Day 99. Been There

Sometimes I’m surprised by the success of Mad Men.  In case it’s not broadcast where you live, or you’ve just never watched it, Mad Men is an award-winning, American dramatic television series.  About the advertising industry.

Anyway.  No disrespect intended.  It’s a great concept, very well written and brilliantly cast, directed and acted.  It’s just that I lived it.  Been there.  Done that.  McConnell Eastman, a fairly large Canadian ad agency (gone now), where I was hired for the first time, could have been Sterling Cooper (later to become Sterling Cooper Draper Price), the setting for Mad Men.

So I watched it for the first two seasons, and then packed it in.  It was just too deja vu for me.

In my real life Mad Men, just like in the fictional version, all the men wore suits and ties every day (not any more, let me tell you).  Even the creative director.  Our CD was old and dumpy, though.  Surprising even back then.  The nicest man, very fatherly.  Make that grandfatherly.  Not anybody’s ‘idea’ of a creative director, for sure.  But he hired me, and mentored me, and gave me whatever opportunities he could, to observe and participate.  So I loved him.  Not, I repeat, NOT in the biblical sense.  I just want to make that clear.

I did write in a previous post that I was hired as a ‘go-fer’.  As in, go for coffee, go for cigarettes, go for lunch, go for my dry-cleaning, go for whatever we want you to go for.  I didn’t mind.  I was working in an ad agency!

One day I arrived at the office and he was gone.  His office, totally cleaned out.  New furniture, all very sleek and modern.  And a new creative director.  Also, very sleek and modern.  Sandy Ness.  He actually looked a lot like ‘Don Draper’.  That’s him (Draper) in the caricature.  But Sandy’s hair was, surprise surprise,  sandy-coloured, instead of dark.   I will never forget his name because it reminds me of Elliot Ness (Untouchables).

He didn’t even know I was alive.  Didn’t give a rats ass that I wanted to be a copywriter.  I wasn’t going to get any mentoring there, which is why, when I was headhunted after only six months, I took the new job.

In my real life Mad Men, just like in the fictional version, all the women wore tight sweaters, tight skirts, heels and those torpedo bras.  You know the ones I mean.  So uplifting, so pointed your breasts arrived in the room a minute or two before the rest of you did.  And they were all secretaries (the women, not the breasts).  With just three exceptions.  There was one female writer in the creative department who made herself completely invisible.

Definitely not glam.  Long stringy hair.  Bangs falling into her eyes.  Huge black-rimmed glasses.  Tall.  Skinny.  Lanky.  Wore only black pants and shapeless black turtleneck sweaters.  Even in summer.  Absolutely no torpedo bra.  No breasts, for that matter.  She was only there to work on feminine hygiene products.  And household cleaners.  Girl stuff (I am writing this with gritted teeth); as I’m sure she did, in retrospect.

The other two exceptions were traffic girls.  And I suppose I was a bit of an exception, because I wasn’t really a secretary.  I did type the odd copy deck, but mostly I ran around ‘going for’.  And nosed around for the odd little writing assignment.  Begged, even.

Not one executive, not even mid-level, was a woman.

The most senior woman in the place was Lois Gumbley.  I kid you not.  That was her name.  I assure you, I’m telling the truth.  Anyway, Lois was tall and statuesque.  Without the torpedo bra, her breasts arrived before she did.  With it, she was a sight to behold.  She had peroxide blond, short hair, long fire engine red nails and equally red lips.  She, like everyone else in the place, smoked like a chimney.  She was, however, the only one with that lipstick, so we could tell by the cigarette butts she left in everyone’s ashtrays, where she’d been in the agency.  Sort of like leaving a trail of bread crumbs.

Don’t ask me how great a typist she was.  What she was best known for, was extracurricular activities.  Let me just put it this way.  She was the executive assistant (and office manager) to the agency General Manager.  And taking dictation from him was the least of her duties.

Get my drift??

Lois was a MAJOR bitch.  MAJOR.  Everyone detested her.  Even the guys.  But she was ‘under the protection’ of the big guy, with the corner office.  ‘Under’ being the operative word.  Did I just say that?  I am appalled!

Are you beginning to understand why there was no need for me to keep watching this series?  I could have written it, for God sake.

In my real life Mad Men, just like in the fictional version, there was a lot of drinking and a lot of partying and misbehaving going on.  Like the young sephardic virgin (secretary) who ran off with the hottie Australian art director two nights before her wedding; and never came back.  The angry wife, who didn’t believe her husband was really working late for the umpteenth night in a row, and showed up just in time to see him come out of the boardroom with his secretary.  Tucking his shirt back into his pants.

Broken hearts.  The odd pregnancy (oops).  Divorces.  Break-ups.  Binges.  Hangovers.  Shenanigans.  Sex.  Sex.  And more sex.  Scandals.  Tears. Trauma.  Drama.  And melodrama.  Remorse.  Cheating.  Lying.  Hiring.  Firing.  Comings.  Goings.

And that was just in my first month.  And there I was.  A baby.  An innocent.  My first job.  In Sodom and Gomorrah, as it turned out.

What an education I got.  My, my!!

5 thoughts on “Day 99. Been There

  1. Pingback: Day 113. What’s Next? | Three Hundred Sixty-Five

  2. Great article! I actually just finished binge watching Mad Men. Then I got back to my real passion… genealogy. Low and behold, just as I was researching my great grandfather, I saw that he worked for McConnell Eastman! I have since tried to find out all I can about this company (and my great grandfather of course). He was a salesman in the 20’s from their Manitoba office. I know he made his way to Director before he passed away in 1941 (obviously before your time). I would love it if you could share some information with me about the company. I know McConnell is James McConnell, but who was behind Eastman? I look forward to hearing from you. 🙂

    • Thanks! Well, you just blew my mind, I can’t believe your great grandfather worked at MCConnell Eastman — and somehow, you found my blog. That is WILD!!! Unfortunately I can’t tell you much — I was only there for 6 months and I was a baby — it was my first job. It was a big agency, with big accounts — the 3 I remember are CN, Texaco and Penman’s. The office in Montreal, where I worked, was big — over 100 people for sure; and they had other offices in Canada. Sorry, but I don’t know anything about the Eastman in McConnell Eastman — not sure if I ever did, I was so junior. I definitely don’t remember either of them ever coming to the Montreal office. I know the agency closed down but can’t remember when, I was long gone but even now I’m surprised because they had big accounts and were considered a large, successful agency. I wish I could be more help. Thank you so much for reading and commenting and sharing your story. I have re-connected with a gal who worked there when I did but I haven’t heard from her in a while. I’ll see of I can find her — she might have more info, she worked there longer than I did.

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