The State of Mad Men: A Discussion of Where It’s Been and Where It’s Going

If you haven’t yet had the chance to watch the season finale of Mad Men, which aired this past Sunday – you may want to skip this post and catch up on some previous Mad Men posts, here and here.  Ms. Jeannie would hate to spoil anything for you.

Since you are still reading, we’ll assume you’ve watched and no doubt have some opinions about the last show of the season as well as general thoughts and speculations of what could happen next year on the show. Ms. Jeannie has her theories also. She thought it would be fun to ask a few Mad Men fans about their thoughts and reactions to the most talked about episode of the season.

The Power of Persuasion, Don Draper Mad Men  Art Print by GalleryArtLife
The Power of Persuasion, Don Draper Mad Men Art Print by GalleryArtLife (click for more info)

To get started, Victor from GalleryArtLife in British Columbia recaps the character of Don Draper …

“I did enjoy this season…started slowly but had a tumultuous ending.
A question was posed with regards to Don’s life and what is the truth about it. Don was raised from childhood on the farm, went through the Depression and WW2 on the farm, had photos of Adam and himself on the farm. When the Korean war arrived Don left his life on the farm and went to war, he even accompanied the coffin back to the town where his family received it. In the last episode of this season we are shown an early teen Don living in a brothel. Later in the episode he returns to the run-down brothel and proclaims to his children that THIS was his home. It will be very interesting next season to find out how all the loose ends are tied up. Never a dull moment.”

Final Scene of Mad Men Season 6. Photo via pinterest.
Final Scene of Mad Men Season 6. Photo via pinterest.

Ms. Jeannie agrees with Victor – this final scene of Don introducing his children to his past life was powerful and telling.  Building viewers up for next season, Ms. Jeannie hopes that Don will, perhaps, finally be able to confront his past so that he can actually leave it in the past and move on to a more authentic life. The trick here will be if Don will be able to figure out his own “real” self since he has been touting another identity for years. In this season, we heard Don say a lot of  “this is not what I want” or “this is not how it should go” which could be signs that the genuine hairs of his own philosophies are just starting to tickle underneath his skin.

Mad Men Illustration Print by TuttiConfetti (click for more info)
Mad Men Illustration Print by TuttiConfetti (click for more info)

Maruta from TuttiConfetti in Spain tackles the complex issues Don had to face in this season…

I have been requested to write about Mad Men season 6 not even 24 hours after I watched the last episode and believe me, it’s not easy. Every time a Mad Men season ends, I need some time to process everything I have seen during the 13 episodes and I must learn to live without all those characters in my life. Today my mind goes over and over to the last scene. That look between Sally and Don, so many things were said without any word…

If I had to define this season I would choose the word INTENSE. Probably it has not been as nice as others, but in my opinion it is one of the best. This time Don and his internal fights are the absolute center of the series  Everything turns around him. Maybe there are other stories, but they are all minor if you compare to his. I have never seen a Don so tortured, so unhappy, so down as in this season. He cannot reach happiness and it seems he is not willing others to reach it. He is obsessed with his neighbor,  unable to love his children as he should, unable to love Megan as she deserves. Completely alcoholic he takes decisions that affect the company and people around him in a bad way.And what to say about Sally? His father suddenly becomes a villain after all that time being a hero.

And then it comes the last episode and you don’t know what to expect. You have started to hate Don and suddenly, there is some light, there is a blue sky and the Don we all knew from other seasons comes out. He rejects going to California in favor of Ted, he picks up his daughter on the edge and he is able to confront himself with his own story and show his children where he really comes from. I could never imagine a better end for this season than this one.

And now? What to expect on last season? Honestly, I have no idea. If I have learnt something during the previous six ones is not to have any expectations because something different it will happen for sure, so I assume it will be the same the last time. I wish he could find peace as Sylvia said, but probably this will not happen and the story, again, will be much better and surprising that what my mind can ever imagine. In the mean time, I will have to learn again to live without all of them and specially without Don.”

From Season 6, Don Draper & Bob Benson. Photo via pinterest.
From Season 6, Don Draper & Bob Benson. Photo via pinterest.

Ms. Jeannie likes Maruta’s description of Don not being able to enjoy other people’s happiness, which might explain his conflicted relationship with Megan and her burgeoning career. And why he is  attracted to the downstairs neighbor, Sylvia who is unhappy in her marriage. Misery does love company, as they say. Perhaps we could extend this further, into the office and Don not understanding or participating in the thrill of the game as he used to. Instead, he sees that Peggy and Ted are happy working together, that Bob Benson is eager to please everyone, and that Harry is ecstatic about all the possibilities of the West Coast clients. Everyone but Don seems to be engaged in their profession, while he looks at it all from the outside in and wonders what all the effort is for.

One of the most controversial character’s this season, was the introduction of Bob Benson. Ms. Jeannie thinks that all the build-up with this  mysterious character is a play on the “history always repeats itself” theme. She thinks that Bob is the new Don.

Bob, like Don comes from a different past than he admits and he has the ability to charm his way into people’s lives, proving useful at the most opportune times.  Ms. Jeannie thinks Bob will actually be a point of solace for Don in Season 7, proving that Don is not the only person in the world with the desire to reinvent themselves, nor the last.  By the end of Season 7, Ms. Jeannie predicts that Roger Sterling will have retired, Bert Cooper will have died (sorry Burt!) and Don will have removed himself from the industry completely (more on that in a minute). Bob will be at the helm of the agency, just underneath Peggy and Joan, who will be the new partners of the first female-run ad agency in New York City.

