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 25th, 2015 No comments
Congrats to Fort Lauderdale’s Mai Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show for being granted National Historic Landmark status! (It’s about time!)
The quintessential Tiki Bar/Lounge/Experience has been one of the world’s most elaborate (and famous) Tiki-themed establishments since 1956. It’s gone through a few changes over the years (The Molokai Lounge was created with the ship interior theme in the 1960s) but still retains much of its original architecture and decor, and all of its original charm.
Tiki themed restaurants & lounges began sprouting up in the mid 1930s, and had their heyday from around the end of WW2 through the late 1960s (see our Tiki Culture page). But as society evolved out of the sophisticated cocktail culture of the American mid-century and into the torn blue jeans & acid rock culture of the late ’60s, Tiki Bars became less fashionable, less of an exotic escape and more as a kitschy joint for “the last generation”. Sales fell, and most of the grand and beautiful Tiki palaces fell too.
The Mai Kai is one of only a handful of the original Tiki-themed restaurants to make it through the Disco era, the Mod ’80s, the bland ’90s and The Great Recession, along with multiple hurricanes and an insane buildup of furniture stores, strip clubs, strip malls and other restaurants along the strip of Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale…a stretch of road that was completely vacant and considered “way out west” when the Mai Kai was built in ’56. It’s a testament to the family who has owned this family-owned business and to the newest proprietors that it has remained not only open, but successful, for nearly 60 years.
And it’s about time that fantastic, fantasy palaces like this are finally being recognized for what they are: A great piece of American history.
-Tiki Chris, reporting from the lanai at the Mai Kai
Posted on September 26th, 2014 No comments
Mark your calenders! Get out your best Tiki mug! Friday, October 3rd will mark the third annual International Exotic Cocktail Day!
It’s a day to celebrate the pleasure of enjoying an Exotic Cocktail at your favorite Tiki Bar, on the lanai, by the pool, in your living room or on the front lawn. It’s a day to imbibe in your favorite mixes with friends and family. It’s a day to remember the people who started it all and the people who keep the traditions alive today! Started by Tiki Chris of Tiki Lounge Talk, International Exotic Cocktail Day is really just a great excuse to have a fun time with your friends, while enjoying one of the simple pleasures of life: Tiki Cocktails.
The Official International Exotic Cocktail Tiki Group in Facebook has been growing and growing with hundreds of people, like you, who are ready to spend a few hours drinking great Tiki cocktails with their friends and families. Click here to join!
The Spirit of Tiki
You don’t have to go anywhere to enjoy this day. I mean, if you’ve got a cool Tiki bar near by, then go! If not, you can turn your own home into a Tiki Palace for the night. Click below for a list of Tiki Drink Recipes, and ideas on how to build your own Tiki Bar.
This year Tiki Chris & Wahini Colleen will be celebrating at The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, enjoying the Cutback Surf Band in the lounge. Come by and say hi, I’ll be the guy wearing the Hawaiian shirt
-Tiki Chris reporting from the Rum Storage Room at Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on August 11th, 2014 1 comment
Been a while since I did a “Mod Movie Monday” post, mainly because I’ve been busy with doing some much-need restoration on my 1953 Chevy Bel Air Custom, writing a new paranormal murder mystery, and launching a new idea…more on that later.
So here we go, kats and kittens, back to our regularly schedule program. This week we feature
from 1965, starring Peter Cushing as The Doctor.
This movie was produced “outside” the original series universe, and as such, die-hard Who fans may find it a little annoying that it doesn’t follow the established theme. But the Doctor is still somewhat of a mad scientist, he still has traveling companions (in this, his two grand daughters and one of their boyfriends), the TARDIS is still a blue police box and bigger on the inside, and they still travel through space and time with special effects that remind you of Lost in Space. And it’s the mid-1960s, so there’s a kind of cold war-era peaceful-people-fighting-against-fascist-overlords kind of vibe.
