Wednesday, June 18, 2008

mad men: second season, first episode screened at museum of modern art: guest post

linda, matt, and pat

i am so very happy to share pat's awesome story and photos from the screening (and non-comments on the content) of the first episode of mad men's second season shown at the museum of modern art on monday night - in celebration of the well-deserved peabody award presented to matt and the cast that afternoon! we are big fans of the show! pat's comments include a prequel, if you will....

Mad Men: “Break a Leg. . . . er, uh, a Toe, that is”

“Hi Pat. It’s Dad. I just wanted to let you know there’s a great article in today’s New York Times about Matt and his new show that’s on tonight. It’s on the cover page of the Arts section. It sounds like it’s going to be a terrific show. Well, I’ll talk to you later. Love you. Bye-bye.”

That was the message I got on my cell phone voice-mail on Thursday, July 19, 2007. That night, my dad and I (he in Wake Forest, N.C., and I at home in N.Y) both watched Mad Men, the “baby” of Matthew Weiner, who is the husband of my college roommate, Linda (who is an amazing architect in L.A.). I had heard about Mad Men from Linda over the years and was so excited to see the TV show that Matt had written, produced, and directed. The next morning, my dad told me he thought the show was “terrific” and said, “Well, it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.” He and I agreed that the NYT article had nailed it. And I knew that Dad and I now had one more thing in common: we both loved Mad Men.

A week later - - the morning after the second episode of Mad Men - - I got a call from my younger sister: “You might want to fly down here to Raleigh. Dad’s in the hospital.” It was no surprise, given that Dad had acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and had suffered a relapse two months earlier. So that Friday night, I went to JFK, stayed up all night waiting for my delayed flight to board, and arrived at my parents’ house in Wake Forest at 5 a.m. on Saturday, all bleary-eyed and wiped out. After getting about 4 hours of sleep, I groggily got up and went to talk to my mom. Walking barefoot in her bedroom, I lazily padded around the wooden footboard of her bed. Bang! I smashed the pinky toe of my right foot against the wood! I had a feeling my toe was broken and I was hardly able to walk. Another sister, the second oldest, who had flown in from N.Y.C. a few days earlier, told me, “Just ice it and tape it to the next toe.” I found some surgical tape in my dad’s bathroom, followed her advice, and hobbled off to visit Dad in at Duke University Hospital.

In the next few days, my dad got worse. On Tuesday afternoon, alongside one of the many incredible nurses in the oncology department at Duke, my three sisters (my oldest sister had flown in from CT), my mom, and I all stood around my dad’s bed holding styrofoam cups of vodka tonic. My dad had insisted that he have a vodka tonic placed in his hand, while one of us girls and the nurse sat him up, quickly took off his oxygen mask, and gave him 10 or 15 seconds to make a toast . . . to us. His eyes were the only dry ones in the room. We all went around and made toasts. Dad insisted he be held up in order to drink to each one. He wanted to go out in style. And he did. He was tired - - the leukemia had spread like wildfire to his lungs - - and he was struggling to breathe, even with the oxygen at 100%. He said his last words that Tuesday night and quietly died Thursday, August 2, at about 2:00 in the morning.

That night, I missed the third episode of Mad Men. By the next week, I was still at my mom’s house, with my sister from N.Y. and her boyfriend. My mom, who also loved the premier episode, watched Mad Men with me that night. I remember her saying, “Dad would have loved this.” Soon, back at my house in N.Y., I had two constants in my life (other than my husband, my daughter, and my work): Every morning (for a month or two) I’d tape my baby toe to the toe next to it - - it seemed to take forever to feel “better” or “healed” - - and every week I either videotape or watch an episode of Mad Men. I had decided that I had to watch them in sequence - - it was the only way to really enjoy the show.

Fast forward to this past Sunday, when I get a call from Linda, out of the blue, saying that she was in New York and asking if I wanted to go to a screening of the first episode of Mad Men’s second season on Monday night at the Museum of Modern Art! “Yes!” I scream in the meat section of my local A&P, garnering strange looks from nearby shoppers. “What should I wear?!”