Vintage 1960's Red Dress from Catbooks1940s. (Click for more info)
Vintage 1960’s Red Dress from Catbooks1940s. (Click for more info)

Joan from Catbooks1940’s in the U.S. discusses Peggy’s character and where she could be headed…

“Much to my surprise, I noted it was actually Paul Kinsey who first put the idea of becoming a copywriter into Peggy’s bright and eager head, not Don or Freddy Rumsen.

Peggy who, towards the end of the finale, ended up in Don’s office, wearing a (fabulous) period pantsuit, sitting in his chair, in half-silhouette, head tilted slightly to the right, echoing Don in the opening graphic we’ve now seen for years. But back to Peggy and Kinsey of Season 1 for a moment.

Kinsey hands the Right Guard account folder to Peggy, sitting at her desk, and asks her to make sure Don takes a look at it. He hesitates, turns back to her and says, “You can look too.” She does.

Later he gives Peggy a grand tour of the office, explaining how the agency works. Over wax paper-wrapped sandwiches from the lunch cart he says, “You know, there are women copywriters.”

“Good ones?” she responds.

“Sure.”

Now she’s Copy Chief, and we’re to suppose she just might be doing more than temporarily filling in her former mentor’s chair in the near future. (I don’t think that’s going to happen. For one, Mad Men is chock full of redirects.)”

According to Ms. Jeannie, Peggy is the spine of the show. Don is the flesh of the story but Peggy is the moral balance. She has the most integrity of all the characters and even though, of course, she is flawed, she’s always trying , at least, to do the right thing, by clients, by co-workers, by love interests.  As far as a love life for Peggy, Ms. Jeannie always liked her with Stan, so she hopes they end up together. Even though she referred to him last season as “being like a brother” Ms. Jeannie thinks that given the opportunity to think of him in a romantic way, Peggy could really have a great relationship with him.

Peggy has a bad habit of picking guys that are wrong for her, out of in-experience mostly and her need for challenge, so Stan would never enter her radar because their friendship is so easy-going. But Ms. Jeannie thinks in Season 7, Peggy will come to appreciate that  and then seek it out on her own terms. They’ve been friends all these years, Stan respects her work ethic and intuitively they both work well together on creative projects. Stan is just different enough from Peggy for her to keep interested and Stan understands Peggy’s drives and motivations enough to give her the professional space that she requires. Technically, it’s a match made in heaven!

Peggy & Stan. Photo via pinterest.
Peggy & Stan. Photo via pinterest.

Joan from Catbook1940s brings up the timeliness of Duck’s character towards the end of the episode…

Meanwhile back at the finale, Don has left the building, for all appearances effectively fired from SC&P. On his way down, he runs into Duck, with Don’s prospective replacement, coming out of the elevator before his metaphorical professional body is even cold. Who tipped off headhunter Duck? Pete seems like the most likely suspect, having most recently — as far as we know — been the last in contact with him. But, for all we know, it was Bob, skulking about, eavesdropping, and then giving Duck the call.”

Ms. Jeannie’s not sure about this one. Part of her says, yes, perhaps it was Pete to tell Duck, because who else would have done it. But I think Duck keeps close tabs on what goes on at SC&P and might have heard industry gossip about what occurred at the Hershey presentation, and therefore asserted himself with a meeting at the office.

“As ever, Matt Weiner & Co. were deliciously, infuriatingly vague, leaving it up to us to think it over, connect the dots, read between the lines. Which is one of the reasons I think Mad Men is the best TV show in the history of TV to date: Matt Weiner & Co. do not condescend to us, the audience. They expect us to observe closely and think — there are no throwaway lines

— and, think we do.

Occasionally there are too few clues, or none. How were we to know, for instance, that Joan got the Avon account, were it not for Mr. Weiner’s post-finale interview? Only slightly less confusing, because at least we had a hope of figuring it out on our own, was Pete’s sudden move out to California with Ted, as head of accounts of what would appear to be the beginnings of the West Coast office of SC&P.What about Bob? The most mysterious and controversial character of the season, and Joan’s new BMF. Is he gay, bi, neither but an opportunist ready and willing to do every and anything he thinks is to his advantage, a conspirator in Pete’s mother’s apparent murder? Is he fluent in Spanish because Manny/Manolo is his lover, or for some other reason? Hmm..

Blog reader, Christine from Philadelphia thinks that Bob Benson is up to no good…

“I think that Bob and Manolo are con-men.  Bob is working on the inside of SC&P to eventually steal money from the company. Remember, that he worked in accounting to begin with and then, as of late, has been cozying up with Joan, possibly in hopes to learn more about the inner workings of the office. Manolo went the circuitous route by inserting himself in Pete Campbell’s personal life, so that ultimately, with the help of Manolo, Bob could  find Pete’s weak spot and bring him down on a fundamental level. Bob could advance in the company and continue to plot about stealing company money before he and Manolo run off together as lovers with a fortune.”

Hmmmm…so much to think about! It seems that could go on for months about Don and Bob. There was a theory flying around the internet all season that Bob was a spy for the government who was after Don. While technically, Ms. Jeannie supposes this could still be a possibility,  she is glad that Don is dredging up his past on his own instead of being forced to by police or the government.

With Don no longer trying to stay tight-lipped about his past, he can now begin to let others into his thoughts. What was once a lonely place for him, the internal struggles  of his mind can now come to the surface and be shared with others.  Sally, in Ms. Jeannie’s opinion,  will the one to most appreciate this effort. We know from past seasons that she has yet to develop any hobbies or personal interests, yet she is incredibly observant and outspoken, so Ms. Jeannie thinks that Sally will close the series with the determination of becoming a journalist. She’ll realize that there is value, both financially and emotionally, in watching people’s stories unfold and she;ll become afresh voice of her generation. This will be her way to ultimately figure out her parents, herself and her changing society.

