Freddy Rumsen, a guy without a foot

 Posted by on January 8, 2013 at 6:00 am  Characters, Season 5
Jan 082013


The doctor said he’ll never golf again.

A wooden leg. They’re so cheap they can’t even afford a whole reporter.

Freddy has always been a disaster, as long as we’ve known him. We first know him as a lovable drunk. Then his drinking escalates to the point where he is unemployable.

As a recovering alcoholic, he seems a little more “out” than would be comfortable for the average ad guy. When things get stressful at work, he seeks out his sponsor and heads off to AA meetings–and while he doesn’t outright declare he is doing this, neither does he put much effort into concealing it.

In Season 5 it’s a few more years down the road. Perhaps Freddy is more integrated with his recovery; perhaps now he has worked it out so it doesn’t draw so much attention. But from what we see in his lunch with Peggy, he is also looking for work, so it’s likely he still freelances. Freddy is freelancing and yet he was not part of the gaggle of freelancers Don brought in for Jaguar. Why? Is he just not a great writer? His writing had always been respected in the past. Is he too high-level for people to want to pay? I don’t think so, because Dale is around, and he’s no kid anymore, and probably commands a high wage.

Freddy Rumsen doesn’t drink. It isn’t the stigma of alcoholism– regardless of whether you know he has had a problem in the past or you don’t, it comes down to this. He is an executive-level Creative who does not drink. He does not come to parties. He will not be drinking with clients.

And with that malady, friends, Freddy Rumsen is not valued. He cannot be client-facing. It’s hard to pull off being a non-drinking executive in today’s environment, but in the 1960s, Freddy Rumsen is no longer, if you will, top shelf.


  12 Responses to “Freddy Rumsen, a guy without a foot”

  1. Freddy’s ideas are out of date. Remember when he wanted to use endorsements from aging stars in the Pond’s campaign and Peggy told him he was old-fashioned. SCDH wants to be seen as fresh and modern.

  2. This is true. Although, not going out socially will dull your edge. I should know. And not drinking then (maybe now?) always indicated alcoholism, and strongly suggested weakness. My grandfather was evidently a wicked bad alcoholic, but he was highly functioning. He worked for the state and hung out with lots of powerful folks, but when he hit the wall and died of cirrhosis at 47, everyone was shocked. Had he stopped drinking in that environment, who knows what price he might have paid in his career?

    • Life is full of ironies, not the least of which is teetotaling being suspected of its opposite. In my younger days I always defended those who chose not to partake of the available libations (“Hey! No arm twisting”).

      Jane Mass, in her recent, excellent memoir “Mad Women”, tells of a dashing account man who always held court in drinking establishments apparently unfazed by copious martini consumption. She once took a sip of his drink and discovered it was water. She complied with his request to not reveal his secret.

  3. I have never figured out what Matt Weiner expects us to take away from the Freddy Rumsen character.

    Roger assumed Freddy had only done desk duty during WWII, although apparently Roger’s father and probably Bert knew that Freddy was a decorated and brave combat veteran.

    Don spoke about Freddy mentoring him. We saw Freddy have faith in Peggy and guide her.

    My own assumption has been that probably ‘Freddy’ was written as a generic drunken SC executive/copywriter who could be shown or not, depending on the story. Then MW cast Joel Murray, who probably had more TV series experience than the rest of the cast combined. Murray is a talented character actor, not a leading man such as Jon Hamm or John Slattery. I also assume that Joel Murray is at the top end for guest star pay, making him expensive. Possibly Murray agreed to a cut of his fee, in exchange for scheduling flexibility.

    Thus when Joel Murray is performing on other projects, ‘Freddy’ cannot be included in a Mad Men script.

    I really enjoy the way ‘Freddy’ has been used on Mad Men.

    • As recurring guest stars go, the Freddy Rumsen character has been expertly woven into the the Mad Men fabric. Except for the “furlough” episode, he has never been central to the goings-on.

      Instead, he’s a catalyst – essential to certain reactions (if you’ll excuse the chemistry analogy).

      He was essential to Peggy’s first step up to junior copywriter (when she coined this blog’s popular name).

      His earnestly-considered advice (“you can’t lead him on”) led to the maturation of her “Mark experiment” – which accelerated its collapse.

      Most recently, he validated Peggy’s desire to improve her professional situation.

      (who knew Mr. Chow-guh-guh was such an able salesman?)

      I think (hope) we have not seen the last of Freddy Rumsen.

  4. I love Freddy! I had hoped to see more of him in Season 5. I thought Joel Murray having other acting commitments might account for his absence on Mad Men.

    I loved his advice to Peggy when she was contemplating her next career move. Don and Freddy have in some ways been her surrogate fathers, and now that Freddy doesn’t work with Peggy anymore, he has become even more of a father–objectively looking from the outside in and seeing all the things that she really needs to do.

  5. Remember when Peggy asked Ken how he managed to do his job and still write, and Ken saying something like, “I turned my dinners into drinks, and if you only have one, you’re still in good shape when you get home”? Or Roger telling Lane that the way to keep from getting too soused at a client dinner was to get his drink on the rocks and wait until the ice melts, then get another?

    That’s the thing, though. Ken can stop after one drink, and even Roger apparently knows the art of appearing to drink more than he actually is, so he stops short of passing out. Freddy can’t do that. For him, there’s drink until you pass out, or nothing. But you’d think writers, being considered basically eccentrics anyway, would have a little more wiggle room about their personal habits than account men do. Does Michael Ginsberg drink? (makes mental note to check)

    • Does Michael Ginsberg drink?

      There was a little doubt about Peggy before she became a copywriter and a bottle is always within reach at SCDP. Ginz is young – he’ll be drinker yet.

  6. I 100% agree Mad. I love Freddy and Peggy because they have such a relatable work relationship – another example of how MM gets it right. They are close enough that they can say tough things to each other and be ok. I too hope Peggy will tap into Freddy’s dated but often sound advice this season. Who knows maybe Peggy’s more contemporary views will rub off on Freddy too!

  7. A little correction, if I may. The time Freddie left the office in a hurry was not a case of him falling off the wagon and going to a meeting with his sponsor, but the other way round. He got the Ponds account because he was the sponsor of one of their executives, so when he heard from Roger he was out with him drinking, Freddie was the one arranging the meeting. There was no indication he was drinking since he came back. He avoided the Christmas party, bored Roger to death when they were out (with the Ponds guy) before the boxing match (The Suitcase) and was consuming a vast amount of coffee when he advised Peggy to move on. And he’s not really happy.

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