So Monday morning rolls around and my daughter and I are rushing around, she getting dressed for school and I getting ready for work. Barefoot, I rush into the bathroom. Bang! Crack! Crunch! Like on “Batman,” I could see the sounds in bubbles over my head. I whack my second toe - - that long one that sticks out past the big toe - - of my right foot on the piece of marble on the floor of the doorway that separates the hall carpeting from the bathroom. (Help, Linda. I’m sure this part of a house has a name and you, as an architect, surely know it!)

So, after bucking up and driving my daughter to school, I come home, kick off my sneakers, and pronounce the toe broken. I take my sister’s advice of almost a year ago: ice it and tape it to the toe next to it. After lazing around with my toe elevated and iced for a few hours, I take out the roll of surgical tape that I’d gotten in North Carolina, and, thinking of my dad, and how he would have been so excited about my “Mad Men night on the town,” I wrap my toe and head off to work. I had only two goals: to make sure that my foot fit into my shoe that night and to not limp.

By 6:30, my toe is better but I am late for the screening. I intend to walk up to the #2 or 3 line of the subway, take it uptown and simply walk a few blocks to MOMA. I’m running (well, walking) late, so I wimp out and hail a cab from outside of my office. I get the one cab driver in all of New York City who obeys the speed limit on the FDR Drive. When I ask him if there is some reason he is driving so slowly, he indignantly points out that he was just going the speed limit, 45 mph. Ugh.

When I get to the MOMA a few minutes before 7:00, I walk into a small crowd of people holding drinks and the doorman asks if I’m here for the reception. I say yes and he directs me to the reception desk. My name is not on the list, so they write me in. I look around and see no one who seems like a Hollywood type. I turn to the woman at the desk and ask, “Is this the Mad Men screening?” She gives me a confused look and shakes her head. A colleague of hers leans over and says, “Oh, I think that’s in the other building. Ask the doorman.” So, I scamper back to the doorman who directs me down the block to my left and halfway down the next block, at the “other entrance” to the MOMA. Trying to ignore my toe, I walk as fast as I can, hoping the screening hasn’t started on time.

When I finally go in the right door, I find I am definitely in with a cooler crowd. Not everyone is cool, but most seem to be. I don’t see Linda or Matt, so I go over to check in. I announce, “I’m here as a guest of my friend Linda and her husband Matt Weiner.” The receptionist’s eyes light up. She finds my name on the list (it is indeed there) and asks expectantly, “Oh! Is he here yet?” Smiling, and knowing that I, for a brief moment in time, am in with the “in crowd,” I reply, “I don’t think so. But they’re coming separately.” Still smiling, I take a club soda that is being passed out by a waiter and sip it, scanning the place for anybody I might recognize. Nope. But I’m here! The main level is wide open and looks down on the lower level (what’s it called, Linda, when both floors have the same ceiling?). I look over the railing in hopes of seeing Linda and Matt milling around down there, but they’re no where to be seen. Nor are there any stars from the show.

Soon the crowd is directed to walk down the open staircase to the lower level and into the screening room. As I get in line to go into the theater, I turn around and look up to the main level. Still no Linda. As I walk in, I see about 20 rows of 10 seats each, which reminds me of the screening room you see in movies, like in “The Way We Were.” I feel like one of the privileged few, being one of maybe 200 people who will be the very first to see the new episode of Mad Men! (Yes, this is how I get my thrills!) I put my bag down in an empty seat in about the 7th row and ask the woman sitting next to the seat to hold it for me, as I just need to see if there is a seat up front reserved for me. The first four or five rows all have paper signs taped to the seat backs, either with the names of special guests or simply stating “reserved.” And, there, three rows up, in the 4th row, I see three seats together. They are labeled: “Matthew Weiner, Linda Brettler, Reserved.” And then comes “John Slattery,” one of the stars of Mad Men! Am I the person who will be sitting in that “reserved” seat???

So, I leave the small theater and head over to the ladies’ room. Before I get there, though, I hear, “Pat! Pat!” It’s Linda, up above, smiling and waving at me. I scamp up the stairs painlessly and we give each other a big hug. Matt turns to me, beaming, with the widest smile I had seen in a while, gives me a bear hug and says, “I’m so glad you could make it!” Ahhh.... to be loved by one’s friends. “All ya need is love, da da da dah ...”

