California Dreaming

 Posted by on June 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm  Mad Men, Season 3, Season 6
Jun 042013

In Tale of Two Cities, I kept seeing characters in different stages of reinvention.

First we have Don, the first-ballot Hall of Famer.  His life is his reinvention.  Let’s just say it’s not going well at the moment, although there are still perks to being Don Draper (to wit: free hash).







But more intriguingly, there are other reinventions taking place as we speak:

  • Jim Cutler declares reinvention is necessary, or others are going to do it for them (using the names of two dead guys).  This reinvention ends with a familiar result.
  • Joan watches the riots taking place in Chicago and decides reinvention is required to be anything more than a wealthy secretary.  Voila!  Joan Harris, Account Executive, Partner.  She takes a crack at it and learns, from Peggy of all people, that she needs more than sharp elbows to make the transition.
  • Danny Siegel’s cameo was not a coincidence – he’s reinvented as well.  What I loved about his transformation is it’s TOTALLY plausible (along with the meta-detail that Danny Strong is an actor reinvented as a successful writer) – the list of over-achievers who started in advertising is fascinating.
  • And let’s not forget Harry Crane, who has reinvented himself into something between Jackie Mason and Swifty Lazar.
  • For good measure, the reinventions of Nixon and Reagan were mentioned by the Carnation executive.
  • Peter Dykeman Campbell.  Is he beginning a reinvention?  We shall see.  Meantime, don’t bogart that spliff, buddy ….

Further, it’s apropo these reinventions are referenced in a “California” episode.  As Deb reminds us, within Mad Men, California has always symbolized freshness and rebirth (to Don at least).  A Tale of Two Cities kind of turns that that theory on its head.  Where Don was baptizing in the waters of the Pacific in The Mountain King, this time he’s passed out face down in a backyard pool.  On the trip home, Roger basically concedes the whole thing was waste.

On the homefront, accounts come and accounts go.  Nothing really changes.  And we’re back to Sterling Coo.


  39 Responses to “California Dreaming”

  1. Nice analysis!

    I was wondering if Roger had ever been in California before (or recently). His Thurston Howell III get-up was so hilariously out of place at the party. Coming on the heels of his reinvigorated pursuit of new business (culminating in Chevy), this felt strangely off-key.

    Betty Draper Francis has already reinvented herself as the savvy sexpot political wife.

    • Roger Sterling was a decorated US Navy commissioned officer during WWII, serving in the Pacific. Roger is especially resentful because a US Marine serving on his ship was killed by a Kamikaze. That had to have been late 1944 or early 1945 through VJ Day.

      It is highly unlikely that Roger sailed from the East Coast. Virtually all Navy officers took the train across the US and embarked from California ports. Maybe he made return California visits, probably without Mona and margaret.

  2. An over-achiever-started-in-advertising list for the 1960’s would include H R Haldeman (J Walter Thompson executive), Andy Warhol (illustrator, esp. shoes), Lester Persky (copywriter to agency owner, Hollywood and Broadway producer)

  3. I’ve been a dedicated fan of this blog for more than two years and have appreciated many many insights here, but “don’t bogart that spliff” has to be applauded.

  4. And don’t forget David Geffen, who, though not in advertising, started in the mail room of the William Morris Agency, became a talent agent there, then headed out to LA to become the founder of some major record labels, then reinvented himself again as a film producer and then on to found Dreamworks and engage in some major philanthropy. I couldn’t help but think of him often during this last Mad Men episode, particularly because his appearance also transformed from 70s record label hippie garb to major designer brands later in his career.

  5. It would be terrific to see Pete quit advertising and do something else! Though I don’t know what it would be. What did his father do, besides spend money?

    • You know, I was struck by this comment and flashed back to when he and Trudy formed a team in “Close the door, Have a seat” She calling his clients, told by Pete to sound like a secretary, and Pete marching around gathering papers,,, too bad he lost that so he could try to be the big guy in the stud pool. With her social charm and smarts, and his business skills and understanding, what could they have done together?

      • Yep and then the kiss and beaming smile on Trudy’s face.

        Then…she delivers lunch and cake to the newly formed agency in the hotel!

        This now signifies the beginning of the end of their relationship. I too really was moved by those moments and thought their relationship had turned a corner.

        Wow – how things change

  6. I could see Harry with a Swifty Lazar office off of Sunset!

    During the summer break between my freshman and sophomore years at college,
    I worked as an admin at a BIG law firm.

    One day I had to deliver a contract to Mr. Lazar…first stop his office.
    But he wasn’t at the office but at home…So second stop his home.

    His housekeeper feed me lunch while he reviewed the contract.

    I had no idea who he was or what he did.
    Only years later did I figure all out.

  7. Avon is also in the process of their reinvention – going from door to door sales to a new marketing strategy that takes into account woman working outside their home

  8. I assumed that Mad Men would end with Don Draper in California, free from New York and Sterling Cooper (& Partners). I also imagined him reinventing himself into a studio executive like Robert Evans. Evans (nee Shapera), the son of a Harlem dentist, through guile, determination and grit, reinvented himself to become the head of Parmount Studios. When he took over in the late 60’s, Paramount Studios was the ninth largest movie studio and on its last legs. Evans engineered one of the great turnarounds in entertainment history. He was a formidable studio head and one of the greatest film producers of all time (The Odd Couple, Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, Harold and Maude, The Godfather, Serpico, The Great Gatsby, Chinatown, and Marathon Man, to name a few).

