Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mad Men: It Never Goes Away

Perusing the The New York Times Sunday Review for February 12, I was amused by two observations about "Mad Men." First, Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia cofounder: "It's hilarious, you know, it's such a portrayal of a period in history which probably never was like that but matches our preconceptions." Then, three pages later, the suddenly ubiquitous Mimi Beardsley Alford, JFK's intern and self-proclaimed mistress: "God, I love 'Mad Men.' All of it is exactly what was going on."

Not that Ms. Alford ever actually worked in an ad agency, of course. Neither did Jimmy Wales, but I cast my "Mad Men" vote with him because all my old-time ad agency friends tell me that the Manhattan ad world in the 1960s was a whole lot more fun than "Mad Men" makes it out to be.

But if you want a credible workplace drama, get to the Mint Theater on West 43rd Street in Manhattan for "Rutherford and Son." Written almost 100 years ago, it's about a family business in industrial England. Particularly, it's about how the sons of the tycoon can't edge out from under his shadow. Meanwhile, the scion casts out his only daughter, who is smarter than them all. My corporate history work brings me in contact with many family businesses, and many of them (thankfully not all) still share these traits.