Immediately Linda says to me, “Hey, do you want to meet some of the cast?” I look around and notice that indeed I am in the midst of real-life celebrities. Starstruck, I am in no way cool, and nod, saying “Yes!” in a way that is reminiscent of a three-year-old who has been offered a hot fudge sundae. My world is spinning and in record time, I am standing next to Linda, with Matt squeezing my left hand, and using my right hand to meet the five main actors on the show - - all of whom give me dazzling smiles and warm handshakes (presumably, I must be someone pretty important if Matt Weiner is holding my other hand and smiling!). Pinch me, please! There is: Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper (seriously cute with amazing blue/green eyes!), John Slattery, who plays Roger Sterling (handsome and very cool), Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan (tall, redheaded and beautiful), January Jones, who plays Don’s wife Betty (beautifully blonde with the face we all wish we’d been born with), and Elisabeth Moss (also redheaded and pretty, with an open, welcoming smile). Damn! Why had I left my camera in my bag on the seat in the theater?

After the introductions, Linda reads my mind and asks, “Hey, do you want a picture with any of them?” Again, another hot fudge sundae. Before I know it, I am linking arms with Jon Hamm, smiling like I’d died and gone to Heaven. Next thing I know, there I am, squished between Christina and January, the two most beautiful women I’ve ever been physically close to (apologies to Linda, my other college roommates, and all my female friends and relatives). And did John Slattery actually touch my waist (if it can still be called that)? Linda promises that she’ll e-mail me the pictures and I contemplate stealing her camera right there and then. But I’m a lawyer and have an ethical duty not to break laws.

Finally, we head down to the theater and I remember I need to use the restroom. Three minutes later, I scurry into the packed room, only to be told there are no more seats. “Oh, no, I say, I already have a seat,” hoping that the nice woman I met 20 minutes earlier had not given my saved seat away (along with my bag). Luckily, it’s still there. Before I turn into that row, though, I see Linda and notice that the seat next to her, with the “reserved” sign on it, is still empty. I smile and head down to it. Ooops, some famous person who’s closer to the row moves in - - obviously, he’s with the show - - and sits down in that seat. Oh well, I still have my seat with the regular spectators.

[Okay... so I’ve been writing this forever and I’ve got to finish it up. So here goes, my speed writing and typing...]

The episode is amazing! I am sworn to secrecy about anything at all having to do with it and I wholeheartedly agree with something Matt was quoted in Entertainment Weekly a few weeks ago as having said (and I paraphrase): “I don’t understand how anyone who loves the show could tell other people what’s going to happen.” Neither do I. So, out of my total agreement with Matt and my loyalty to him and the cast - - with whom I now have an intimate, first-name, “I’ll call you” relationship - - I am not going to say a peep. Not a word.

Okay. Well, the costumes are still great. The setting is still NYC and, at this point, JFK is the President. Don Draper is still handsome and cool, and everyone is still smoking cigarettes and drinking likes fish at 11 in the morning. But that’s about all I can say. Read the Entertainment Weekly story. Or go to the Mad Men website. As an insider now, I can’t be the source of any truly reliable information anyway. I am totally and utterly biased.

Oh, yes, Entertainment Weekly. Did I happen to mention that Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks were on the cover of the June 6th (or was it 8th?) edition? Well, in my infinite wisdom, I took the magazine with me to the screening, hoping to . . . dare I say it, now that I’m an insider . . . get some autographs.

So, the screening ends and there is a big applause. In my work as an appellate attorney for poor abused, neglected, and delinquent kids, I never get applause (well, I’m never really in front of an audience, so I guess I don’t have much opportunity for people to clap for me... ). So what a thrill it must have been for Matt and Linda to hear 200 people clapping loudly for something that they have created. I include Linda in that “they,” since I know that she reads every script and “every incarnation of every script.” Linda, the biochemistry major who became an architect, is also a great writer and has an amazing eye for film, art and style. And both she and Matt are complete perfectionists (though in a low-key kind of way). I have a vivid memory of traipsing all around L.A. with Linda back in ‘91 (I think), two days before her wedding, helping her find “the perfect earrings” to match her dress. As a bridesmaid I had to help her with such important tasks. We bounced from store to store. “How about these?” “These are pretty.” “I like these.” “No,” Linda would answer, “I know another place we can try.” Three hours and five stores later, she had found the perfect earrings. I was exhausted.