Here’s the trailer:
Food & Booze: You’ll want something far-out, futuristic and still 1960s to go with this. I’d suggest Saturn Sliders (little burgers with big onion rings around them) and for drinks, Blue Neptune Cocktails in a tall, clear glass (see recipe below).
My Take: If you like Doctor Who, or just dig kookie movies from the mod era, you’ll dig it. From the TARDIS interior (which looks more like a black box theater than a space ship) to the annoying Daleks, it’s a fun treat that will whisk you back to the past before accelerating you to the future.
Blue Neptune Cocktail recipe:
2 oz good vodka
1 splash Blue Curacao (Just enough to make it blue)
1/2 oz Triple Sec
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 Lemon peel
1 Orange wheel
Mix all ingredients except lemon and orange in a shaker with ice. Strain over a tall clear glass half full of ice and garnish with the twisty lemon peel and orange wheel. You can secure the peel to the wheel with a sword or pick, and add a cherry if you are so inclined.
Tiki Chris P. reporting from the time machine at Tiki Lounge Talk
Oh, I almost forgot…that new idea I’m working on: Yours truly is embarking on a little side biz. Starting now, I’ll be offering my cool & kookie services as a vintage-theme party DJ in the South Florida are. That’s right…I’m putting the thousands of songs I’ve collected over the years to good use. So if you know anyone who wants to have a retro theme party, I’m you man…as long as it’s somewhere between West Palm Beach and Miami, Florida. Check out the new website for the low down. By the way…in that world, I’m known as “Riff”.
Posted on June 3rd, 2014 3 comments
With MAD MEN coming to a series finale sometime in 2015, we’ve got plenty of time to speculate on how it might end. Will it end at 11:59 pm on December 31, 1969? Will there be another “watershed” moment like the passing of Burt Cooper? Or will the characters just go on with their lives, with the ending not really being an ending at all, but just another day that ends with a black frame in the middle of a senten…?
Just for fun I came up with five possible (but not very likely) endings to the final episode of MAD MEN. I say not very likely because I’m going to give the MAD MEN writers more credit than this article anticipates. These are just kind of silly, fun, just-for-the-hell of it ideas. I have a feeling the real finale is going to be incredible. Until then…
Let’s assume that Season 7-B kicks off not long after the final scene of the mid-season finale: SC&P has been purchased by McCann, Cutler is gone, Chaough is back, Buick is the newest big boy in town and things are running smoothly with Don at the creative helm while Roger learns what it’s like to actually lead a group of crazies.
Let’s also assume that although they are now millionaires, Pete and Joan stay on at the agency (seems practical).
1. Life Can Turn on a Dime
The episode starts out with the characters doing their usual bickering, lying, cheating, whining…and collaborating. There’s a huge pitch that will define the future of the agency…maybe IBM, or even NASA. Roger puts the whole thing together and gambles the entire company on this pitch…if they get it, they’re guaranteed 10 years of high-profile, high-income work. If they fail, for some reason or another they will lose Buick, and the company will not only destroy itself, it will cut McCann off at the knees.
Don, along with Peggy, is confident they have nothing to fear. The ideas are great, and they’ve got that cool new computer to help things along. Then, similar to the mid-season finale, death strikes at the last minute. This time it’s Roger, finally succumbing to too much booze and oysters. He has a heart attack on his way to the jet, and without him the deal is off. SC&P, embroiled in whatever scandal has been created, folds like a cheap suit, McCann loses its shirt, and everyone loses their jobs and respect in the industry. The partners are ok, because they’ve raked in all that cash from the sale, but people like Peggy and Harry are stuck with their bills, unable to get work anywhere in NYC because of the “scandal”. Don is also affected by this…he knows he’ll never work in advertising again, so, as he’s done in the past, he packs up, says screw you to every one around him, and reinvents himself.
