringing in a pro who will cut through Don's mishugas and hopefully get him back on track.

    I agree with #14 jzzy55: Don is not working the system, getting out around town for networking or inspiration. Harry Crane puts Don to shame in this regard and was, in a sense, attempting to mentor Don in preparation for his California trip. Don's becoming a liability, but Miss Blankenship could put this ship back on course.

  19. Phil, that's a really interesting point.

    Harry, who is probably a native NYer (though w/o a strong accent that pins him as from one of the Boroughs), has a much better sense of how to have fun and network, in his fashion. He went to the opera, at least. All Don does is drink, pass out, watch TV and occasionally snap the newspaper around. Get a life, Don! You're in the arts, style and communications capitol of the universe, and this is the best you can do?

    Don really is, as Allison said, a drunk. His world-eye view seems to begin and end inside the bottle.

    I am surprised you all think Miss B will be so important. I think she is a minor character role, nothing more.

  20. "like"

  21. I know the southern tier well – I have family in Corning (my brother-in-law owns Murphy's) and my sister's college roommate lives in Endicott. We used to hike through Watkins Glen each fall but a year or two ago they cut the bus service and these old legs just will not make it both up AND down the trails, especially Jacob's Ladder on the way up.

  22. jzzy55: yes Mrs B is a minor character and may not last the rest of the season but she's the comic relief. Jamie Farr's Max Klinger was supposed to be a shot deal, lol.

  23. Hello FLO-retta! I was being general while stating ‘upstate’. Pretty much any part of New York State that is not New York City is considered ‘upstate’ We’re in the ‘Southern Tier’, I grew up in Endicott, near Binghamton, now I live in Endwell, same zip code as Endicott.

    Also, I wrote this remembrance a bit quickly, I’ll have to verify if Flo’s accent was Brooklynese or Queens! (they sound alike to me!) But Flo was definitely a city girl, and I miss her dearly, as does my mom, Anna ,who’s 90 and still lives in our old house, the last inhabitant of my old street still living there. (Naturally I have a warm place in my heart for the character of Anna Draper too, since she shares my mom’s first name and sensibilities!)

  24. Oh, man. I love her too. She reminds me of my grandmothers' friends.

    And I wonder if Don has gotten the message from Joan: Okay, if there's going to be drama between you and young women because of you and your faulty zipper, I'm putting someone on your desk who's old enough to be your mom. Neener. If Don is getting Joan pissed off at him — Joan! who always considered it her job to give the men in their office whatever they wanted! — look out below.

  25. "Dr Miller is here to see you. …it's a she."

  26. I love her, too. She reminds me of the best damn secretary I ever knew, Miss Portia B. She was at that desk for her editor for years, and could answer any question we had about How Things Were Done. When her editing team got pushed out in a merger, she left too, and the class of the joint faded away.

  27. Definitely, she is AA personified. Funny too, how age and non-sexual communication can get the fellows to stand up and salute; that combo is an automatic power trump for those types of women at that time. Commands respect in some aggravating way. I often think that poor Joanie can't see what we see in retrospect: that female sexuality and sensuality is both attractive and threatening. Because sex makes men AND women vulnerable, men can choose to neutralize its power by infantilizing the woman who can appear like a charming child – hence Joanie's frustration at always being treated like a little girl. Lo, these many years later, this scene can still play out in all types of settings. One major power shift in our times is a redistribution of cash so that women have greater earning power (I guess..)

  28. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Miss Blankenship Bert Cooper's secretary at SC? I remember in "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency", Bert arranged a shave for Roger and Don to kiss and make up before the Brits come. He telecoms his secretary, "Miss Blankenship, please make an appointment…at Angelo's(?)…for Misters Rogers and Sterling." Something like that. Also, someone made a comment to Don about her working in Bert's apartment in "The Rejected". I might have misheard and it was kind of incoherent without subtitles. Anyone else remember the name Miss Blankenship mentioned, or am I delirious?

  29. @ Empress Rouge – You're right, she was Bert's secretary. Roger is the one who tells Don something about her working at Bert's home before being brought back to SCDP, though I didn't quite understand that..

  30. To hell with Miss Blankenship.

    I want Allison back. Now.

  31. I'm enjoying the trend of no-nonsense matriarchs between Ms. Blankenship and Pauline (Henry Francis' mother). Look forward to more.

  32. @ #31 – Absolutely. Momentarily forgot about Pauline! I gasped when she observed that the children fear Betty, whose narcissism makes her turn on them when they rebel. Ugh.

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