Posted on May 17th, 2015 No comments
May 17, 2015: Christopher “Tiki Chris” Pinto, author of several novels set in mid-century America, discusses his thoughts and ideas on the MAD MEN series on the eve of its series finale.
They are calling it “The End of an Era”, a fun double entandre that eludes to both the end of the era that Mad Men represents, and the end of one of modern television’s most respected and acclaimed shows. It’s the series finale of a TV program that promised us a glimpse into the events and lives of our favorite era, the era of mid-century pop culture, of cocktails and Tiki bars, Bachelor Pad music and finned cars.
And as we prepare to watch the finale, I have to admit I look back at the past 7 seasons with a bit of disappointment. Not in the quality of the show or its writing, and certainly not in the fine acting. Not even in the enjoyment I’ve had watching it, absorbing it, and appreciating the small details and hidden meanings that made it so great. Just in the fact that it moved way too fast into the 1960s for my taste, and for most of my friends who also tuned in to watch a show about mid-century cocktail culture in the 1950s.
Because when MAD MEN was first promoted, that’s exactly what it promised: A look into the lives of the cocktail culture set, played out during the 1950s, defined by the most notorious drunkards of the time, advertising executives. We got what we expected in season one, from sexy, accommodating secretaries in tight dresses to smarmy, misogynistic, Martini-swilling ad men with thin ties and pocket squares, driving big fancy cars and taking over the world one account at a time while their wives played the part of homemaker with the kids. We got to see incredible, larger than life ad pitches that rarely happen in the real world but fit perfectly into our imagination’s concept how the good old days must have been. And we were treated to all this eye candy with the best background tracks plucked from the Ultra Lounge series of Bachelor Pad and Exotica tunes of the day.
But we were misled (by advertising!). Almost as soon as it started, the 1950s decade ended in MAD MEN, swinging us full-on into 1960 before the paint on Roger’s ’59 Caddy had a chance to dry. But we were OK with that, because, after all, it’s mostly agreed that the golden era of cocktails and mid-century pop ended somewhere around the time of Kennedy’s assassination, the coming of The Beatles, and escalation of the Vietnam war. So we figured “our show” would linger in the early ‘60s, maybe with more glorious flashbacks to the 1950s.
Not so, of course, as this was not “our show”, it was Mathew Weiner’s. And Mr. Weiner happens to be a huge fan of 1960s pop culture. His intent from the start was to base the show at the END of the cocktail era, and show the drastic changes that took place in American culture in the 1960s. AMC may not have made that fact obvious in their advertising, but they sure as hell hooked us in.
Don’t get me wrong…it’s a great story, and one that Mathew Weiner has told incredibly well, from a perspective not seen before. Let’s face it…whenever someone makes a show or movie about the 1960s, it’s always from the point of view of the young, the rebels, the hippies and college kids who wanted to change the world, not from “the man”, the established middle class who fully enjoyed the world they had created after WW2. It’s about time someone told the story of the anti-anti-establishment, the coolest cats and kittens who dug drinking at the Tiki bar and thought hippies were kooks.
And yet, as the series comes to a close, I can’t help but personally ask, “Is That All There Is?” Couldn’t the show have lingered just a little more in the late 1950s/early 60s? Couldn’t there have been fewer time jumps, where the show could have done some more things with what was happening before the major culture-changing events of the 1960s, especially with advertising?
It just seems to me, as a writer, that there were so many juicy things going on that got glossed over or completely ignored. For instance, color television made a huge impact on the industry. Directors and camera operators were suddenly faced with shooting TV spots that looked good in both black and white AND color. Production costs rose. More people needed to be hired to accommodate the changes. Agencies were in upheaval, trying to figure out how to accommodate the new medium while remaining profitable (just like they have with the internet). That alone would have made a good season thread, if not a multi-show plot line.
And what about changes in the auto industry? Sterling-Cooper made every effort to get a car on the roster. But the show never went into how difficult it was to effectively advertise/market automobiles at a time (1959-64) when horsepower, styles and tastes were changing faster than the liquor bottles on Don’s minibar. Back then car styles changed pretty drastically every one or two years. When you consider that today’s models usually stay exactly the same for 5-8 years, you can imagine how difficult it must have been to convince buyers that the car they just bought last year was out of date junk. I really would have liked to see the show back up to around 1958, and get the Edsel account. Imagine how much fun that would have been!
And then of course, there is the whole concept of the Playboy bachelor, the never-married, successful young man who drives an Austin Healey sports car, listens to Martin Denny, reads Esquire and of course Playboy, drinks Macallen Scotch and plays golf on weekends before hitting the nightclubs in search of a tipsy, willing bird. It really surprises me that not a single major character on MAD MEN was single because he wanted to be. What a fun and interesting addition a true cocktail set bachelor would have made to this show!
