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.
Posted on April 18th, 2014 No comments
I personally have yet to dig the scene at Frankie’s Tiki Room in Vegas, being a couple of thousand miles out of the area. But I’ve heard some swingin’ stories about this place, and one of its original cocktails,
The Tiki Bandit
The ingredients might suggest this drink is overly sweet and sticky, but give it a try – you’ll find the balance is quite nice. I didn’t have pineapple rum, and used Captain Morgan instead. Worked out very well.
4 oz. pineapple juice
4 oz. ginger ale
1½ oz. gold rum
1½ oz. pineapple rum
1 oz. blue curaçao
1 oz. orgeat syrup
1 oz. passion fruit syrup
1 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
1 wedge pineapple
1 maraschino cherry
Throw the pineapple juice, ginger ale, rums, curaçao, orgeat syrup, passion fruit syrup and grapefruit juice in a shaker with ice and shake that baby up until she’s nice and chilly; strain into a cool Tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish with pineapple and cherry, on one of those little plastic swords. An umbrella couldn’t hurt either. Cheers, kids!
-Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the casino at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar, Somewhere in Florida
Posted on April 13th, 2014 No comments
Tonight starts a bittersweet journey through the final 12 episodes of MAD MEN, arguably one of the best dramas ever to be transmitted over the airwaves. Sweet, because we get to enjoy another season of Don Draper bulldozing his way through life. Bitter, because it’s the last time we’ll get to enjoy Don Draper bulldozing his way through life. And to make it a little more bitter, AMC has decided to split the season in half: Six episodes will be aired this year, with the remaining six to be aired sometime next year. (Era-appropriate note: Cold war era audiences would not stand for such nonsense, as it was never a given that there would be a “next year”.)
Matthew Weiner has given us a tiny glimpse into the very end. He recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “What has really been the pressure this year, no matter what happens, is that these people are going to end this season frozen in time. That’s the last time we see them.”
But let’s not dwell on the impeding end. Let’s talk about how we can celebrate this fantastic piece of yesteryear, right now, in the present. So here are some Tiki Lounge Talk suggestions on how to make tonight’s premier a little more fun, and a little more exciting.
Cocktails (of course): Martinis, Manhattan, Screw Drivers…the most popular drinks of the 1950s were also very popular at the end of the ’60s, but there are a few new ones that you can add to your menu, including…
The Emma Peel
The tough honey from The Avengers TV series earned her own cocktail. Just add a cherry to a champagne flute, mix 1 oz chilled cherry brandy and 1 oz chilled pineapple juice and top with champagne.
Southern Comfort Manhattan
Two oz So Co, one oz sweet vermouth and three cherries, on the rocks.
The Hippie Cocktail
1 oz. Gin, 1 oz. Peach schnapps, 0.5 oz. dry vermouth, 1 tbs. Grenadine, 3 oz. Ginger ale
Put a half lemon wheel, half lime wheel, half orange wheel in a large old fashioned glass, and half fill with ice. Mix it up so the fruit is suspended in the ice. In a shaker add all ingredients except the ginger ale, with ice. Shake and strain into the glass, top with ginger ale. Garnish with a daisy.
Dinner: TV dinners were as popular as ever in the late 1960s…possibly even more popular than the ’50s, as more people watched the tube and had less time to cook. I wonder if any of these still come in tinfoil trays?
Attire: This is a big event, so you should be dressed for the occasion. Resist the temptation to throw on ripped jeans and a tie-died t-shirt. Believe it or not, people were still dressing up in the late 1960s. Most restaurants wouldn’t allow gentleman to dine without a jacket and tie, and many frowned upon pantsuits for the ladies. Business attire still meant black, blue or gray conservative suits for the men (even if they could get away with some colorful, double-breasted, wide-lapeled beauties at the track) and long dresses or skirts for women. Of course this was also the heyday of the Mod era, so if you’ve still got that Austin Powers costume you bought in 1998, break it out!
Snacks: After the TV dinner, you’re going to want some ’60s style snacks to get you through the rest of the hour. If you want to be era-accurate, you just have to stick with the traditional things: Plain potato chips, corn chips, mixed nuts, homemade onion dip, melted Velveeta and salsa dip, Doritos (invented in 1964) and pretzels. Stay away from anything too modern like Bugels, or things that promise “extreme” flavors…although it was an era of extremes, they never called it that.
For more reading, there’s a good, non-spoiler article on the Mad Men Season 7 Premier at The Hollywood Reporter.