Sally Draper  - budding journalist perhaps? Photo via pinterest.
Sally Draper – budding journalist, perhaps? Photo via pinterest.

As for what will become of Don in the final season, Ms. Jeannie thinks that he could stay with Megan, that they could move to Montreal, that they could have a baby and that Megan could continue to work as an actor. Ms. Jeannie really liked Megan’s character, so she is hoping that she is not off the show. She liked that Megan gave her whole heart to Don and tried her best to make it work during both the easy times and the hard times, trying to be both understanding and clever. Being married to Don might have been her best playground for dramatic practice.

Betty is a bit more old-fashioned in defining her own role as a wife and mother, albeit not seeming  exactly excited about either option. Don understands Betty more though because they come from the same generation of expectations, where as Megan is thoroughly modern in her thinking. Having said that, Ms. Jeannie thinks Betty will divorce Henry because, with him, her life seems dull. Ms. Jeannie thinks she’ll encourage a reconciliation with Don and a move to a more exotic locale like Mexico or Hawaii, where they can start over as a family with the boys and Sally in tow.

The third possibility is that Don could remain in New York, single, and for the first time, sure of himself, as he watches the city spin around him. He could get out of the advertising industry all together and start a different career path – maybe opening up a cinema, which was the only thing we ever knew that he loved (besides, women, work and drinking of course!). It’s unclear if Don needs to work, or if he has enough in reserve, to just take some time off  and sort through his life for awhile.

Ms. Jeannie was disappointed that Roger didn’t pull Don aside before-hand to let him know about the company’s plans of forcing a prolonged absence.  Roger and Don were such friends, but in the end, that’s just business, and when it comes down to it, life and work march on whether you are having a meltdown or not. Don had the ability to bring down the whole ship of SC&P, so Roger was possibly looking at it from that perspective.  One that his livelihood was tied up in just as much as Don’s.

Joan from Catbooks1940’s thinks the office is going to shake down as foillows…

Predictions for the final season next year? With Mad Men, this is much like trying to predict the flight of a bumblebee, but here goes.

We will know more about Bob Benson. I suspect he’s angling for Pete’s job as head of accounts, and so far, he’s doing well. SC&P isn’t all that picky about the backgrounds of their employees, as long as they can bring in the accounts. Pete’s off to California, anyway. The way he manipulated the nurse at Joan’s visit to the emergency hospital and Pete’s humiliation in Detroit was downright masterful. He’s come a long way from his ham-handed grinning and lurking with two cups of coffee. A quick learner, that boy. So we’ll see if he can use his formidable newly acquired skills on clients as effectively.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Don at SC&P, nor do I think all that’s happened will end up being the wake-up call that finally wakes him up. He’ll shape up professionally, Don-talk his way back, and then leave. Probably for California, either to take over the new office out there, or start out on his own. He’s already proved himself many times over to be either incapable or unwilling to change in any meaningful way on a personal level.

Maybe he’ll even talk Peggy and Ted into coming with him. Which would fit nicely with my thought that things between Peggy and Ted aren’t over. Not to say I think it’ll be a happily ever after ending with them, and maybe not even develop into a romantic relationship, but there’s something else in store for those two.

Bert Cooper, one of my favorite characters, may buy the farm next season, leaving SC&P rudderless. For all of his delightfully quixotic quirks, he is the anchor. When push comes to shove, it’s always Bert who sees what needs to be done and does it without hesitation.

Which would leave Roger and Jim Cutler in charge. Except, there’d still be Joan. Roger is no match for Cutler, but Roger *and* Joan just might be. I like the idea of Joan and Roger together, not romantically, but teaming up professionally. I confess I want some sort of happiness and success for Joan, and even Roger, so take this prediction with a grain of salt.

I find Megan too uninteresting and two-dimensional a character to bother thinking about much, but she’ll be out in California, pursuing her acting career, probably solo.

Just to tie back into Season 1, I think Paul Kinsey is in California, pontificating and blowing his mind on acid, in the Haight. But I doubt we’ll ever see him again.”

Women of Mad Men Print
Women of Mad Men Print by Fishmerman’s Porch (click for more info)

Brandi from Fisherman’s Porch in Michigan was so satisfied with this season’s character development, she couldn’t even begin to decide where the storylines will go next year…

“What I love about the finale is that it’s practically impossible to not talk about but there is so little to say that it doesn’t say itself. I’ve read that Matthew Weiner ends every season as if it’s the last and I really think part of his genius is that he almost always manages to end a season with all the characters in a place that feels complete, while still giving you a reason to keep watching. The finale was wonderful, a great end to kind of a winding season; everyone is right where they need to be. Sigh… I miss it already.”

Well said, Brandi! Matthew Weiner has such a wonderful knack for giving just the right amount of information, without giving all the information. He said recently, in an interview, that he will not be unveiling a big “aha” moment for the series finale, so it is doubtful that Don Draper and the rest of the cast will be wrapped up in a tidy little package like we all would hope.  But nonetheless, it is still fun to imagine what could happen while we wait for what will happen.

Thank you to everyone who contributed their comments. If you, dear blog readers, would like to chime in with your thought’s on the show’s direction, please comment below and we’ll continue all of our speculating!

One last thought: One thing that was never addressed were the cops in the season six poster. Do you think that was meant to represent the tumultuous time in history or was it a metaphorical symbol of Don confronting his past? Or maybe they represent his night spent in jail? What do you think?

Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com
Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com

Mad Men Season 6: What the New Poster Might Tell Us!

