Much has been made of Mad Men’s extraordinary devotion to detail, but I’ve got an example of it that goes beyond having Don Draper sip from an era-appropriate cocktail glass in an era-appropriate suit.
Late last season, with Betty Draper way pregnant, she and Don are informed that “Dr. Mendelowitz” will administer the birth of their third child, as her regular OBGYN was out of commission.
My missus and I stared at each other at the mention of Dr. Mendelowitz. In fact, Dr. Mendelowitz had delivered our own little baby two years ago, a stone’s throw from the Drapers’ home in Ossining.
My wife met with her own Dr. Mendelowitz recently, so I prompted her to ask him about the connection; surely it wasn’t coincidental.
The real Dr. Lawrence Mendelowitz said the father of one of the show’s principals had worked for Dr. Mendelowitz–the father of my wife’s doctor–back in the ’60s. The Mad Men producers obviously being intense sticklers for detail, named the doctor “Mendelowitz” to keep it authentic to the time and place when the Drapers roamed northern Westchester County.
Mad Men of course has its season premiere Sunday on AMC. Scribes everywhere are writing about the show’s authenticity and attention to detail.
Alessandra Stanley wrote this in the Sunday NY Times:
Don has dinner at Jimmy’s La Grange, a Midtown restaurant favored by advertising executives where chicken à la Kiev is a specialty, and diners are given bibs to protect them from the splatter of butter.
Those kinds of oblique references tether the fictional world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to the real advertising world of those times. That’s partly professional pride on the part of the writers, who dread complaints from old ad executives. Emeritus “mad men” can be as finicky and exacting about the historical details of their bygone days as Civil War re-enactors are about the uniforms worn at Bull Run.
In today’s Times, Peter Applebome visits the Ossining of today and compares it to Don Draper’s Ossining.
Surely, the most obvious reason to set it in Ossining is its most famous resident, the writer John Cheever, who died in 1982 and was hailed in a 1964 Time magazine cover story as “The Ovid of Ossining.” Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, has cited him as an inspiration and has kept his books in his office.
The Drapers are said to live on the fictional Bullet Park Road, after the 1969 Cheever novel. Even the names of Cheever’s short stories, “The Season of Divorce,” “The Sorrows of Gin,” “The Five-Forty-Eight,” or their opening lines (”It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, I drank too much last night.”) resonate with the same vapors of nicotine, alcohol, lust and delusion.