The Original Mad Men
Some of my earliest memories of my father were the stories he'd tell about his job, in particular the three-martini luncheons he'd share with his fellow TV executives in the 1960s when he worked on Madison Avenue for Trans Lux Television. Dad smoked Newports. He dressed sharply, smelled of Mennen aftershave, and he'd come home in the evening and talk about what he ate for lunch at those meetings. I'm not sure my sibs cared, but I specifically recall something called "The King Henry Cut," which was a slab of beef, apparently of gargantuan proportions. I'm guessing his colleagues have passed on too, perhaps a long time ago, considering the health benefits of 22 ounces of marbled prime washed down with vodka and maybe a Napoleon chaser. I thought Dad was cool. I could not get enough of those stories.
We were decidedly middle class, living literally on the downside of the busy road that separated Scarsdale from Ardsley. There was never a Cadillac or Mercedes in our garage. But I was definitely the only kid on the block with a screening room in his basement. For our earliest birthday parties my Dad would bring home 16 mm film reels from work. He would carefully ratchet them up on our Bell & Howell projector and then show home movies before cake: Felix the Cat, Speed Racer, Gigantor, and a show I suspect no living person remembers called Mack & Meyer for Hire. We were five. It was the bomb!
Later, when he took a job with the AFI, we transplanted to the Maryland suburbs for my high school years. He cut a hole in the family room wall, installed soundproof glass, and set up the movie projector in the laundry room behind the wall. A Marimekko print hung over the glass, only removed for screenings, now in the comfort of our overwrought black and white furnished "den." About once a month he brought home short films made by the AFI directing students. I'm sure that one of those early works he screened called "The Lost Phoebe" is why I went on to study film and begin my professional life as a screenwriter.
My father was marvelously proud of his career and not long before his death he assigned me the task of writing his obituary. Frankly, this was an assignment I would have rather turned down, and I did ultimately put it off until he could not have a say in rewrites. I knocked off an okay first draft, but one line landed on the cutting room floor.
I wouldn't say I've followed in his footsteps. He was a businessman. I am a writer. But there isn't a doubt in my mind that his business -- and the creative vision that it planted in my head -- fueled the passion that drives me to the keys every single day. Thanks Dad. I often dreamed I'd be saying that from a much larger stage, but this will have to do. So it didn't make the Times obit pages. It still counts just fine.