Wednesday, July 23, 2008

All About Joan (sort of)

Joan is the redhead on "Mad Men."

(For the uninitiated, see the link at the bottom of the page.)

When I noticed last year that AMC was debuting a show about a Madison Avenue ad agency in 1960, I thought, well, sounds interesting, it'll probably be worth watching for the art direction, anyway. Whatever.

Now, I'm in love with it. And (oh joy!)the second season starts this Sunday.

As deep as it is slick, "Mad Men" is a perfect triumph of style and content. These nicotine-crazed, half-swacked ad men and their secretaries, their "girls," are creating the consumer culture we live in now, and we get to watch.

Joan is The Sterling-Cooper Agency's office manager. She's the one who trains all the new girls that come in pouring into Grand Central from the hinterlands and the secretarial schools. She shows them the ropes of mid-century Manhattan, hooks them up with the junior account guys, finds them doctors who don't ask too many questions, and teaches them how to juggle their bosses' wives and mistresses. Joan knows the score. She has one or two secrets, but that wised-up, made-up exterior never cracks. Almost never.

She spends spare time in hotel rooms with Roger Sterling, one of the (married, of course) agency's owners. She has no illusions about him, doesn't pretend to, although he has plenty about her, and himself.

What does this have to do with perfume? Well, just look at her. Voluptuous, girdled, assured, bored, too smart for her job, but playing the hand she's been dealt with skill and style. I'm thinking Chanel No. 5 -- that's what Marilyn wore -- at the office; or a classic chypre like Miss Dior or maybe even Arpege. Roger's gifts to her have included a caged bird. What perfume would he buy for "Joanie?"

"My Sin," of course.

We have come a long way.

The second season of "Mad Men" picks up in 1962, the year "The Feminine Mystique" came out. There are three main characters who are women -- more later.

Should be interesting!

"My Sin," (Lanvin) now discontinued, was an aldehydic floral with indolic jasmine, ylang-ylang, a base of sandalwood and other woods, musk, styrax and, of course, civet.

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