It’s just a few short weeks until  Mad Men returns (Sunday, April 7th!) and Ms. Jeannie cannot wait! The new season 6 poster was released just last week. In case you missed it, here it is…

Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com
Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com

Ms. Jeannie always anticipates these posters! It’s a little sneak-peak about what’s ahead in the coming months!  The new season 6 poster is quite different stylistically then the previous year’s posters…

Mad Men Season 5 poster. Image courtesy of huffingtonpost.com
Mad Men Season 5 poster. Image courtesy of huffingtonpost.com
Mad Men Season 4 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com
Mad Men Season 4 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com
Mad Men Season 3 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com
Mad Men Season 3 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com (Ms. Jeannie’s favorite poster!)
Mad Men Season 2 poster
Mad Men Season 2 poster
Mad Men Season 1 poster. Courtesy of screened.com
Mad Men Season 1 poster. Courtesy of screened.com

As you can see from the Season 6 poster, along with the new season brings a whole new style and a break from the clean, crisp, clear, ultra mod photography that was Mad Men as we knew it.  Ms. Jeannie can only guess, based on the new poster, that this season will be edgier, more chaotic and less orderly than previous episodes. Oh the anticipation!

The artist behind this season’s poster is Brian Sanders, a UK illustrator that was specifically commissioned for this project due to work he did over 40 years ago. That’s a pretty powerful portfolio!

In the 1960’s Brian was working on projects like this…

Brian Sanders illustrations circa 1967. Photos courtesy of livejournal.com
Brian Sanders illustrations circa 1967. Photos courtesy of livejournal.com
Illustrations from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Photo courtesy of feedbagblog.blogspot.com
Brian Sanders’ 1968  illustrations from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Photo courtesy of feedbagblog.blogspot.com
Photo credit leifpang via flickr
Brian Sander’s illustration for Women’s Mirror in 1964. Photo credit leifpang via flickr

That one looks sort of familiar, doesn’t it? You can definitely see the similarities of that image and the Season 6 poster right down to the police, the stop sign and the airplane in back. Even the colors are close.

Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com
Mad Men Season 6 poster. Photo courtesy of collider.com

This style of illustration was coined bubble and streak, which was mastered through the use of acrylic paints layered with opaque washes. Ulimately, this combination  achieved this sort of agitated textured look that boasts of energy and movement. Mad men’s creator, Matthew Weiner remembered this style of work the 60’s and wanted to imitate his style in the new season poster.  The marketing department for the show couldn’t quite capture what Weiner had in mind, so the creative team called in the expert. Who better to imitate the style then the actual artist?! And so Sanders was hired!

And we are left to speculate!

Final scene of Mad Men Season 5. Photo courtesy via pinterest.com
Final scene of Mad Men Season 5. Photo courtesy via pinterest.com

Mad Men Season 5 ends with the scene of Joan and Don in the bar. The year is 1967 and lots of questions go unanswered as the final scene plays out. Ms. Jeannie has her hunches. 1968 brings a turbulent time in American history.  Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy are assassinated,  birth control is banned by the Pope, Jackie Kennedy marries Aristotle Onassis, moon exploration booms with the launch of Apollo 7 and the orbit of Apollo 8, fear of the nuclear bomb  plants itself in American mindsets. Times are shifting in ways  that no one is prepared for and the nostalgic sense of traditional Americana begins to dim as political events heat up.

If we return to the poster with those circumstances in mind – the Ology household has come up with these possibilities for Season 6…

Mr. Jeannie Ology thinks that the police in the poster…

mad1

are there for Don in the form of an IRS scandal with his Dick Whitman persona.  Ms. Jeannie thinks that the police might involve some sort of DUI stop with Don or one of the other partners. Breathalyzers were just installed in all NY state trooper cars in 1968 , and we all know that the Mad Men gang were used to enjoying their libations and then getting in the car – so this might be an example of the changing times that the show is so good at subtly portraying (remember that garbage incident when Don and Betty and kids picnicked in the park?).

There is Don giving a passing glance to his old self, and the tight grasp of a female handhold…

mad3

which Ms. Jeannie thinks reconfirms his assurance in his new life with Megan. He no longer wants to rely on his old ways with all of his womanizing and manic episodes of not knowing who he truly is. In season 6, Ms. Jeannie thinks Don has finally figured himself out.

The firm! Photo courtesy via pinterest.com
The firm! Photo courtesy via pinterest.com

Ms. Jeannie also thinks that Joan will become a partner in company name also – a change from last year’s Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to Sterling Cooper Draper Harris, now that Lane is no longer (sad, because Ms. Jeannie really liked his character!).  Mr. Jeannie Ology speculates that Roger Sterling is going to die of a heart attack, since his health has always been a simmering undercurrent in the storyline. And Ms. Jeannie thinks that Peggy will come back to the firm.

Whatever happens, Ms. Jeannie knows that it is going to be an interesting season! Do you have any speculations about the new season? What do you think about the new poster? Please post your comments below – it will be fun to hear everyone weigh in!!!

Sunday at the Diner with Luncheonette Vintage

Magic surrounds a diner. Ms. Jeannie has always said this. Any diner. It doesn’t matter where it is located, who runs it, how its decorated, or what they serve. There is something about sliding into a leather booth, ordering breakfast at midnight and not being hurried along that does wonders for a soul.

When Ms. Jeannie lived in New York, Sundays were the designated diner days. First she started going with her parents, her brother, her sisters when she was small to the local diner just up the street from their house. Coloring books in hand, endless stacks of pancakes and hours later, a leisurely family breakfast was had.  And nobody had to fight about whose turn it was to wash dishes at the end! Perfect, said Ms. Jeannie at 5!