We head out of the theater and upstairs for cocktails. The food is delicious but tiny. Yummy filet mignon rolls the size of my pinky toe (the broken one), small lobster rolls, and mini cannolis the size of a Tootsie Rolls. The drinks seem to be flowing quite well, but I just have a ginger ale. I can barely hear anyone over the din of the crowd. I talk mainly with Linda and some of her other friends who’ve been invited, insiders like me. One woman, who is more starstruck than I (yes, there was one such woman there), gets her own hot fudge sundae when Linda calls Jon Hamm over and asks him to be in a photo with the woman. As Jon and the woman stand next to each other, somebody, I don’t know who, says something like, “Closer” or “Do something cute.” So Jon pulls the woman close - - and I mean CLOSE - - and puts his lips on the top of her head, and gives her the longest “stage kiss” I’d ever seen. On her head, of course. With her beaming from ear to ear, and Jon looking very cute, Linda snaps the photo. Linda takes two more shots of Jon and the woman, who by this time is blushing three shades of red. In good humor, Jon shakes her hand and smiles, and goes back to talking to his beautiful blonde girlfriend (according to an on-line article, “He is devoted to his girlfriend, the actress and writer Jennifer Westfeldt.”

So, as the night winds down, I mention to Matt that I have brought my Entertainment Weekly on the off-chance that I can get some autographs “for my daughter” (who has never seen the show and doesn’t know any of the actors). He says, “Sure! Go for it!” So I whip out my crumpled magazine, go up to John (Slattery, that is) and Elisabeth (Moss) and ask them if they wouldn’t mind signing the article. John nods and begins to sign it, while Elisabeth turns to me and says, “Sure. It’s too bad all the big stars just left.” With my knees knocking and my hands almost trembling - - even though I’m an insider now, I am still amazed that I’m actually talking to these people! - - I instinctively say, “Oh, yeah!” and begin to look around for Jon, January, and Christina. Elisabeth laughs, turns to John and says, smiling, “Oh, did you hear her? She just agreed that all the big stars had left!” Mortified that I had not picked up on her joke, I backtrack and say, “Oh, no! That’s not what I meant!” She smiles, touches my arm lightly, and says, “Oh, I’m just kidding around.”

I thank them both and manage to walk away without tripping or stumbling (I’ve had just one ginger ale, mind you). Suddenly my cell phone rings and it’s Katie, asking when I’m going to be home. It’s 10:05 and if I hurry I can make the 10:30 train back up to Westchester. As I’m getting ready to leave, I see Elisabeth again. I tell her how much I enjoyed her performance in the vibrator episode and that I, like so many women, can relate to the workplace/harassment issues that her character faces, since I observed several instances of sexual harassment when I worked at a corporate law firm in the early 90s. She nods sincerely and realizes, I think, that she is part of something bigger than herself.

Mad Men, while wholly entertaining as a glimpse of corporate life in the early 60s, is also forcing us to examine our lives today. So there’s not any drinking or smoking at work anymore. But what percentage of the partners in any given NYC corporate law firm are women? Five? Ten percent? Okay, maybe 25%? And what percentage of partners are African American? And while ad executives don’t fool around with secretaries on the office couch at 8 a.m. like Pete and Peggy did, family and work issues haven’t changed that much. Mad Men explores our hopes and dreams of who we want to be and what we want out of our lives. And it does it in a thoroughly engrossing way.

And so, I hug Linda and Matt good-bye, hop in a cab and make the 10:30 train. And as I take the short ride over to Grand Central, I can’t stop smiling. Dad would have loved this. I wish he could have been there. And in a way he was. As I switch out of my shoes and back into my sneakers, I remember that I have a broken toe, taped to the toe next to it. And it doesn’t hurt at all.

more photos on the way....

UPDATE: here is pat's review of the first episode of season two!


Laura said...

SO cool! I really want to try to watch the show now.

John at Hella Sound said...

Mad Men is fantastic. Amazing plot line, fantastic dialog, great characters, the mise en scène. Great show. Can't wait for the next season to start!

DawnB said...

Hi Frank I finally got a chance to answer your tag