I Married a Mad Man

A Chicago ad legend inspired countless memorable campaigns, my own unbelievable love story, and, decades later, a hit leading man

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We went out to dinner that night, and it was the first time I really got to know Dan as a person. He was very funny and charismatic, but also much more down-to-earth than I had thought. Dan hailed from a Quaker family in a small upstate New York town and never forgot his roots. His father had been a civil engineer; his mother had been a teacher in a one-room school. Draper was his mother’s family name, but he thought it made him sound like a sissy so he had adopted the name Dan. His mother called him “D.” When he was a boy, Dan’s family struggled to pay the bills; years later, after he became the highest-paid advertising man in the country, he bought his mother a fabulous diamond ring and told her that it was the ring his father would have bought her if he could have afforded it.

Dan was a restless man who loved nothing more than giving birth to an idea. Ironically, he had been behind the best-known cigarette campaign in the country, but then left the ad business in 1962 for a year to join the Kennedy Administration because he didn’t feel good about promoting a product linked to lung cancer.

I learned a lot about Dan that night and saw sides of him I hadn’t known before. When Len realized that Dan was serious, a few days later, he flew right out to see me. I asked him for a year’s sabbatical. He was furious.

Dan and I had a mutual friend at the time who was a medical doctor, and one day she invited us over to her house for a Sunday brunch. She insisted that we not eat anything before we came over, which seemed odd. The first thing she did when we arrived at her apartment was to say she wanted to take blood samples. This made me mad. “Dan, we’ve got a year to think about whether we want to have a blood test,” I said. But for some reason, I went along with it.

At the time I was living in an apartment hotel downtown. Dan was in town, too, and we saw each other in the evenings, often for dinner. One night a few months after this Sunday brunch, I mentioned to him that I was planning to go to an art exhibition on Saturday; Dan said he wanted to come with me.

I remember telling him that same night how much I enjoyed living by myself. It’s so nice to not always have to worry about what another person is doing or thinking, I told him.
“Mmm-hmm,” he said.

The next day, August 19, 1967, he picked me up to go to an Edna Arnow pottery show. On the way, he asked if he could stop for a minute at the courthouse. I told him okay; I would wait in the car while he went inside and conducted his business. He said, “No, I can’t leave you alone in the car in this neighborhood. Won’t you just come along?” So I did, and we got off on a floor with a sign that read “Marriage Licenses.” I had assumed for some reason that he was at the courthouse for a fishing license.

“Myra,” he said, “I’m not getting any younger and I think we should get a license.”

“But we have a year.”

He just looked at me. I went up to the clerk at the counter and said, “We’re not getting married. We have a year to wait. If we got a license, this wouldn’t be published, would it?” The clerk said, “If you request that it not be published, no, it won’t.” So that’s what we did. But it didn’t matter: There was a large room across the hall where marriages were performed and Dan said to me, “Myra, let’s go ahead and do it.” I couldn’t speak. But the next thing I knew, we had done it. We were married. And I started to cry.

* * *



5 years ago
Posted by past friend

I am moved and mad thoughtful by the account of this marriage, since
Dan Daniels was my parents' closest friend for many years, in his
first marriage. To me personally, he was incredibly important, for
just those reasons of conceptual daring, vision, and mischief which
deeply corresponded with my own intellectual tendencies. I am now
a professor of literature, my life's career, but I will never forget
the founding importance of his recognition of me. Thank you, Myra.
Would love to know more about the Naples years.
Nancy Leonard

5 years ago
Posted by spicecakes69


5 years ago
Posted by AdGal

I love this story!! Thank you so much for sharing.

5 years ago
Posted by reader

Am I the only one who feels bad about how Len got treated?

5 years ago
Posted by marcycapron

well "reader", it is one of those moments where a certain kind of connection trumps reality (in this case, Len just didn't have what it took, but no one knew it yet!)...
but what a lovely story. as a diehard madmen fan it was even more interesting... I am pretty sure I would read the book if you, Myra Janco Daniels, were to write one about this relationship.

5 years ago
Posted by mmkm

Am I the only one who feels bad about the way Louise Cort Daniels, the gentlest of souls who was Dan's exquisite first wife, was treated by Dan and Myra?

5 years ago
Posted by gs4572

A good rule is not to trust Myra Daniels.

5 years ago
Posted by gs4572

According to her obituary, Cort Daniels was divorced in 1968. Very romantic indeed...

5 years ago
Posted by moi


5 years ago
Posted by J Agyepong

I'm the biggest Mad Man fan in London and I just found out that Don Draper was based on this man Draper Daniels. I think Don Draper is a great character but i'm quite happy that Draper Daniels didn't have the same adulterous trait. To hear that Draper or "Dan" was very innovative and creative makes me happy as it reflects the same way I think. I wish I could have had the opportunity to meet him,he kind of reminds me of David Ogilvy.
As for marrying Myra Janco in that fashion, I think that it is a great portrayal of the love struck alpha male.

Draper Daniels I salute you!

5 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

'Chicago, what a joke. Small time. Sorry, maybe you're from there.'

4 years ago
Posted by Brucerob

That picture is photoshopped - look at the woman's face - it was placed from another photo onto the original. Not sure why, but no doubt about it.

4 years ago
Posted by charyl

What a lovely story -- you're very fortunate! Thank you for sharing.

4 years ago
Posted by holmerica

That picture qualifies as a 100% genuine Photoshop disaster.

3 years ago
Posted by erielhonan

@HOLMERICA - this thread is now about how blatantly bad that photoshop hack job at the top of the article is.

It's so bad it automatically calls bull on the whole story.

3 years ago
Posted by BobDobbs

@ERIELHONAN - The author likely had nothing to do with the title or the image.

2 years ago
Posted by sen3520

Everyone who worked at Leo Burnett claims credit for either the Marlboro Man or Tony the Tiger -- and almost never is it true. There is nothing in this story that reminds me of Don Draper, nothing, other than he wears a suit and tie. This story is rather ridiculous.

2 years ago
Posted by lbcarrillo

Myra dumped her fiance for a married quasi-Quaker? She "went along" with a blood test at a dinner party? She agreed to a marriage license while under the assumption that she was at the courthouse getting a fishing license on the way to an art show?

Am I the only one who feels bad for everyone in this story?

2 years ago
Posted by uptohere1

Judging from the comments here, Dan still had a wife while he was seeing Myra. And he elbowed Myra and her fiance apart as well. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I wonder too, how well the relationship would have gone had she been on the creative side, a copywriter too or an artist with her own ideas and vision? Let me guess --- not well.

I worked as a copywriter for years, bullied and sexually harassed by our creative director. Though the agency prospered and the clients loved our work, he was consumed with jealousy over my writing. He also came onto me all the time, a nuisance and a little scary too.

He would wave around the resumes and portfolios of people who were after my job, just to worry me. Others told me he had a giant crush on me, but I never thought of him "that way" --- which was probably the core of the problem. I left the agency after four years to become a fiction writer and screenwriter. I used him rather harshly as a comic character in a short story that was published in a New York magazine --- fortunately not many people in California read it. I'm sure he didn't. When he finally started his own agency, he drove me crazy asking for copy and never compensated me properly. He had the idea that we had been "great friends" and I would work for less. I finally told him I was too busy to work on one of his campaigns and never heard from him again going on four years now. What a relief!

2 years ago
Posted by rossu

According to this interview with Draper's son Curtis the divorce was in 1966, not '68:

"Cort moved to Sanibel Island just before the Daniels’ divorce was finalized in 1966, Curtis said."


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