As Ms. Jeannie grew, she carried on dinering with her friends, then her roommates, then boyfriends and  then ultimately, the best diner date of all, her handsome husband.

Everything under the moon was discussed at the diner. Friendships were forged over steaming stacks of homestyle potatoes. Politics defended over pancakes. Boys dissected over burgers. Life marked important over pie.

Or not.  Sometimes, nothing was said at the diner. Sometimes you just got lost for sleepy hours in the comfortable company of the New York Times,  and a crossword puzzle or two or three. That’s where the magic comes in.  Conversation, spoken or unspoken was always cathartic, always interesting.

Now that Ms. Jeannie lives far far away from any diners, she has had to be a tad more creative in order to get her diner fix. So when Ms. Jeannie stumbled upon Jana, the shop owner of Luncheonette Vintage, Ms. Jeannie knew she had found her next diner date.

As you’ll read, Jana’s roots are steeped in diner mentality. She’s fascinating and thoughtful and has interesting things to say about a range of topics.  So grab a cup of coffee, take a seat and slip into the world of all things vintage…

Ms. Jeannie:  Your shop personality is so fun and retro quirky, how did you land on the name Luncheonette Vintage?

Luncheonette Vintage: Thanks! There were a bunch of reasons. I wanted to combine all good stuff: food, deliciousness, vintage, and, well, friendly service in one term. Even the word, “luncheonette,” has such a vintage feel and really rolls off the tongue. But the name is also way to honor my grandparents: my grandmother worked at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Manhattan,

A 1940’s era Woolworth’s lunch counter. Photo courtesy of expolounge.blogspot.com

my grandfather was one of the legendary Hungarian waiters in the 1930s and 1940s (I bet you didn’t know there was a such a breed, but they were all smart, sophisticated, handsome, and very graceful with a tray). He worked at the original, famous Lindy’s.

Leo Lindy’s famous deli and restaurant opened in New York City in 1921 and is still in operation today!

My father was a hat check boy there and still remembers checking Rita Hayworth’s hat.

Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) was a well known 1940s era movie actress and dancer and considered one of the 100 most greatest stars of all time.

On the other side, my maternal grandmother was a legendary cook known for heaping plates of her phenomenal cooking in front of her guests, and then coming out with even more. Food is a big deal in my family.

I’ve had so many waitressing and cooking jobs over the years — it’s so common among writers (my other hat). That hustle bustle, serve-it-up with a smile and make people happy stays with me. Sometimes I dream of having a whole empire based on the theme: a men’s vintage shop called Grill Cook, a vintage bookshop called Cook’s Secret Life, but in the end I like the varied, endless menu of my Luncheonette.

MJ: You live in scenic upstate New York, how much do you do think location affects the items represented in your shop?

The stunning Catskill Mountains are located about 100 miles from New York City.

LV: That’s a great question. I live in the Catskills in a very rural area filled with woods and farms and tons of history. It’s a tangible history: old farmhouses, cabins and barns, old stone walls, old middens you’ll find while hiking that are filled with trash from 100 years ago.

People are thrifty here: they do not throw things away until there is absolutely no use for them, or until the house is changing hands after decades. So you can find amazing treasures at yard sales. I love old hunting and fishing gear and old cabin furnishings, old dishes, mason jars (you don’t even want to know how many I’ve got here — I’ve got to get them listed!). And old linens: in the old days women around here prided themselves on handiwork, and I’m always amazed by their embroidery and crocheting. The other day I can across a garbage bag filled with hand embroidered linens, including notes from a mother to her daughter, written in 1876, on how to work certain stitches. “Stay small,” the mother wrote. “It may be a temptation to stitch large but it is always a mistake.” I love that.
MJ:  At what point in life did you realize you were destined to become a collector?

LV: I was born into it. It’s in my DNA. My father is a photographer and a writer who has collected cameras and books since he was a child, my mother (a really, really talented painter) collected art books and loved Danish modern. My first obsession was horses, and I accumulated a mythical horse farm in my room, populated by dozens of Breyer horses. Whenever I see a Breyer horse from those days my childhood comes flooding back.

Breyer horses were made beginning in the 1950’s by Breyer Moulding Company. The horses started out as adornment pieces to mantle clocks, but people loved the figures so much they just wanted to purchase the horses instead of the clocks!

MJ: Why do you think people are lured towards vintage items?

LV: So many reasons. I always say, Go green, eat vintage! But it’s true: buying, wearing and using vintage is a great antidote to our very disposable society, a small way to stop wreaking havoc on the earth. Imagine if instead of running to UO or H&M for yet another cheap T-shirt made by third-world kids with toxic dyes and textiles that will never break down, we all just reused and recycled? 

1970s Cherry Coke Athletic Jersey from luncheonettevintage

And vintage is sometimes so much better made. Way before the concept of planned obsolescence (like, 10 years for a car), things were made to last. It drives me nuts to see cheap new stuff that is designed to look like great old stuff — until it winds up dumped in a landfill.

For style, vintage is so amazing. There’s a decade that will work for any body type, and the clothes just give you that slightly other sensibility.

Women’s Vintage 1950’s Cropped Jacket. So very Mad Men!

You can rock a 1940s suit and take on a whole different persona. That goes for men as well as women. Think of Mad Men.

1960’s nylon BoatJac windbreaker

I also think that vintage items can be a very personal way of reconnecting with your own past. It’s different for everyone, but certain items can cause a rush of nostalgia and memory. My mother kept her paintbrushes in antique Dundee marmalade jars (she probably found them in a barn sale around here), and I’m always reminded of her when I see one.

