'Mad Men' recalls 1960s best and worst

As you news media consumers know, an earth-shaking event took place last week; big enough to blow the presidential campaign, the pope's travels, the Supreme Court and health care, and even Kate Middleton's latest frock off the magazine covers.

Yes, it was the long-awaited return of the TV series "Mad Men," showered with massive coverage from every news outlet in America, with the possible exception of Industrial Lubricant Monthly.

The show's appeal is the way it evokes the 1960s — that legendary era when conformity fought dissent; when individualism fought stereotypes; and when Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.

And mainly, as "Mad Men" shows us, an era when (a) men drank martinis until the gin overflowed out of their eye sockets, and (b) women wore girdles. Apparently (a) was more pleasurable.

Those of you who weren't around in the 1960s may be wondering, "Was it really like that? Like, did they really smoke all those cigarettes?"

I was around in 1965 – the year the "Mad Men" saga has now reached -- and I can tell you that like most years, it was part Good and part Bad. For example:


Good: The first miniskirts were introduced. This led, in ensuing years, to the greatest exposure, in terms of total acreage, of female thigh skin in history. At least we males thought it a good thing, despite the frequent head injuries we suffered by walking into walls while gawking at thighs instead of looking where we were going.

Bad: Female hair fashions still prominently featured the "bouffant" hairdo, a bizarre styling that made it appear as if a woman's hair had somehow undergone nuclear fission and exploded into a mushroom cloud. I can show you the graduation photos in my high school yearbook.


Good: The Beatles played their historic concert in New York's Shea Stadium.

Bad: My New York Mets, who also played in Shea Stadium, lost 112 (!) games that year.


Good: The top cultural icon was Sean Connery's James Bond, who dressed immaculately, had lots of girlfriends, and drove a cool car.

Bad: This did me no good whatsoever, since I was a nerdy 17-year-old whose skin hadn't cleared up, wore Ban-Lon shirts, and had zero girlfriends. And the only car I got to drive was my father's 1960 pea-green Nash Rambler station wagon, a car of such terminal uncoolness that it emitted visible dorkiness rays as it went down the street.


Good: The year's big hit movie was"The Sound of Music,"a heartwarming musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Bad: Another hit movie that year was "Faster, Pussycat! Kill, Kill!," Russ Meyer's sex-and-violence classic.

(I know, some of you out there would reverse the positions of these two, you naughty boys.)


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