A Day on Madison Avenue, 1967
“Was it really like that?”
As soon as people find out I actually worked at an advertising agency in the Mad Men era, they pepper me with questions. “Was there really that much drinking?” “Were women really treated that badly?” And then they lean in and ask confidentially: “Was there really that much sex?”
The answer is yes. And no. Mad Men gets a lot of things right, but it gets some things wrong, too. So I thought I’d give you a typical day in my life on Madison Avenue in 1967, three years after I began working at Ogilvy & Mather as a copywriter.
* * *
6:30 A.M. My husband, Michael, brings a cup of coffee to me in bed. It’s a morning ritual and one of the many caring things he does for me. I know not many wives are so cosseted. “Don’t ever mention this when we’re with people from my office,” he cautions me. “They’ll think I’m henpecked.”
He’s not. We have a wonderful marriage—and a sexy one.
Michael is a former Marine Corps officer, crisply handsome, with just a bit of gray starting to show in his black hair. He attributes a recent promotion at his architectural firm to this premature streaking; he’s now in charge of all building plans for New York Telephone, his firm’s most important client. He stands beside the bed, already dressed in a blue Brooks Brothers suit, a white shirt (cuffs showing), and a bow tie. (Architects usually favor bow ties because they don’t swing over drawings and smudge them.)
“You look very nice. Going to the office this early?”
“I’m inspecting a site on Staten Island. Want to meet for a drink after work?”
I light a cigarette, the first of the day. “Don’t think I can. We’re going to have casting calls all afternoon and I may not be able to leave by five.”
“Well, try to be home in time for dinner. The girls miss you when you’re not here.” He bends down and kisses me. “So do I. Have a good day, Mops.”
Mops is the family nickname for me. It’s a shortened form of Mopsy, one of the rabbits in the Beatrix Potter nursery tales. Michael gave me the name when Kate was born. His mother read him the tales when he was a little boy, and I think he remembered incorrectly that Mopsy was the mother rabbit. It sounds like a maternal kind of name. I don’t remember what the mother’s name really was, but she was a good mother. I don’t think I am. My priorities are job first, husband second, children third. It’s the only way for a woman to survive in the advertising business. And in the marriage business.
I have a second cigarette with my coffee, then get up and check on my children. Kate, age eight, is in her room getting dressed in her Nightingale-Bamford school uniform: blue jumper, white short-sleeved blouse, and knee-high socks. She is a real moppet, blond and blue-eyed, quiet, introspective. In the next bedroom, Mabel, our live-in housekeeper, is supervising four-year-old Jenny. Jen is Kate’s polar opposite: brown-haired, brown-eyed, noisy, exuberant. Mabel asks if I can drop Kate at Nightingale while she takes Jen to nursery school.
I have a second cup of coffee and another cigarette; I’ve already lost count.
* * *
8:15 A.M. I walk with Kate the few blocks from our apartment at 4 East Ninety-fifth Street to her school on Ninety-second Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues.
Kate reminds me that the school fashion show is at two o’clock today. “Are you coming to see me, Mommy?” I know that Kate is one of only a handful of girls chosen to show off fashions for the school fair. The outfits the girls will wear onstage today will be sold at the Clotheshorse Booth tomorrow. It’s a big deal for her, but I have a full day ahead of me at the office. “I don’t think I can, darling. We have a ton of meetings today.”
Kate is used to this. She is disappointed, but she doesn’t protest. “I’ll try,” I offer. It doesn’t sound convincing to Kate, who just keeps walking, her head down. It doesn’t even sound convincing to me. But we’re casting the Dove-for-Dishes commercial this afternoon. I have to be there.
We arrive at Nightingale-Bamford, one of the top girls’ schools in the city. I kiss Kate good-bye and watch her walk up the stairs to the landing, where the headmistress is greeting the girls, as she does every morning. Kate curtsys, as is the custom, she and the headmistress shake hands, as is also the custom, and she goes inside. I get on the Fifth Avenue bus and head downtown.
The Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency, where I am a copy supervisor, is at Forty-eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, convenient to Saks and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, depending on whether you want to shop or pray. And within easy walking distance of Grand Central for the blue-blooded account guys (and they are all guys) who commute to Westport and environs.
There’s a coffee shop next door to the office, and I stop in to pick up a cup. I’m at the front of the long line waiting to pay, and I spot an art director who works for me at the tail end. “Go on up, Doug. I’ll get this.” He motions his thanks. The male cashier beams at me. “Well, aren’t you the nice little secretary to buy coffee for your boss. Hope he appreciates you.”
Another day on Madison Avenue.
* * *
9:15 A.M. Everyone in the Gene Grayson creative group is here in their offices, except for Gene Grayson. He’s the boss, so it’s okay for him to come in later. The group consists of three copywriters, an art director, a television producer, a secretary, and me. I’m a copywriter, but I also supervise the others. We are housed along a corridor on the seventh floor. The writers and art director have small, windowless offices; the producer and I have slightly larger offices with one window; the secretary sits at a desk in the middle of the hallway. Gene, as copy group head, properly has the largest office of all, with two windows. As a vice president, he even rates a couch.
There’s a reason why we have four writers and only one art director. This art director represents one of this agency’s first tentative forays into the new “teamwork” school of creativity, where copywriters and art directors come up with the ideas together. Normally at Ogilvy & Mather, it’s the writers who think up the television spots, then type the scripts and hand them over to the sketch men. We writers type the preliminary scripts on cheap yellow paper known as “copywriter roughs.” The yellow paper is an old advertising tradition; it is supposed to signal to the writer that this is merely a rough draft so you can relax and be as creative as you like. I always wonder, though, why the paper is yellow, the color of cowardice.
We have some wonderful artists who sketch the visuals for the print ads or storyboards that we show our clients. One of our artists draws so charmingly that we all vie to have him do our storyboards; the clients usually okay them immediately. A client complained to me recently that the dog in the finished commercial wasn’t grinning the way Wes had drawn him in the storyboard.
However, the new Doyle Dane Bernbach “team approach” is beginning to catch on at some of the smaller, less traditional agencies. Bill Bernbach decreed that at his agency, copywriters and art directors must work together on all advertising—even radio scripts. We hear that at DDB some art directors can’t even draw. Imagine.
Our group has a lot of good writers. Scholarly, poetic Marianne, who has written sonnets about Good Seasons salad dressing and an ode to Milky Way. Pert, miniskirted Linda, who works on Maxim coffee. Witty Peter, who writes pornography in his spare time. Although Gene has promoted me to supervisor, I continue to write on all the accounts in our group.
We have several women writers because we work on “packaged goods”—the kind of products you find on supermarket shelves; the kind of products women are allowed to write ads for, like Dove soap, Drano, and Vanish toilet bowl cleaner. Down the hall, a creative group works on Mercedes-Benz; it is all male. One floor above us, another creative group handles the American Express card—all male. Only men are considered good enough to work on luxury accounts like Steuben Glass or liquor accounts like Rums of Puerto Rico. I’m told that at a rival agency, the chief copywriter on Kotex is a guy.
In addition to Peter, there are two other men in our group. Doug, the art director, represents the “new school.” He doesn’t draw all that well, but he’s great at coming up with ideas. I’m not at all sure I like the new wave, though; I kind of preferred doing it all myself. Ken is our television producer, a silver-haired Brit who makes filming a commercial a wonderful experience. He believes that the talent performing in the spots and the creative people should travel first-class. With Ken, it was champagne and limousines all the way. I loved it, until he tried to seduce me late one night in the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
* * *
9:30 A.M. My boss, copy group head Gene Grayson, arrives. (Officially, he is Eugene Debs Grayson; his parents named him in honor of the American Socialist.) Gene is intense, bearded, a brilliant advertising man. When he offered me the job at Ogilvy three years ago, at first I turned him down because I got cold feet about working as a copywriter when I didn’t quite know what a copywriter did. “Listen, you little redheaded fink,” he yelled at me over the phone, “come work for me and learn what advertising is all about. You may even write an ad someday.” I capitulated.