Fast forward to 1975: Don sitting behind a desk, wearing a leisure suit and sporting long sideburns and a bushy mustache. Behind him is a blown-up cover of a men’s magazine (like, but not quite, Playboy; we can’t see the name). A voice sizzles across an intercom: “Mr. Whitman, there’s a Ms. Olson here to see you about the journalist position.”
He smiles. “Send her in,” he says in typical Don fashion, as the camera pans out to show his office is actually huge, with wall-to-ceiling windows overlooking The Valley, back in CAL.
2. Don Causes Yet Another Suicide – and the meaning of the introduction is revealed
Everyone knows Ted Chaough is not a happy man. Whether it was his involvement with Peggy, a mid-life crisis, or just plain boredom, Ted is ready to check out of advertising for good when he’s manhandled back into it by good ole’ Don Draper.
Wealthy but unhappy, and forced to work with Peggy once again, Ted begins to spiral way down while Don becomes more and more successful, more popular than ever, and the obvious choice as best creative director in the business. He forces Ted to do some dirty work on Buick, and even forces him to go on the pitch…but Ted has had enough. He misses the pitch, causing fires that Don has a hard time putting out. He tries to resume his affair with Peggy and gets caught by his wife; possibly the millions he made on the sale of the agency is squandered in bad investments. Penniless and alone, he goes to Don for help…to release him from the agency with a company loan, maybe the exact same amount Lane needed? But Don refuses…Don needs him to retain Buick, and tells Ted if doesn’t get in gear, he won’t see another penny. This is the “Don doesn’t learn” part of the episode.
Later, Don needs to go to his (Lane’s) old office to get something…sees the METS pennant and is reminded of what he’s done…but it’s too late. He rushes to Chaough’s office, only to find the window open with Ted perched on the edge…before Don can stop him he jumps, with briefcase in hand…down 30 stories. We follow him down, and as he falls the intro music swells and the background turns into the graphics from the introduction. It’s Ted that’s been falling all along, now finally for one last time. Cut to Don sitting in his office, smoking, arm draped over back of sofa, screams and sobs in the background. Cut to black.
3. The Late 1960s-Style Everything Sucks Ending
The final show is filmed very much in the style of “The Midnight Cowboy”. Very gritty, dark, realistic. Lots of outdoor shots of NYC at the time. Trash everywhere. Dirty cabs. Hookers. Grime. Something during the last half of the season has brought Don to a bad part of life and a bad part of town. He’s alone, as he has lost all contact with Megan, his kids, pretty much anyone who ever meant anything to him. He’s walkin’ here…it’s winter, hands stuffed in overcoat pockets, shoulders shrugged up to warm his face. He enters an abandoned building. Ginsburg is there, huddled over a can of Sterno, heating up some soup. He’s dirty, shaking, obviously insane. “I know you. How did you find me?” Ginsburg asks. “A friend of Peggy,” is Don’s only answer. Don tells him he wants to help him. If he wants work, he’ll give him work. If he needs to go to a hospital, Don will pay. He convinces Ginsburg to come with him. He wants to help him…to save him, because there’s no one else in his life that wants his charity.
They go out on the street together; Ginsburg sees an ad for an IBM computer on a bus stop, and hallucinates Don is a robot about to laser him. He screams, pulls a knife, stabs Don in the chest. Don looks surprised and confused, but not angry. As he falls to the ground with the knife (ironically a Korean war-era military knife), he sees a billboard that he designed: Puffy white clouds, a man with a harp, the slogan: “Florsheim Shoes: One Step Closer To Heaven”. Fade to white.
4. The Disappearing Act, Take One
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1970. There are a lot of clocks in the episode, for, you know, symbolism. There is a feeling of some kind of “count down” other than just the obvious. Things are going great for Don, for the agency. Peggy has actually surpassed him in terms of gaining new business and coming up with award-winning ideas. He is proud of her.
At some point he is reminded of Burt’s farewell song, “The Best Things in Life are Free”. Now a multi-millionaire, and knowing he is becoming outdated in this modern world, he decides a major change is needed. He talks with Roger only, tells him to promote Peggy to Creative Director and partner, and says goodbye. Roger is the only one who knows what he is doing.