Vintage Dundee Marmalade Jar. Dundee marmalade was first produced in 1797 in Dundee, Scotland. Photo courtesy of thevintagewall.com

I’ve had buyers tell me how happy they were to find that one old cookbook, for example, that they remember from childhood. This past Christmastime, a member of the Larkin family came to the shop and bought a Larkin family cookbook to give to her daughter. To have a physical, touchable way to connect to memories is lovely.

MJ: What is your most favorite item in your shop right now and why?

LV: I love it all. And I don’t just stock my shop with a chockablock mess of whatever is old. If I don’t like it, I don’t sell it. I’m not super big on chintz and I can’t stand sexist or racist kitsch. It may be kitschy and retro but it’s still and always offensive.

But my total favorite right this second is an 1850s ambrotype — a type of old, Civil Ware era photograph — of a very serious looking young woman, and I am fascinated by it. 

Antique 1850’s Ambrotype from luncheonettevintage

Who was she? Was she a soldier’s wife? A widow? Was she pregnant? She looks it. Was she happy? Where did she live?

Closeup view. What do you think her story is? Send Ms. Jeannie a message with your version of this women’s life and she’ll post it on the blog!

There’s a story there, an enigmatic sense of history. I find irresistible. It makes me kind of thirsty.

MJ: Is there one vintage item that you are striving to attain for your own collection?

LV: Since I collect vintage and antique everything, the easiest answer is everything. But I do gravitate towards very functional things that happen to look amazing. I have this thing for mason jars that I am going to have to get over, because I have about 200 of them, in all sizes, some going so far back they’re warped and warbled.

Vintage 1910’s Ball Ideal Mason Jar from luncheonettevintage

I am always looking for very old black and grey pearls, too. I love 1930s dresses and it’s a lifelong quest for that perfect one. And I have a thing for old stationery, old notebooks.

1930’s Ledger Paper from luncheonettevintage

That might be genetic too, since my grandfather Charlie (the one who wasn’t a Lindy’s waiter) had an office furniture and stationery shop, Acme Paper. The family jokingly called him the Paperclip King.

MJ: What era do you most identify with or seem naturally drawn towards?

LV: That’s a funny question for me, because I am drawn to all of them. One of my college majors was history, and I was fascinated by American from about the industrial revolution to after World War II. You can see the nature of the time in objects.

I love the proportions of the 1950s, both the outsized, tailfin, atomic era craziness and that very clear form and function kind of modernism. When I was writing about World War 2 era industrial design (I cowrote a book called Great Inventions/Good Intentions for Chronicle Books), I realized that there was so much that went into the style of that time, so much hope, so much faith, this idea that design by itself can improve our lives. I am still moved by the sight of a Raymond Loewy pencil sharpener.

Raymond Lowey Pencil Sharpener, circa 1933

MJ:  You also mention in your profile that you are sourced by production companies like Mad Men and Boardwalk empire. How exciting! Have you ever seen one of your items on either show?

A scene from Boardwalk Empire – Season 1
Still shot of two different sets from Mad Men

LV: I wish! They buy tons of stuff and copy so much of it. But there was a gym scene on a Mad Men episode where I think I caught a glimpse of a bag I’d sold them. It was in the background, sitting on a bench. But it looked perfect and I was very proud.
MJ:  If you could be the prop master for any tv or movie set, past or present, which would you choose?

LV: I think it would be super fun to be the prop master for Bonanza, the old TV series. I love those old Western saddles and clothes.

Or a Depression era movie. Those 1930s dresses, wow. Those men’s shoes. I could go on. But if I could just be a prop assistant on Downton Abbey for a season, oh my, that would be marvelous.

The exquisite costumes of Downton Abbey.

MJ: What one type of item is a consistent seller in your shop? What seems to be the slowest to sell?

LV: Anything military, like a WW2 jacket, flies out the store.

1960’s Army Duffle Bag from luncheonettevintage

Cookbooks, especially old and illustrated, often fly off the shelves.

1933 Good Housekeeping Cookbook from luncheonettevintage

Some pieces of dinerware.

1950’s Sundae Glasses from luncheonettevintage

Clothing from the 1950s is gone in a fingersnap.

1950s Mink Fur Stole from luncheonettevintage

I just got in an amazing 50s daydress by a designer who was kind of the queen of the 50s daydress: Caroline Schnurer. It’s got an amazing neckline with a wraparound, attached scarf, that strapless bodice, a huge billowy skirt. I can’t wait to list it.

On the other hand I have this 1970s pantsuit that looks like a skinny dowager on acid that I can’t seem to get rid of. Sometimes things don’t sell because the photos just aren’t that appealing, too. I’ll reshoot something so freshen it up, and 9 times out of 10 it looks much better and someone finds it.

MJ: What are some of the challenges of being a vintage seller?

LV: If you are not an obsessive personality, who can sink into research for hours and drive all over the county and farther looking for vintage, then forget it. You need to be driven. And I am. So the biggest challenge for me is time management, because I can lose myself in a search, a sale, a library or online looking up information.

I recently had someone ask me if I could find her some old, white diner platters for her wedding, and I went at it like it was a search and rescue mission. Then realized I had an article due to a magazine in a week that I hadn’t even started. And last weekend I walked into a storage space filled with vintage clothing and the hours turned to minutes. But that is one of the joys of what I do. I get to immerse myself in days gone by.

Service: it’s a challenge, and an important one, to describe and measure things right, especially clothing and shoes. I’ve been buying and wearing vintage since I was about 10, and sometimes you don’t know how something is going to fit until you try it on. The idea of not being able to return something bought online — I just find that preposterous. I make it a point to not only take returns, but make it easy for the seller. Actually that’s probably one of the challenges of being a vintage buyer too. For shops that don’t take returns, you have to make sure and ask all the right questions.