There are several schools of advertising right now. There’s the Doyle Dane school: tell it like it is, avoid hyperbole, have a little fun with the products. Ads like “Think small” for Volkswagen. “You don’t have to be Jewish to like Levy’s Jewish rye,” for a bakery in Brooklyn, with ads that feature an Irish cop, an American Indian, a little Chinese boy. “We’re only #2. We try harder” for Avis.
There’s the David Ogilvy school: persuasive ads that often have long headlines and a lot of copy, packed with facts. D.O. is very proud of the first ad he wrote as the head of his tiny new agency. It was for Guinness Stout, and described in loving detail nine varieties of oyster that “taste their best when washed down with drafts of Guinness.” He brags about using 3,242 words in an ad for the World Wildlife Fund.
And there’s the Ted Bates school: hard-hitting, hard-sell advertising that drives the message home with powerful visuals and taglines repeated over and over. Hammers pounding on an animated head for Anacin; stomach acid bursting into flames for Tums. When people talk about how irritating advertising can be, it’s usually this kind of work they have in mind.
Gene Grayson is a school unto himself. He specializes in mnemonic devices—usually a visual effect that helps the consumer remember your brand and what it stands for. For Maxim freeze-dried coffee he created the slogan “Turns every cup in your house into a percolator.” A hand spoons in the Maxim, pours boiling water over the crystals, and stirs. Music sounds, the cup shimmers before your eyes, and—eureka!—the cup is suddenly transformed into a coffeepot, sitting there on your saucer. For Dove-for-Dishes, the campaign line is “I could have sworn I saw a dove fly into Mrs. So-and-So’s window.” The dove lands on the sink; there is a pinging sound, a flash of light, and—shazam!—the bird turns into a bottle of dishwashing liquid.
Now Gene stands at my office door, asking if I’m ready to leave for a meeting. Today is a big day for the agency and especially for me. The new president of our agency, Jim Heekin, has won a piece of business from Clairol. We are the only agency to chip away at the iron grip that Foote, Cone & Belding has had on the business for a zillion years. Our assignment: figure out the positioning and do the creative work for a new hair-coloring product. Heekin wanted the account assigned to Gene’s group because he likes the commercials I have been writing for Dove-for-Dishes and wanted me. Am I ready? Never more so.
In the lobby of 2 East Forty-eighth Street, we meet Heekin and the account man who will supervise the Clairol business. There are only three women in account management in all of Ogilvy—all are lowly assistant account executives; all work on General Foods business. None is assigned to Clairol; it simply didn’t occur to anyone.
At Clairol, the brand group for the new product greets us warmly. There are no women in brand management at Clairol, a company whose products are made exclusively for women. We gather around a big conference table, the nine men and I, everybody lights a cigarette, and we begin. The project is so hush-hush that all of us from the agency have already signed confidentiality agreements.
The brand manager explains that today’s meeting will be a short one, because the next step is for the agency’s creative team to attend Clairol’s hair-coloring academy to learn how to apply the product. He directs his next remark straight to me. “That’s lovely red hair.” I thank him. The Bergdorf beauty salon turned me into a redhead five years ago, but nobody at the agency knows that. The tagline for Clairol is “Does she … or doesn’t she?” Coloring your hair was a topic even more personal than your sex life.
“A very lovely color,” the brand manager persists.
