For the previous four years, the summer solstice had signaled the beginning of excessive martini drinking, cigarette smoking and politically incorrect misogyny.
On my TV, anyway.
But this year, AMC moved the season premiere of “Mad Men” to early 2012, making the summer of 2011 the first in five years without a glimpse of Peggy Olson’s earnest bangs, or Joan Harris’ gravity-defying bosom, or Don Draper’s sexy squint.
Still, if you believe that a summer without “Mad Men” is like Betty Draper (now Francis) without a string of pearls, there is a remedy beyond Netflixing past seasons. How about a pilgrimage to the city that put the Mad (as in Madison) in “Mad Men” – New York. sure, they may shoot “Mad Men” in Los Angeles, but the show’s vibe is all East Coast cool.
And here’s the thing about New York; much as the city loves reinventing itself, it’s even more in love with its past. Which means that with almost no effort, you can convince yourself you’re strolling around a Manhattan when that was what you ordered in a bar, John Lindsey was mayor and sexual harassment was known as flirting.
A good place to begin your “Mad Men” tour is the home of the Sterling Cooper offices at 405 Madison Ave. although you might not want to linger too long in the lobby, which Google Maps puts smack in the middle of 48th Street. Interestingly, the facade of the Chase building at 403 Madison on the corner, sure looks like the exterior from Season 1. But take five steps into its ATM-filled wood-paneled lobby, and you’ll be met by a pair of bank employees who will ask you your business – and laugh you back to the street if you even mention “Mad Men.” make of that what you will.
No matter, it’s enough to walk Madison Avenue in the 40s around noontime and see the throngs of up-and-coming young admen in their suits – a welcome departure from the swarms of tourists in their shorts and flip-flops a couple of blocks west – to feel as if you’ve stepped into the latest episode. Curiously, you’ll see fewer women in business attire here, which will also make you feel as though you’ve entered the prefeminist era of “Mad Men.”
Hello, sharp dressers
If you’re in the market to buy a suit, this is the neighborhood to do it – Brooks Brothers, Paul Stuart, Jos. a. Bank – you can’t throw a tie clip without hitting one of them. But if you want to go the true Don Draper/Peggy Olson route, you’ve got to head downtown to the vintage shops. David Owens Vintage Clothing on the lower East side is one of the few places that carries quality vintage for both men and women. Last time I visited, they had an amazing Emilio Pucci silk minidress (for $500) that would have been stunning on Don’s stylish new fiancee, Megan.
Another lower East side shop, Assembly, also carries both men’s and women’s vintage, including hard-to-find footwear. If you’re more of a Peggy Olson type with a secret bohemian side, be sure to visit the Clothing Warehouse in Nolita. they have a huge selection of vintage outfits perfect for a 1960s-style night in Greenwich Village.
Drink up the mood
Now that you’re all dressed up in your “Mad Men”-era togs, you need someplace to go. I suggest the Madison Club Lounge in the Roosevelt Hotel. just down the block from the Sterling Cooper offices, the Roosevelt is where Don shacked up after Betty threw him out in Season 2. the Madison Club is one of those old-fashioned lobby bars where you can order an Old Fashioned and the bartender will not only know how to make it, he will also serve it to you along with a big glass bowl full of mixed nuts. the Madison Club has thick carpets on the floor, stained glass in the windows and little lamps with shades on the tables. And you can sit there wearing that hat you bought at the vintage store without feeling the least bit ironic.