“Take it girl!”
A boisterous female voice breaks the tension as a teary-eyed secretary glugs down a tumbler of vodka, seconds before informing Roger Sterling that his mother is dead.
“What?! Stop it Don!”
Now a cry of dismay as Don Draper reveals that his cheating ways are still alive, this time crawling into bed with the wife of his neighbor, Dr. Rosen.
It’s Sunday evening at the Nitehawk Café in Williamsburg, where fans have gathered to watch the sixth season premiere of the hit show “Mad Men,” a drama revolving around a Manhattan ad agency set in the 1960s. The hopperesque haunt on Metropolitan Avenue is buzzing with a mixture of young professionals and hipsters drawn to the show’s Technicolor light and shadowy plot.
“I’m such a fan of Don Draper. I think he’s incredibly witty and sharp,” says Kelsey Johnson, 19, from a burgundy leather booth facing one of the café’s projection screens.
“And so troubled,” adds Paulie Rojas, 27. “I think there’s something really troubled about him that makes women think they can help him or be the answer to his prayer.”
“But there’s a lot of vulnerability within Don Draper,” Johnson continues. “He’s a full human being. He’s not just playing this arrogant businessman.”
Johnson, from Alberta, Canada, and Rojas, originally from Mexico City, have just been jointly awarded the prize for the “Mad Men” premiere’s best dressed, with Johnson attired as Joan Holloway, the formidable office manager of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and Rojas summoning the spirit of Megan Draper, Don Draper’s third wife.
Johnson is clad in a polka dot blouse offset by a feathered fascinator, while Rojas is wrapped in a bright red overcoat punctuated by black velvet gloves and pillbox hat.
For the acting conservatory classmates, convincing costumes are a way of life.
“In a costume is so much of the history and culture of the time,” Johnson says. “It’s like a little time capsule in clothing.”
While many fans were dressing the part of 1960s New Yorkers, even more were drinking it, with bartender Joe Palacios mixing up throwback cocktails for the occasion, dubbed ‘The Don’ and ‘The Roger.’
“They’re essentially very classic drinks for men of that era,” Palacios says. “’The Don’ is essentially a bourbon Manhattan, and ‘The Roger’ is a Gibson, which is a gin martini with a cocktail onion served straight up…the Gibson’s a strong drink. It’s like a man’s drink.”
“A man’s drink?”
Allison Kave, sporting a black sixties-inspired stole and thick orange bangs, looks askance at her friend from the patron’s side of the bar. “I don’t think a strong drink is necessarily a man’s drink,” she says. “I take issue with the gender biases.”
Kave worked as a bartender for last year’s “Mad Men” premiere party, but this year attended as a spectator.
“I wanted more Joan,” says Kave of this year’s premiere. “But it looks like that’s coming. And I liked seeing where some of the characters are now. I liked seeing Peggy all bossy,” she says, referring to the show’s trailblazing adwoman.
Wes Thomas, originally from London, appreciates the show’s educational value. “This show lets someone like me catch up on American culture,” he says. “It represents American history, and advertising, and capitalism.”
John Rice, an advertising art director in Manhattan, relates to ‘Mad Men’ on a professional level.
“It rings pretty true,” says Rice of the show’s portrayal of the advertising industry. “It’s the same basic structure, there is drama there, and I guess that’s why people like it and they always make movies and TV shows about advertising. Because there is a lot of politics and drama inside.”
Despite the similarities, Rice doesn’t consider himself a Mad Man.
“I work off Houston Street, you know, Madison Avenue’s dead now,” he says. ”So, I guess I’m a Hous Man.”