Oh God, I think. He knows. “Thank you,” I say again, lamely. There is a long silence. He is waiting. “It’s Miss Clairol,” I confess. And blush to my brown roots. My three agency colleagues look at me in astonishment. Jim Heekin, ever debonair, recovers first. “Why, Jane, how wonderful that you are using our client’s product. And we never knew it.” Gene Grayson looks at me with reproach; he will never again be able to call me a redheaded fink. The account man is shocked into silence. He is a conservative, serious, Bible-reading nondrinker, nonsmoker. He just gapes at me, the scarlet woman. The client, satisfied, beams at me.
* * *
11:30 A.M. Back at the agency, Gene asks if I am covering the casting auditions for my Dove commercial. All commercials are given names, and this one is called “Cupcake.” It’s a slice of life that opens with a youngish mother handing out cupcakes to her brood. A dove flies past her and into her neighbor’s kitchen window. The mother bursts into the kitchen (in my Dove commercials, nobody ever knocks or rings a doorbell; they just rush in) and sees that damn bird turn into a bottle of dish soap. The neighbor declares that Dove keeps your hands soft and smooth, but the mother is doubtful. “With six kids and these dry hands, I need a miracle,” she replies. By the end of the commercial, she is won over. “This Dove-for-Dishes is a miracle. I hope it comes in the giant economy size.” The lawyers at Lever Brothers had trouble with that last line. They pointed out that there wasn’t any “giant economy size” Dove bottle, so we couldn’t refer to it. I argued that the mother in the commercial isn’t stating a fact; she’s simply expressing a hope. The lawyers backed down.
It’s easy for me to write slices of life because I know how Americans talk. Before becoming an advertising copywriter, I was an associate producer for the quiz show Name That Tune. My job: interview the contestants and write their “spontaneous” dialogue with the master of ceremonies. Here’s a sample. Emcee to Kansas Farmer’s Wife: “What did your neighbors think about your being on our show?” Farmer’s Wife: “George, there hasn’t been this much excitement in town since our pig won second prize at the county fair.”
I’m in the advertising business today because of the big quiz show scandal a few years ago. The most popular television programs then were quiz shows like The $64,000 Question and Twenty One. Charles Van Doren, with his long winning streak on Twenty One, became a national idol, even making the cover of Time magazine. Then news broke that the quiz shows were rigged and Van Doren confessed under oath that he was fed the answers in advance. Congress was so incensed that they ordered game shows off the air.
Overnight, Name That Tune was no more, and I was without a job. I needed the income to pay Mabel to look after the kids. Besides, I didn’t want to stay home; I wanted to work. I knew there was something called “advertising,” because we ran live commercials on the program. So I put together a few speculative ads and took my little portfolio to Ogilvy. That was when Gene offered me the job.
“Cupcake” is going to be a good commercial if the two actresses are just right, so casting is important. I have half an hour before the first audition; time to make “Mother Maas’s Morning Rounds,” a few minutes to check with the creative folks who report to me.
Marianne and Doug are in her office trying to think up a spot for Vanish. They are already working together in the Doyle Dane “copy/art team” fashion and Marianne tells me they spur each other on. We always have to make two versions of each Vanish commercial. During the day, when only women are presumed to be at home watching television, the networks allow us to call it a “toilet bowl” cleaner. At night, we have to refer to it as “bathroom bowl” cleaner. Apparently the word “toilet” is not appropriate for mixed company.
We have already given Vanish a positioning and a tagline: “Stuck with the nastiest job in the house? Make it Vanish.” All the scrubbing brushes and sponges and scouring powder cans and bleach bottles disappear—whoosh!—and the housewife is left holding a container of Vanish. Now the assignment is to come up with the next commercial in the campaign. Marianne said they had an idea, a sort of takeoff on the kind of caper Lucy and Ethel might engage in on I Love Lucy. Two women would dress in suits of armor to attack the dreaded task. “It could be a funny spot,” Doug suggests, with a question mark in his voice. I’m not so sure about it, either, and I ask them to show me a few more ideas.