MJ: On the organizational side, how do you inventory and/or store all of your items? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your supply? Do you have any helpers that work behind the scenes in your shop?

LV: I have an encyclopedic and somewhat photographic memory, which helps. And I’m a Virgo, so I’m an obsessive list maker. I have a warehouse with labeled bins, a Z-rack (professional garment rack) with garment bags, and all sorts of boxes with categories. And I have an annex, which is right next to my studio, where a lot of the delicate stuff goes. Storing things carefully and safely is so important.

That ironstone platter that somehow survived for 100 years without a chip is an accident waiting to happen. And never jam vintage clothes on a rack: sometimes old dyes are unstable and will actually leach into another fabric. So each piece, ideally, needs space to breathe and hang. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but I think of luncheonette’s inventory (and inventory that isn’t part of luncheonette) as a vast and everchanging, growing archive, and that helps. As do excel spreadsheets.

Helpers are great! I’ve had and have some wonderful helpers. I am really particular about how things are folded, packed, photographed, etc. — I’m a very demanding head cook. It has to be done right, but I’ve had a few people who really got it and I love working with them.

And I have some great sources for knowledge and wisdom: My Dad is a font of knowledge about mid century stuff, knows everything about old cameras, and has a great eye. I work with a few people who know antiques a lot better than I do, and I’m always asking questions of wiser folk.

I think I’ve pestered Chris, of the lovely etsy shop MissFarfalla, dozens of times.

Fine Vintage Clothing Shop, Miss Farfalla (also on Etsy!)

She’s a genius when it comes to vintage clothing. She knows so much. Finally, my chickens help by supplying those pretty brown eggs I used in cookbook photos.
MJ: In a previous blog post, Ms. Jeannie mentioned that she would like to sit down to lunch with 20th century novelist, Kathleen Norris and contemporary writing phenom Stephenie Meyer. If you could luncheon with anybody, living or dead, Who would you choose?

LV: I live in an area that is so rich with writers that I have a great time at such lunches, and I’m lucky to be a part of that community already. But I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately for my grandmothers, and I think if I could have lunch with anyone, it would be them.

Then, of course, my Mom, who I miss every second and is probably my biggest inspiration. We’d go to Serendipity 3 on East 60th street in Manhattan and have iced hot chocolate and Ftatateeta’s Toast.

But I would not turn down an invitation to lunch with Gertrude Stein.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an American writer, poet and art collector. Best known for her book of poems, Tender Buttons, written in 1912, and for her friendships with Alice B. Toklas and Pablo Picasso.

We’d talk dog. I love dogs. Dogs and vintage and writing seem to work together quite well.

MJ:  What is the name of your most favorite real-life diner, where is it located and what do you normally order?

LV: You can’t just have one favorite diner, can you? Here are four: Mom’s Open Kitchen in Lorain, Ohio; the luncheonette (I don’t know its name) on 83rd and Lexington in Manhattan; Dietz Stadium Diner here in Kingston; and the old, old Friendly’s in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, home of the best chocolate frappe ever.

MJ:  You mentioned that you have written some short stories and are currently working on a novel. Can you share a little bit about the storyline? What authors inspire your writing? What book are you currently reading?

LV: That story collection, Russian Lover and Other Stories, came out in 2007.

Russian Lover and Other Stories by Jana Martin

I’m now working on a novel that takes place in the northern Catskills. It involves wolves and people who really care about animals, and interestingly there’s a character who works with vintage.

She stumbles into a community that is kind of wild and crazy and on the fringe, half wilderness and half internet, and some of them have really out there ideas about e-commerce that are slightly inspired by people I know.

I’m hoping to be done by September. I’m endlessly inspired by authors. It’s a really, really long list. But Flannery O Connor was an early influence, for sure. TC Boyle. Margaret Atwood. I’m currently reading a book about the photographer Disfarmer, by Julia Scully.

Disfarmer: The Heber Springs Portraits 1939-1946 by Julia Scully

MJ:  If you weren’t a writer or a vintage shop owner/collector, what would you be?

LV: Wow. I think I don’t know the answer to that. I am so much what I am. I might be have loved to work with horses, or if I had the talent, I would have loved to be a photographer. But I am really in a Popeye phase of life now, after doing so many things in my life, including assisting photographers, playing bass in bands, and lots and lots of cooking and waitressing: I yam what I yam.

This interview is part of an ongoing interview series, that Ms. Jeannie is orchestrating about artists, writers and musicians and their inspirations.  The interview was with Georgia based rustic home decor designer, Frick & Frack Scraps, in March. Read that interview here.

This month, Ms. Jeannie conversed with Jana, writer and shop owner of Luncheonette Vintage, based in New York’s scenic Catskill Mountains. Visit her shop here.

Throw A Mad Men Party – Season 5 Starts Tonight!

It’s been a long wait for all of us Mad Men fans! Ms. Jeannie can’t wait to see what’s in store for Don Draper.

We left off  in Season 4 with Don proposing to his secretarial pool girlfriend/nanny Megan..if you need a refresher of the final episode, watch here…

If you missed the Mad Men season trailer 5, watch this one. Although it’s not really a trailer, but a show recap of the past 4 seasons. But it’s still got a few of those “oh yeah, I forgot about that” moments…

Want to throw a Mad Men party in honor of the tonight’s big 2 hour premiere? Here’s an authentic mid-century menu:

Cocktails & Hors d’ouevres

Martinis (of course!) 

