Meet the real Mad Man

The central character in the award-winning show shares more than a name with Sixties ad man Draper Daniels

He is a ruthless, hard-drinking ad man, who has modern career women spluttering into their Sancerre with his philandering and sexism. Or at least that's the Don Draper that has enthralled British fans of the hit TV show Mad Men.

In reality, Draper Daniels, the Sixties' ad legend who inspired Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, was a "disgustingly honest, very respectful, soft-spoken creative genius" who made a "fabulous partner, both business and personal". Or so says his widow Myra Janco Daniels.

At first glance the similarities between the two Drapers are striking. Not only does Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper, look remarkably similar to Draper Daniels, but both ruled the real and fictional Sixties' ad land, with Draper "Dan" Daniels responsible for the Marlboro Man campaign among others.

Then there was the drinking: Ms Daniels, who married Daniels after he bought the advertising company she worked for, yesterday told The Independent on Sunday that she once found him "asleep behind his desk after a two-martini lunch had turned into a four-martini lunch".

Both men also had problematic family lives: Myra was Daniels's second wife, while Mad Men's Draper has a troubled background and numerous affairs.

But there, according to Ms Daniels, the parallels ended. "Don Draper is far more ruthless than my Dan, who was a Quaker by birth and a man who cared deeply about people. I would never have married Don; I'd have seen him for the cold man he is." Although she said women were attracted to Daniels like "flies to flypaper", he was "oblivious to all that", unlike the Mad Men character who is thrown out by Betty for cheating in the show's second series.

Ms Daniels added: "People used to say he was a chauvinist before I met him but he was anything but after we married. He helped more women get up the ladder than anyone." And after that four-martini incident, she got Daniels to give up the booze. "When I saw him asleep at his desk I took a photo, which I put on the cover of a copy of Time magazine under the headline 'Dynamic Daniels at work!' I had the magazine placed on his desk before he arrived the next morning. He was more than a little upset but I told him, 'I will not work for a lush.' He never drank again."

Despite bequeathing Marlboro Man to the world, Daniels, who died in 1983, "stopped smoking cold turkey" after he had a minor heart attack, said Ms Daniels. He also resigned from the agency that held the Marlboro account once he realised the ills of cigarettes, she said. Contrast that with Drapers' endless drags of nicotine and rye refills.

Ms Daniels, who worked with her husband as marketing director after he bought her company, Roche, Rickerd, Henri, Hurst, Inc, said she thought Mad Men, which returns to the BBC for its third series at the end of this month, is "very good" at depicting much of Sixties' ad land, even if they "over play the sex".