In the next office, Peter is working on a subway campaign for Ammens medicated powder. He envisions a series of posters with funny illustrations of situations that call for a soothing sprinkle of Ammens. He shows me a rough sketch of an old-fashioned corset with the headline “A lady on this train has a corset that’s killing her.” It’s eye-catching, but I question whether any women these days wear corsets. Peter rolls his eyes. “It’s hyperbole, for God’s sake. Sure, we could show a girdle, but that would be just plain ugly. Even the word ‘corset’ is funny.”
I suspect Peter is right. Of all the writers in our group, he has a flair for writing comedy. “Let’s show it to Gene tomorrow,” I agree.
Linda and I arrive at her office at the same time. “I just had a haircut with Emil,” she explains. Emil is our in-house barber, installed by David Ogilvy when he started the agency. “And while I was sitting in the chair, David Ogilvy arrived. Emil had forgotten he had an appointment and gave the time slot to me. Poor Emil was so upset he dropped his scissors, but Mr. Ogilvy told him to go right on cutting my hair, and he sat down and chatted with me. He was charming.”
D.O. was famous for his lack of patience. “Oh God, Linda. How long did you keep him waiting?”
“Oh, Emil never cut his hair. Once he finished me, Mr. Ogilvy remembered he had a meeting and had to leave, too. But on the way out, he said he’d seen me at his Magic Lantern presentation last week, and asked me how I liked it.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him Magic Lanterns were pretty boring, but I thought he was divine. He’s a very sexy man, isn’t he?”
Magic Lanterns are a tool D.O. invented to teach creative people what works, what doesn’t, and why in various advertising categories. They are slide presentations that lay out certain “rules.” The first one he wrote was “How to Create Advertising That Sells.” Others became more specific. “How to Advertise Travel” exhorts us to “show the natives, not the tourists” and not to be afraid of long copy. “How to Create Food Advertising That Sells” tells us how to talk to women. David, despite his early career as a chef, clearly thinks only women are involved with food preparation. The rules in this Lantern include “Tell her how and when to use your product” and “Don’t forget to tell her it tastes good.”
Lanterns are powerful new business tools. David turns them into ads that run in The New York Times. In addition to touting all the success we have achieved for clients, the ads always end with a statement that these guidelines are merely a small sample of what the agency knows about selling the category. The rest is confidential and strictly reserved for clients of Ogilvy & Mather. Every time one of these ads runs, prospective new clients appear.
“Linda, I’m actually glad you think Magic Lanterns are boring. David Ogilvy has just assigned Gene and me to write the newest one—‘What O&M Knows About Selling Packaged Goods.’ And just to make sure that it’s entertaining, we are assigning you to write the first draft.”
* * *
12 noon. The Ogilvy casting department is on the eleventh floor. The lobby is already full of sleek young women who’ve come to read for the Dove commercial. Ogilvy’s casting directors work hard to discover new talent; they go to all the Broadway, Off Broadway, and even Off-Off Broadway shows. Other agencies often simply “line up the usual suspects”; the reason you see so many familiar faces cropping up in commercial after commercial. We always ask the talent if they are in any spots that are currently running, or if they have ever appeared in a commercial for a competing product. Yes to either question rules them out.
Each audition takes about ten minutes. It’s important to be polite to the actresses; today’s nobody may be tomorrow’s superstar, and we want the agency to have a reputation for class befitting our founder. But I can tell who is wrong for the part before they say a word. For instance, I don’t want to cast a cute blonde who looks about eighteen years old as the mother of six kids. We exchange some niceties with the actresses and ask each one to read the script. After the first few readings, my own words starts to sound flat and boring.
Suddenly, there’s electricity. An actress named Mary Jo Catlett enters. She is pleasingly plump, probably in her thirties, and tells us she is playing the soubrette role in the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing. She certainly looks the part, but can she act? It turns out that indeed she can. She is perfect: wistful, frazzled, funny, believable. And, wonder of wonders, she has never appeared in a commercial before. I know we will have to invite her back to do a second reading for Gene Grayson and the client, but I’m already sure she’s my “Cupcake” mom.