Spicy Smoked Peanuts

Carmelized Onion Dip with Cilantro Garlic Pita Chips

Main Course

Beef Wellington

Creamed Spinach

Golden Potato Gratin

Dessert:

Baked Alaska

All the recipes for this menu are available on epicurious.com by clicking here


How to Wear A Vintage Sweater

The fun thing about adding vintage pieces to your wardrobe is the variety in how you can wear them. But sometimes this seemingly fun game of match and go can also be challenging.  Don’t fret my dears, Ms. Jeannie is here to help advise.

Let’s take a look at this mid-century sweater that Ms. Jeannie has listed in her shop.

Vintage 1960’s Red Belted Cardigan

It’s bright color, cableknit accents and short sleeves make it a versatile piece to wear in multiple seasons and situations. The belt and buttons lend to its classcly tailored lines, which means that it would look great with the following…

Modern denimn trousers from AnnTaylor 

Modern Denim Trousers from Ann Taylor

Brighten it up even more with an elegant silk blouse…

Orange Silk Blouse from EllaLai

If you have great legs, pair it with a twill skirt from H & M

Twill Skirt from H&M in khaki green

For an office look, wear it with Jones Wide Leg trousers from Anthropologie

Jones Wide Leg Pants from Anthropologie

Or on cool summer nights…

Season Staple Shorts from Anthropologie

For office-in-to-evening outfits, this Jersey Tea Dress from Boden in taupe would be effortless…

Jersey Tea Dress from Boden

Sometimes all it takes is a great accessory like this Italian leather handmade tote to make a vintage sweater look even greater!

Handmade Italian Tote from babiesandbabes

A fun romp through one woman’s experiences with (now vintage!) clothing is the book called Love, Loss and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman.

Love, Loss and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman

This funny, poignant story details the critical clothing choices Ilene made during pivotal moments in her life. Each story is accompanied by delightful illustrations such as this one…

Illustration from Love, Loss and What I Wore

Ilene had no intention of publishing her experiences. She wrote down and illustrated her memories as a momento for her grandchildren and assembled them in a binder.

In 1995, her book was published, much to Ilene’s surprise. In 2010, the book was adapted by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron as an Off-Broadway play.

Playbill Cover

It’s on it’s second year run at the Westside Theater, but will be closing at the end of March 2012 after over 1,000 perfomances. Here’s a picture of the final cast…

Final Cast Members of Love, Loss and What I Wore, The Play

Over 30 different casts have participated in the play. Each cast performed for 4 weeks. Members included: Jane Lynch, Alexis Bleidel, Rita Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, Rosie O’Donnell, Kristen Chenowith and Samantha Manthis just to name a few.

Imagine the 1960’s vintage red belted sweater making it all the way to Broadway! Or at least it imagine it sparking some great memories in your life that could be passed down to other generations.

You never know… life is surprising!

Countdown to Mad Men and the Persona of the 1960’s Woman

The countdown has begun! Season 5 of Mad Men is almost here and for a vintage lover like Ms. Jeannie it couldn’t get here faster.

Thrilled to see the new poster in her email box, Ms. Jeannie was a little taken aghast at the naked mannequin – but after all it is fitting for both the time period and Don Draper’s state of affairs (no pun intended!).

Image

Ms. Jeannie’s friend, Thom, was visiting from L.A. where he said the city is braced for Mad Men fever. Buildings are dressed in giant size billboards throughout the city in this image:

Image

Which we both agreed was fantastic advertising because, no where does it say Mad Men anywhere on the sign but fans would recognize the iconic silhouette and the simple font anywhere.  Simplicity and subsequent notoriety like this is a marketing team’s dream!

Read an interesting interview here with Chris Brown, the creative director behind Mad Men for a majority of the episodes. http://enews.tufts.edu/stories/1628/2010/03/01/MadMen

A favorite ad campaign clip from the show is when Don Draper pitches the Kodak Carousel.

If you get nostolgic yourself for a vintage Kodak Carousel you can purchase one on Etsy. This one below even comes with an instruction manual!

Vintage Kodak Slide Carousel from Lyneas Vintage

Ms. Jeannie will be posting several 1950’s-1960’s era Life magazines in her shop soon. They are full of great retro ads that I’m sure Don Draper would have loved to concept.

If Ms. Jeannie could step back in time during this period she would choose Peggy’s role, played by Elizabeth Moss, since Peggy is determined to be on the same playing field as the ad guys and won’t let things like female discrimination, office politics and pre-conceived notions get in her way. She’s a woman with ambition, that Peggy Olson is, yet she’s not willing to sacrifice her humanity in order to reach that golden ring. She’s flawed like all the others but she’s also the character who is most aware of her own short sightedness.  She strives to be good,  and in that simple act of trying,  she sort of is good.

Peggy Olson played by Elizabeth Moss

That said, Ms. Jeannie wouldn’t mind having the wardrobe and (hair color!) of Joan:

Michelle Williams recently did an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross about her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in the movie My Week with Marilyn. She had some really interesting things to say about studying for the role of Marilyn, what it was like to be a woman in the 1950’s & 60’s and what it must have been like to be Marilyn specifically in that time period.

If you missed it. Here is the podcast

Michelle Williams Interview – Fresh Air

Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe

Etsy has an extensive listing for retro etiquette books, but this one stood out among all the others.  It’s fascinating to see how women’s roles have changed over the course of just a few decades. Reading books like this sort of hits you like a ton of bricks:

Etiquette for Young Moderns from Lexis Finds

Life for a dreamer like Ms. Jeannie would have been tough. But thanks to the mindset of gals like Peggy, Ms. Jeannie would have made it through and probably done something remarkable in the process.