-Tiki Chris Pinto, reporting from the screening room at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar
Posted on February 17th, 2014 No 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 January 31st, 2014 2 comments
Swing back to a rehearsal hall in New York City, 1943. Those words, or something close to them were very probably spoken by the young bandleader as he coaxed his musicians into playing the lilting, modulating melody with a silky smooth finesse that would become part of the band’s signature style. The tune: Eager Beaver. The band: Artistry in Rhythm. The leader: Stan Kenton.
“Eager Beaver” was a sophisticated, swinging “riff tune” that featured Kenton on solo piano, engulfed in a true jazz orchestration that set the band apart from the traditional big band sounds of Miller, Dorsey, Shaw and Goodman. It was a hit – Kenton’s first big one – with growling tenor sax solo by Red Dorris and a crazy, loud and high-reaching trumpet section. The song would become so popular that it would be part of the Kenton songbook until his death in 1979. A sleeker, cleaner, definitive version was recorded in 1956 featuring Maynard Ferguson leading those high trumpet notes, and Vido Musso laying down the swingin’ tenor solo.
“Eager Beaver” laid the roots for Kenton’s “Progressive Jazz” style. Kenton and the band’s style was influential among musicians in the modern jazz, bop, west coast jazz and other styles that were forming in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. While Kenton’s style and sound progressed, Eager Beaver remained an important and steady chart in the Kenton library.
One of the things that always intrigued me about this tune was how flawlessly the arrangement combines the sounds of the saxes, trumpets and bones against a solid rhythm section. But the big things for me are 1) the tenor solo, and 2) the modulating ending.
The tenor sax solo was kick-ass before the term kick-ass was coined. The 1943 tenor sax solo had a growling, modern sound that was at least 10 years ahead of its time, forming the basics of what would become the Rhythm & Blues – and then Rock ’n’ Roll sounds of the 1950s sax players. The 1956 version by Vido Musso went a step further, being cleaner, more sophisticated and unique in tone and composition.
Now, the ending, that’s another thing altogether. As a young musician I tried desperately to get a copy of the arrangement to see how the modulations were written. But this was back in the 1980s, before the world was laid at our fingertips with the World Wide Web. I tried like hell to figure it out by ear, but it was beyond my ability.
A few weeks ago, on a whim, out of the blue, I typed “Stan Kenton Eager Beaver” into the eBay search box. Hot damn, Sam…this arrangement featured here came up for sale, cheap. I got it, of course.
Those of you who can read music can check out the Tenor and Alto sheets below. You can see how each verse at the end steps up, integrating with the next verse in such a fantabulous way that that the listener doesn’t even realize what is happening…they just know they are hearing something cool.
For those of you who don’t follow sticks (notes), the best way I can explain what’s happening is that at the end, the melody “steps up” a note each verse, but in such a way that the last note of the first verse becomes blends in with the second, stepped up verse so you don’t even realize there’s been a modulation. Crazy, sophisticated jazz, man.
Below are two videos of the riff. The first is a “soundy” from the early 1940s, giving you an idea of the original version of the song (it sounds like it’s been sped up a little in the video.) The second is the 1956 version, clean and cool, much closer to the way Kenton would have sounded live.
The 1956 version of Eager Beaver
Below here are the sheet music pages from the 1944 Robins Music arrangement. Follow along with the saxes at the end to dig the modulation.
You can see that his sheet music was well used; someone even added their own section at the tenor sax solo (underneath are the chord progressions for the tenor solo).
This sheet music is also great because it features several ads to buy more sheet music. Talk about a captive audience!
There seems to be a cocktail recipe for every song title ever recorded. Eager Beaver has not been spared, but the recipe is kind of dull compared to the complexity of the song (It’s also probable that the cocktail was invented independently of the song, and refers to the person eager to complete a task, or a chick who is hot to trot, which no doubt is whom the song is named after.)
- 2 oz rum
– 3 oz coffee liqueur
– 1 oz orange liqueur
Mix everything together in a shaker with ice; shake and pour over cubes in a highball glass. To “jazz it up” a bit, use spiced rum, and garnish with an orange slice and cherry. Good stuff.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this jazzy trip down a road that doesn’t get nearly as much travel as it should. I hope I opened some of you up to a cool tune that was recorded at the very start of the modern jazz era, and that it will inspire you to check out more by the master musician, Stan Kenton.
-Tiki Chris reporting from the listening room at Tiki Lounge Talk