But that’s just my own personal opinions and ideas, and that’s not the show. That’s not MAD MEN as Mathew Weiner envisioned it. We may have been misled by AMC’s advertising in the beginning, but we soon realized this wasn’t going to be a show about the 1950s. It was about the ’60s, and how that decade changed everything. And guess what?
We still love it.
Adieu, Mad Men, and thank you Mr. Weiner for bringing us one hell of a show.
- Christopher “Tiki Chris” Pinto, reporting from the television viewing room at Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on February 17th, 2014 3 comments
(Translation: Let’s take a history lesson from 1955)
Hep talk, Jive, hipster lingo…It all started with jazz musicians back in the 1920s and 30s. It’s generally accepted that “jive” started as a kind of code, especially to warn your fellow musicians about an impending police raid on the speakeasy you happened to be playing in that night. From there it took off into just a cool way for these kats (musicians) to differentiate themselves from the squares, and from there is took off into any USA culture click that considered themselves gone, out, way out, and in possession of a coolness that the cubes could never dig. Dig?
Sent to me 20 years ago through a very un-hip but easy-to-use channel, “email”, this is a list of the hippest words with their American translation. I’m not sure, but I believe this dictionary was originally printed in Mad Magazine, c. 1955
ABE’S CABE – a five dollar bill
BIG GEORGE – a quarter
BLAZE – to go
BLOOD – wine
BREAD – money
BRIGHT – day
BROWN ABE – a penny
CHEATERS – eye glasses
CHLOROPHYLL GEORGE – a dollar
COOL – nice
CRAZY – odd
CRIB – house
CUBE – 3-D square
CUT – make fun of
CUT OUT – leave
DIG, TO DIG – to understand
DUCE – a two dollar bill
ENDS – money
FLICKS – movies
FLIP – react enthusiastically
GONE – wonderful
GREASE – eat
HENCHMEN – friends
HOLLYWOOD EYES – cute girls
HUB CAP – important fellow
JAMS – bop records
JELLY TOT – young hub cap
LATER – I’ll see you
LAY DEAD – wait
MAN – opening word when addressing a kat
MAN, MY – friend, comrade
MAN, THE – Stan Kenton
NOD – sleep
NOWHERE – condition of a cube
OUT, THE OUTEST – best
PLAYER – popular fellow
QUIT, QUIT IT – leave
RANCH – house
RANK – stupid
SCARF – eat
SCROUNGY – bad
SIDES – bop records
SILVER JEFF – a nickel
SILVER WING – a half dollar
SLAMMER – door
SONNET – radio commercial
SPLASH – rain
SPLIT – to go
SQUAT – sit
SQUARE – one who is nowhere
STOMPERS – shoes
STONED – ecstatic
STROLLER – car
STRUGGLE – dance
THIN ONE – dime
TICKS – minutes
TUNES – bop records
TURKEY – square
WASTED – broke
WHEELS – car
WILD – nice
YARD, A YARD – a hundred dollars
Dig it how some of these terms are still cool today, like ‘dig’ and ‘cool’, along with ‘scarf’, ‘player’, ‘crib’ and ‘jams’. I also particularly dig that “The Man” is Stan Kenton (see previous post). Well, it’s a bop dictionary, after all.
Compare to the 1958 “COOL” Magazine Hipster Dictionary, one that was more for the masses, not so much for Bop jazzers. Some common ground, of course, but a lot more words for ordinary things. Bop musicians didn’t need so many words. They said very little, saving their strength to play all those notes in their complicated Bop charts. Wild, man, wild.
-Guest Post by Zoot Jackson, Gobble Pipe blower and swingin’ kat extraordinaire.
Posted on October 30th, 2013 No comments
The crispness of fall is in the air…the trees are turning gold and red…and you can’t pass a pumpkin patch without getting a chill. Yes, Halloween is here! And even though there are no gold and red trees here in South Florida, and the temperature today is in the 80s, it’s still the spookiest time of year.
It’s amazing how different things are during the holidays in the tropics. There are no trucks selling dried cornstalks and bailed hay road-side. Very few people even decorate outside for Halloween, usually because it’s too hot (or been raining too much, as we come to the tail end of the rainy season). On Halloween night, kids trick or treat wearing shorts and generally “light” costumes – no coat necessary.