I look at my watch. Twenty after one. If I take a taxi, I can make it up to Nightingale in time for the fashion show. We aren’t going to see anybody better than Mary Jo; the producer and the casting director can take over for the next hour; nobody will miss me. In the taxi, though, I feel horribly guilty about leaving the auditions.
* * *
1:55 P.M. They save the first few rows in the auditorium for the parents of girls in the show. Most seats are already taken, all by mothers; there isn’t one father present. I sit down in the very first row just as the show begins. First grade. Second grade. Then out comes Kate, in a blue party dress with a blue bow in her hair, looking like Alice in Wonderland. The audience breathes a quiet “ooooh.” Kate spots me and gives a big smile of surprise and delight. The rest of her performance is only for me. She twirls slowly, as someone has instructed her, to show off the full skirt, curtsys to the audience, smiles at me again, and exits to applause. I last through fourth grade. When the fifth grader comes on, dressed in a party gown, the teacher at the piano plays a few bars of “Hello, Dolly!” and I think of the auditions I’m missing. I slink out, now feeling guilty about leaving without going backstage to hug Kate, but more guilty about staying. “I’m in a real hurry,” I tell the taxi driver. “I have a casting session.”
* * *
3:10 P.M. The casting session is over. They have selected one other finalist for the part of the mother, and two additional actresses for the other role. I’m back in my office, at my typewriter, when the chairman of the agency, John Elliott Jr., known as Jock, appears in my doorway. “I stopped in about an hour ago, but you were probably having a late lunch.”
Embarrassed, I confess that I was watching my daughter perform at a school event. Jock beams approval. “We should encourage all the mothers at Ogilvy to give their children high priority. Come to think of it, we should encourage the fathers, too. But I am here on official agency business. It is my great pleasure to tell you that at our board of directors meeting today, you were elected a vice president. As you know, only one other woman here has that title. Congratulations!” We shake hands solemnly, then Jock makes his distinctive formal bow and leaves.
Lots of men at Ogilvy are vice presidents. An account man I work with went recently to Jim Heekin to complain that he had not yet been given the title. “But John,” Jim reasoned, “everybody is a vice president.” “Exactly,” John said. He was soon elected. The title doesn’t come with a raise or a promotion in rank; it’s simply an indication that the agency values you. You become an officer of the company. As Jock said, only one other woman is a vice president: Reva Korda, second in command to the creative head of the agency.
Ogilvy & Mather is a male preserve, as most agencies are, but there are a few men who champion the promotion of women. Jock is one of them. He was taught early by his suffragette mother that women could do anything they set their minds to. I admire Jock’s wife, Elly, who is on the boards of Barnard (her alma mater) and New York Hospital. At Ogilvy, Jock is the biggest supporter we women have.
David Ogilvy says that he believes in hiring “ladies and gentlemen” with brains, but he seems dubious about women and careers. In his book Confessions of an Advertising Man—the bestselling book about advertising ever written—D.O. described his rule against nepotism. If two Ogilvy employees marry, David wrote, one of them must leave, preferably the woman, “to stay home and raise her babies.” As far as I know, we are the only agency that has this regulation. D.O.’s partners are trying to persuade him to soften on this position, but today, in the liberated 1960s, it is still in effect.
I reach for the phone to call Michael and tell him the news, but it’s already ringing. Reva Korda is calling to congratulate me. “If I didn’t like you so much, I would probably resent you at this moment,” she says candidly. Reva has been the lone female at the top for a few years now; it must be hard for her to share the spotlight. I know she wanted the Clairol assignment in her domain, so that’s another blow. After we hang up, I ponder her words.
