At a quarter to nine Sunday night in Williamsburg, a copywriter arrived at the lobby of the Nitehawk Cinema for a party to view the season premiere of “Mad Men.” He came with two of his co-workers at Deutsch, the agency where they worked Saturday pitching ads all day to potential clients. They looked beat.
“This is Mad Men in a couple of years,” said Brent Weldon, 27, a copywriter, as he pointed to his tired co-workers, Erin McHugh, 29, also a copywriter, and Anne Grantski, 30, an art director. “Just not as flashy.”
The modern day Peggy Olsens and Sal Romanos, their counterparts in the series, didn’t have time to dress up for the theatre’s costume contest – wearing jeans and dark t-shirts for the most part – as roughly 50 eager fans gathered to watch on a large projector screen in the theatre’s lobby. The lobby bar buzzed with chatty patrons as they sipped on themed drinks: Martinis, Manhattans, and Old-Fashioneds.
At one point the manager asked if any patrons were there to see films, like “Jeff, Who Lives Next Door.” But this screening was different. The lights were only partially dimmed, and the fans commented loudly. They clapped when their favorite characters were introduced. Most laughed when Don Draper firmly shook his three-year-old son’s hand, and then again when he compared his ex-wife and her new husband to Lurch and Morticia, of “The Addams Family.”
The show’s return after a longer than usual 17-month hiatus only heightened the fanfare. A woman sporting a beehive and an oversized brooch won the costume contest. Andy Baratta, 28, who works at the theatre, dressed the part of a 60s ad man, but only after his girlfriend brought him his own costume. “I need my blazer, my fedora, and my period briefcase!” he begged her earlier in the day, before she came with all three.
Lenora Mardh, 22, arrived in a red gingham dress that she designed herself. It was a tribute, she said, to the pattern’s popularity in the late 50s and early 60s. Her loyalty to the show, however, stems from a connection she shares with the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner: Both are Wesleyan alums. “For me, it’s very much about Wesleyan pride,” she says.
Many in the crowd were cable-less. Megan Reynolds, 29, says if she hadn’t caught the episode live, she’d be wary of spoilers the next day. “I would probably want to stay off the Internet,” she says, an impossibility given her job at a media company.
One of the night’s most memorable moments came in the form of a provocative dance number. The crowd cackled as Megan Draper, Don’s new wife, performed the French pop song that Sophia Loren would make famous in 1968, “Zou Bisous Bisous,” catcalled as she seductively ran her hand down her leg, and cringed as Don did. After he responded negatively to his wife’s gesture, some in the crowd expressed disappointment. “That’s kind of boring to see him alienate another wife,” said Sarah Shanfield, a marketing manager at StreetWise.
Danielle DiPaolo, her friend and an account executive at The L Magazine, a biweekly local publication, also called Don’s actions frustrating. “He seemed really reformed for the first 10 minutes,” she sighed.
Still, any grudges towards Don were only fleeting. After he scolded his wife for dancing, he appeared to find redemption with fans, as he took a hard look at himself in the mirror while shaving. It prompted an “Aww” from some in the crowd. “It was a moment of pathos, real regret,” DiPaolo said.
One common refrain: More Sally Draper. Don and Betty’s 10-year-old daughter, who stole the few scenes she appeared in early in the episode, was noticeably absent for the rest of it.
“I want more Sally!” cried Shanfield. “I wanted her to burn her bra so bad!”