    From 1968 to 1980, Evans had an uncanny ability to pick critical and boxoffice winners. These films would all resonate with our cinephile Don Draper. Each of these movies tell some part of Don Draper’s story and I’m sure if he was given the ability to green light these scripts, he’d have made the same decision as Evans. Another coincidence is that Evans had a reputation with the ladies. After seeing Danny Siegel, movie producer, I’m sure Don can take Hollywood by storm. I’d love to see Don reborn as “Robert Evans”.

    • The Brett Morgan documentary based on Robert Evans’ autobiography, “The Kid Stays in the Picture” is brilliant. If you haven’t seen already, highly recommend.

    • 9th largest studio? That’s amazing since there are only about 5 that are traditionally referred to as the majors (Paramount being one of them). Which studios were doing better than Paramount at that time?

      • Sorry for the typo – meant 6th or thereabouts. Paramount in the 60’s was floundering like Don Draper at a pool party. I don’t have the exact rank but Paramount was close to dead last among the major studios. Evans had takeover of the studio was remarkable, given that he had no previous experience. I’ve been interested by the relationship between American Zoetrope (Francis Ford Coppola’s company) and Paramount and the work that resulted from this tumultuous period in the entertainment industry. Evans sure had a way of picking winners and his similarities with Don Draper are endlessly fascinating.

        • Paramount has always been my favorite studio. In the 30’s they made the Marx Bros.’ first 5 (and best) movies, as well asthose wonderful, sophisticated “European” comedies, such as the ones by Lubitsch. In the 40’s they had Wilder and Sturges, and in the 50’s they had Hitchcock.

    • Interesting, Frank Bullitt. Very interesting. Somehow, I see Don ending up in California, too, just not sure how or doing what. In the early episodes, he liked movies alot and seemed to know alot about many of them. And if he stays with Megan, she may get an opportunity to do something in LA.

      I also see him as becoming Dick Whitman again, once in California, but that probably can’t happen because the government might be able to find him.

      • How about this: Don changes his name to Jack Woltz and breeds race horses as a hobby.

        • Who would be his Johnny Fontaine?

          • Must be:

            1. In need of Don Corleone’s help to advance his career.
            2. Charming with the ladies
            3. Have a smooth voice (like olive oil)
            4. Don/Woltz must be forced to take him, despite his objections

            Survey says . . . Bob Benson

            We haven’t heard Bob sing yet but we have seen him act like a man – snapping Ginsberg back into reality. Plus, Sinatra would want to kick Benson’s ass as much as Roger.

            So far, Bob Benson has built up quite a resume – brown nose, spy for the competition, undercover agent, closeted gay man, well-intended nice guy, Mr. Death, Lucifer and Johnny Fontaine. Man, those motivational recordings must work.

      • It crossed my mind that he may move to Venice beach and open a hot rod shop. In, was it tthe Mountain King(?) Don stopped and chatted with a couple of guys working on some cool cars, and he looked genuinely interested and suddenly younger. So much so that I was initially confused and thought it was maybe a flashback to the pre Betty days. He once said that if he ever left the firm, it wouldn’t be for advertising.

        • The scene in The Mountain King crossed my mind as well. I don’t see Don moving to something even more high profile, like movie producer, that would increase the risk of being found out as not REALLY Don Draper. I see him slipping into the shadows in a more Dick Whitman lifestyle.

  9. This episode is also about Don Draper’s failure as a reinvention (“I told you, my name’s not Don”), and the removal of the Draper from the agency name.

  10. Wouldn’t it be something if Pete and Peggy reinvented themselves through each other?

  11. If Don ever drops acid, it’s all over for “Don Draper.” I’m wondering if this may be the way S6 ends / how MW will invoke the much-anticipated Death of Don Draper.

    Recall that S5 ended with tripping Roger standing naked as a newborn alone before that window.

    My preference would be for Anna’s niece to show up in NYC with a pocketful of blotter.

  12. I just got it. Carnation = Life cereal = Danny.

  13. From Season 1, Episode 9, “Shoot”

    A conversation between Don and Roger in Roger’s office, after Don is about to turn down an offer from McCann Erikson to leave Sterling Cooper. Earlier, Roger confronted Don with knowledge of this possible move, and Don has come into Roger’s office to assure him he doesn’t plan to leave.

    Some conversation about money, Roger says he knows Don isn’t staying for the money and then this:

    Don: “If I leave this place – one day – it will not be for more advertising.”

    Roger: “What else is there?”

    Don: “I dunno – life being lived? I’d like to stop talking about it and get back to it.”

    Roger: I’ve worked with a lot of men like you and if you had to choose a place to die, it would be in the middle of a pitch.”

    Don: “I’ve done that….I want to do something else.”

  14. While Roger and Don were in Cali at their business meeting, Roger used the term “girlfriend” referring to this company’s previous history with other ad agencies. I knew I heard this term used before in the same context and have finally just figured it out. When the the agency was hurting and Atherton from a research firm, got them a meeting with Philip Morris, he told them that they should revisit the tobacco industry because they were the right girlfriend. This is a paraphrase since I have not seen season 4 in a while. Does anyone know if this was a common reference in the 1960s. I have never heard of a company/client relationship being referred to as a girlfriend until season 4 and now season 7. And I have worked in client centric businesses.

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