And since South Florida is party central, 95% of the ladies dress in skimpy, sexy costumes…the one night of the year they can “get away with it”. The other nights, they just blame it on the booze. Halloween night they blame it on the Boooooos. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)
Of course I, being of unsound mind, go bananas with Halloween decorating. This year we turned the house into “Maniac Mansion”, and had our annual Halloween party in a retro-Maniac theme (I was disappointed no one came dressed as Ed Gein, the 1950′s serial killer). Still it was a blast, with tons of vintage-style decor, including two Black-Light rooms reminiscent of the early 70s. Along with Spider Cider, Texas Chain Saw Chili, and Rob Zombie Wieners, we served such perfect exotic cocktails as Zombies, Banana Banshees and Dead 77′s (French 77′s with a few drops of red food coloring), served in old-school angry Tiki mugs.
After Halloween winds down, it will be full steam ahead into Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve! Cheers!
-Tiki Chris, reporting from the graveyard at Tiki Lounge Talk.
Looking for a fast, fun read for the Halloween season? Check out my book, “How to Kill Vampires because they are unnatural jerks” available for instant download at Amazon.com!
Posted on August 30th, 2013 No comments
If you dig cool stuff from the past, then you probably dig Dracula movies, BW vampire flicks and other assorted old Horror stuff. Something that has always been a favorite vintage “oddity” of mine has been the turn of the century Vampire Killing Kit.
I first saw one in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in St. Augustine, FL about 30 years ago. I thought it was crazy fantabulous, and always wanted one for myself.
What is a Vampire Killing Kit?
A box or satchel filled with the tools necessary to kill a vampire. They were originally made (according to Ripley’s) in the late 19th Century, for American tourists traveling to Transylvania (after the book “DRACULA” became an international hit). They usually contained a pistol, vials of holy water and garlic oil, a crucifix, and of course a wooden stake. Some were a little more elaborate with dental tools for removing the vampire’s fangs, a dagger, and something called “secret serum” which was supposed to heal vampire bites.
This new site showcases the new, vintage-style Vampire Killing Kits created by CRYSTOBAL, self-proclaimed vampire hunter and Gothic artist. CRYSTOBAL and I go back a long way…in fact, I have a few of his kits that he’s made over the years as part of my collection of pop culture junk!
CRYSTOBAL has been making these kits for years, and has created his own style – “modern primitive” - for his kits. Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals have attempted to copy his style and take credit for resurrecting the vampire killing kit craze. But dig, he is the real deal.
Check out the site. It’s filled with photos of his work, and information on the history of the kits. Our book, “How to Kill Vampires because they are unnatural jerks” is also available through the site. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you…I wrote another book, with CRYSTOBAL as the source, called “How to Kill Vampires because they are unnatural jerks”. It’s pretty cool, a little funny and very artistic. Check it out!
-Tiki Chris P. reporting from the Halloween shop down the street from Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on May 17th, 2013 2 comments
The Old Fashioned
Truly old fashioned, this drink has roots that go back to the early 1800s when, according to some historians, the “cock tail” was a drink made with liquor, water, sugar and a few drops of bitters. It’s been said that the addition of citrus came during prohibition, to hide the taste of cheap booze.
The version that Don drinks was the cocktail that dominated swanky lounges and corner bars alike, a cool combination of rye whiskey, bitters and soda with citrus. This is the Old Fashioned that we’ve come to expect, and love. If you want an older version of the Old Fashioned, leave out the citrus and the soda.
1 sugar cube
3 dashes of bitters
2 teaspoons water
1 strip lemon zest
1 small wedge orange
2 maraschino cherries
Ice, as needed
2 ounces rye (or Bourbon. Bourbon is a little sweeter. Canadian Club has a lot of rye, and works very well)
Cherry for garnish
Add the sugar cube to the bottom of an old fashioned glass, then add the water and bitters to it. Place the lemon zest, orange wedge and one cherry in the glass. Use a bar spoon to gently muddle the cube into the liquids so the sugar will begin to dissolve. (Note: Some people prefer to leave out the cherry). Use the back of the spoon to coat the bottom sides of the glass with the mixture. Throw a couple of cubes in the glass and top with bourbon and club soda and stir well. Top with a cherry and an orange slide on the rim.
There are tons of variations on the Old Fashioned. In fact, you can use any booze you want, with varying degrees of success. Of course, there even more modern Old Fashioneds…Recently on a trip to Sonoma, I had one made with “local Bourbon” (which isn’t really Bourbon if it’s made in California), and no cherry. It was very good, and the bartender took pride in making it.
So if you want to impress your vintage-diggin’ pals, or show a skirt that you know how to order a cocktail with plenty of pizzaz, memorize this recipe and make yourself an expert at throwing one together. You’ll have the chicks (or kats, whatever’s your thing) eating out of your hand.
-Tiki Chris P, Reporting from the Tiki Bar at Tiki Lounge Talk, the interwebs’ favorite B-lounge for retro fun stuff and Tiki Talk.