My phone rings again. It’s Nick Evans, CEO of the Drackett Company, makers of Vanish and Drano. He’s just seen my “Crying Plumber” commercial. The premise is that new Liquid Drano “keeps your drains so clean you may never need a plumber.” So the actor playing the plumber cries throughout the entire thirty seconds. “I love it,” Nick says. “I hope you win a ton of awards.”
Another phone call. Jim Heekin. This is really my day, I think; two presidents within two minutes. “Bad news,” Jim says. “As soon as Lever heard we got the Clairol assignment, they called to tell me it was a major conflict. We have to resign Clairol or they’ll move all their business.” He didn’t have to remind me that Lever Brothers was our biggest client. “It was nice working with you on Clairol … for about twenty minutes.” He pauses. “By the way, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you since this morning. What color is your hair in real life?” “Red,” I say firmly, and we both laugh.
The second we hang up, the phone rings again. Heekin a second time. “I forgot to say congratulations on your vice presidency.”
Gene arrives to give me a hug. “The whole group is taking you out for drinks tonight. No excuses that you need to entertain Michael’s clients or get home to the kids. This is a big deal for the people who report to you.” I agree, feeling guilty. I don’t spend enough time with the creative group outside of office hours.
Finally, I get to call Michael and tell him my news. He is quietly very pleased. “How about taking me out for dinner tonight?” he teases. I remind him that it’s Friday, and Mabel always likes to leave by six to go home to her family in Brooklyn for the weekend. “And the gang wants to buy me a drink to celebrate. So could you get home on the early side?”
“Sure. I know you need to do this. Have fun,” Michael says, “but don’t stay out too late.” I hang up, feeling guiltier than ever. I don’t spend enough time with my family. I think that I’m lucky to have Michael, a man other women lust after, and the kind of marriage other couples envy. So far, in our ten years of marriage, we have disagreed about only two things: dogs and golf.
I kept begging Michael for a dog. “You grew up with a dog; I grew up with a dog,” I’d whine. “Not in a New York apartment,” Michael always said firmly. After Kate was born, I stepped up my pleas, but Michael was firmer than ever. “No dog in a New York apartment.” After Jenny was born, I thought the time had come for us to try for a boy. “What do you think about a third child?” I asked Michael. His answer: “How would you like a poodle?”
Golf was another matter. Michael adored the game, played every chance he got and wanted me to play, too, so we would “have something to do together in our golden years.” I did eighteen holes in the 150s or 160s, playing through the rough the whole way. It wasn’t a sport for me; it was jungle warfare. After about five years of this battering, I sat Michael down one night, took a deep breath, and spit out the bad news. “I’m not going to play golf anymore.” “That’s wonderful, Mops,” Michael said. “You’re so awful at it, I didn’t know why you kept trying.”
* * *
4:15 P.M. I’m at my desk trying to write copy for Maxim coffee, but my heart isn’t in it. I’m too excited about the promotion. A shadow falls over my typewriter and I turn to find David Ogilvy standing there in my office. He wrote in Confessions that he never summoned people to his office; he believed it terrified them. Instead, he went to their offices. Clearly, he has no idea how heart-stopping it is to have him materialize before you.
Michael and Jane Maas after their marriage in 1957
“Hi, Mr. Ogilvy,” I manage.
“My dear girl, I have just screened that commercial with the plumber. I absolutely loathe it. That overweight actor blubbering away.” My stomach lurches. “But I want to congratulate you on the eccentric casting. Brilliant.”
“Thank you, Mr. Ogilvy.”
“One thing more. As of today, you are the only vice president of this agency who calls me ‘Mister.’ So you must stop it immediately. Congratulations.” He shakes my hand warmly.
“Thank you,” I say again, and stop. I can’t quite utter the word “David.”
