Visit the Mad Men exhibition occupying a whole floor of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York and among all the costumes, sets and props from the (madly) popular programme you will see a mock page of The New York Times dated September 1965 declaring that Sterling Cooper is “Quitting Tobacco”.
The moment that the fictional advertising shop confronted its addiction to money from cigarette makers (specifically Lucky Strike) will be well known to Mad Men’s legion of fans. But, in turn, those fans will soon have to give up their addiction to the show, with the final run of episodes, capping off the seventh series, starting in the US on 5 April and in the UK a few days later.
But before then, devotees still have time to dive back into the over-sexed and over-boozed world of Don Draper, the square-jawed executive atop Sterling Cooper, played by Jon Hamm. And if they are in New York that will mean more than tuning in.
The city is saluting the series – the first on cable to win four best drama Emmy Awards – with a wave of tributes sufficient to satisfy even the most ardent of its fans, such as Laurie Underwood, 44. She flew to New York from St Louis, where she is a music teacher, on an unabashed Mad Men and Hamm pilgrimage. First stop on Friday was the Queens-based museum, where “Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men” – Weiner is the creator of the series – will remain until mid-June. The museum has reportedly said the opening weekend last week saw nearly 2,000 visitors a day, more than double the usual attendance.
Ms Underwood, who also had two hot tickets for a panel discussion with Weiner and Hamm at the Lincoln Center last night, admitted Hamm’s good looks had something to do with her fixation. But what she really marvels over, she said, is the attention to detail that made 1960s Madison Avenue so vivid.
Much of what went to recreate the era is on show at the exhibit. Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook is propped on the counter of the Drapers’ kitchen, and Don’s office blinds are open just enough to glimpse the Pan Am sign on top of what is now the MetLife building.
“I didn’t grow up in the Sixties but I think it was when America sort of lost its innocence, the drugs ... the rebellion of youth, the civil rights struggle,” she said. “All of that left scars that the country is still living with today.” Watching the doings of Don Draper brought it all to life.
But in her three days in New York – her first visit – Ms Underwood will barely scratch the surface of the coming Mad Men mania. Tomorrow, AMC, the cable company behind the show, will unveil a temporary sculpture honouring Sterling Cooper outside the Time-Life Building, which was used as the show’s HQ.
Tomorrow also marks the start of a Mad Men dining week, where various eateries, some with décor dating from the period, will offer special lunchtime menus – solid and liquid – for $19.69 (£13.17) to reflect the last year of Draper’s reign.
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“The men and women of Madison Avenue inspired Matthew Weiner’s story and we couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate than by eating, drinking and raising a glass together in their honour,” AMC president Charlie Collier said in a statement.
It may seem like a lot of promotional hoopla for a TV show in a city that can boast countless other TV hits, from Seinfeld to Friends. But what set Mad Men apart –and made it perfect museum fodder – was its near-obsessive commitment to recreating the style and design detail of 1960s Manhattan.
So determined was Weiner to immerse the cast – and thus the viewer – in the era, he even had drawers in Draper’s office and kitchen filled with props of that time that the camera couldn’t see. “Even the numbers in his Rolodex were real,” mused Ms Underwood. Indeed they were.
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