As the countdown to midnight begins, we see Don meet up with a stranger.
“We got the fifty thousand,” the stranger says. “It’s good to know my wife and kids will be set for life, thanks again.”
“Just two people helping each other,” Don says, and they drive off together in the Cadillac. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“The cancer will take me in a few months anyway. It’s better for my family this way.”
In a rural area of upstate New York, the stranger swallows a bottle of sleeping pills and downs them with whiskey. After he passes out, Don puts him in the driver’s seat, puts his own wallet in his pocket, soaks him down with the rest of the liquor and pushes the car off the side of a mountain. Flames…and Don Draper is, for all purposes, dead, burned beyond recognition. Don walks along the deserted road until he comes to a roadside diner. He orders a coffee. The waitress asks his name. “Dick,” he says then looks straight at the camera, “Dick Whitman.”
5. The Disappearing Act, Take Two
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1970. There are a lot of clocks in the episode, for, you know, symbolism. There is a feeling of some kind of “count down” other than just the obvious. Things have fallen apart very quickly for Don. Megan decides she wants everything he has, and he is about to lose almost everything in the divorce. He has run out of creative ideas and is being trampled by people who McCann has inserted into the company. Roger has lost all interest, and all control of the company, deciding to live out his days as a playboy. Ted is threatening to sue, because he was harassed into staying on for five years; Don starts drinking again, disgusting Peggy, his only real friend left. On top of that, the agency has become the laughing stock of the industry for attempting to push Don’s 10-year-old, outdated and lackluster ad campaigns, as opposed to using the more modern and interesting campaigns that Peggy and Ted wanted to use.
Don knows it’s over. The agency is about to crash and burn. His talents are outdated, no matter how hard he tries. He is farther than ever from his kids, and he’s about to hand over millions to Megan, who has become vindictive and mean.
Then Megan (you’re going to love this) is murdered while at a party in an actress’ house in LA (Had to throw that in), by what appears to be a hippy cult that includes Roger’s daughter Margaret, and Dick Whitman’s niece, Stephanie. When caught, Margaret (AKA Marigold) starts rambling in a heroin-induced rant that Don and her father told them to carry out the murders. Don is momentarily implicated, and it looks like he may be arrested at any moment.
He’s had enough. On his lunch hour he goes to the bank and withdrawals his entire fortune…let’s say, ten million? In cash…puts it in a briefcase, gets in his 1969 Cadillac Eldorado, and just takes off. No good byes, no explanations. From the back, we watch the Cadillac driving out of New York, through fields of corn and wheat, over mountains, through California. Then we see the back of an airplane over the Pacific in the same way.
Cut to Don, sitting on the lanai of a beach house in Hawaii, a little older, a little wiser. He is alone, sipping a cocktail and looking out over the ocean. A large carved Tiki stands next to him. Bee Gees music plays faintly in the background. A beautiful young blonde with a deep tan and a very skimpy bikini comes up behind him, hugs him. “I’m going for a swim baby, want to come?” “Maybe later,” he replies, “I’ve got an idea for something.” She laughs. “For a retired millionaire, you sure do spend a lot of time “working” (yes, she uses air quotes). The camera follows her as she runs down to the beach, loses the top and jumps in the ocean, then pans down to Don’s lap, where he has a sketch pad and pencil. On it is a quick sketch of the beach, and a pair of sandals. “Your Jumping Off Point” is scrawled across the top. Suddenly Don jumps up, runs to the water, tosses off his shirt and shoes and jumps in with the beautiful girl. A disco version of “The Best Things In Life Are Free” comes up, and we see Don and his new “Betty” frolicking in the waves as the credits run.
Well, those are a few ways it might end. It might also end with the entire cast doing “I Believe in You” from “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”. Who knows. We do know this: However it ends, Mathew Weiner will make sure it’s great.