* * *
5:15 P.M. We all gather at Rattazzi’s, the Ogilvy hangout right across the street from the office. Because it’s fairly early, we manage to snag a big table in the dimly lighted rear. Each of us orders a different drink; it’s a sort of personality test. Gene has a double scotch on the rocks; worldly Linda has a martini, very dry; literary Marianne a sherry; curious Peter a drink I’ve never heard of called a Negroni. Ken, our Brit, asks for a Pimm’s Cup but they don’t stock it; I can’t hear what he mutters as a substitute. Doug and I are the only wine drinkers; he Chianti, I Soave. I open my second pack of cigarettes.
* * *
5:50 P.M. The party is in full swing. I really would like a second glass of wine, but it’s not fair to Michael and the girls. I try to leave unnoticed, and it’s easier than I expected; most people are well into their second round. Only Gene spots me and escorts me to the door. I kiss him on the cheek. “Thank you for making this happen.” He makes a face. “You made it happen.” I walk over to Madison and take the bus uptown. Two taxis today were enough.
* * *
6:35 P.M. The door to our apartment has a makeshift poster—four eight-by-ten sheets of typing paper taped together—that says CONGRATULATIONS, VP MOPS.
Michael, Kate, and Jenny are already eating dinner. Hugs, kisses, applause. Mabel’s meat loaf is warm and waiting in the oven; Michael pours me a glass of wine, that second glass I’ve been wanting. I’m so glad to be home; it’s been a long week, and today was a long day. The telephone rings and Kate runs to answer it. “Mr. Grayson,” she announces. It’s a familiar name in our household. Michael raises his eyebrows; it means Do you really have to take the call? I shrug apologetically; how can I not?
“Sorry to intrude,” Gene says, “but I came back here to the office to clean up some paperwork.” Guilt overwhelms me. Gene is working late, and I’m home. “And there was a message from the Drackett folks. They are going ahead with the Industrial-Strength Drano project, and they need a copywriter there for the lab tour on Monday. I just talked to Peter and he can fly out on Sunday.”
“But Marianne’s been doing all the work on Drackett. It’s really her—”
“Industrial-Strength Drano,” Gene interrupts me. “Really not a girl’s account. And, anyway, Peter is all set. He said he was supposed to write the Dove copy over the weekend, but since he’s traveling on Sunday, I didn’t think it was fair to make him work Saturday, too. I said you’d write it.” Pause. “Or I would.”
I don’t hesitate for a second. “Oh, I can write it. I’ll have it for you Monday first thing.”
Back at the dinner table, both my daughters look at me with resignation. “Mommy, do you have to work this weekend?” Kate asks.
“I just have to work one of the days. Tell you what: tomorrow, we’ll have a picnic lunch in Central Park and then maybe Daddy will take us rowing.” Michael looks sheepish. “What?” I ask him.
“I promised I’d play golf tomorrow.” I try not to let Kate and Jenny see that I’m disappointed and mutter something about Daddy working hard and needing some time for himself. I ask him if he is going all the way to Pine Valley. That golf club is a cherished enclave of male bonding, where golfers with hangovers can order the breakfast specialty of the house, a milk punch laced with bourbon. Oh, no, he tells me; Pine Valley is only for overnight outings. Pine Valley, in fact, is next weekend. I wince. Michael realizes he has given me news he didn’t intend to reveal quite yet, and grins at me. I grin back. He always wins me over.
* * *
10:15 P.M. Michael and I are in bed. We have all agreed to a plan for the weekend and everyone seems happy. Tomorrow, Michael will play golf, and I’ll take the girls to the playground in the morning and write copy in the afternoon. Sunday will be a family day.
“When will I get to visit the Pine Valley Club with you?” I ask sleepily.
There is a pause. “I don’t think you really want to visit Pine Valley.”
“Of course I do. You always describe it as the be-all, end-all. Why shouldn’t I want to spend a weekend there, too?”
“They don’t have a ladies’ room.”
Copyright © 2012 by Jane Maas
Foreword copyright © 2012 by Mary Wells Lawrence