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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The company grew and changed. We landed pieces of several major accounts—Colgate-Palmolive, Swift, Maytag, Consolidated Foods. It was an exciting time; the advertising business was going through a revolution and getting lots of attention—shifting from the tired, straight-ahead hawking of products to innovative, thoughtful, surprising campaigns. When the John Hancock building opened in 1970, we took over the 25th and 27th floors—a nice, comfortable workspace with a splendid view of Chicago.

In effect, Dan was the creative director of the company and I was the marketing director. All of the finance and account people reported to me. It was a good fit. We hired several of the best creative minds in the business to work for us: men like Ernie Evers, who had done the Dial In, Dial Out campaign for Dial and was head of creative at Foote, Cone & Belding, and John Matthews, who had created Tony the Tiger.

I learned a lot from Draper Daniels. He wasn’t a great businessman, but he was a brilliant wordsmith and conceptualist, who taught me to state my ideas clearly and concisely, as if I was talking to one person. That was his philosophy: Advertising should talk to one person at a time. We worked on a number of memorable campaigns together, including Motorola car radios, Freeman shoes, Derby Tamales, and many others.

Dan enjoyed work, but he also knew how to have fun—more than I did. He would often be off swimming or playing handball by six o’clock, while I would still be in the office sometimes until eleven or midnight. He had a boyish, mischievous sense of humor; often, it was hard to tell when he was serious and when he was joking.

One day, after he had been with us for about two years, Dan came into my office with a card in his hand. By this time, the firm had been through several buyouts and mergers and I had a funny feeling that he was about to tell me of another one. I asked, “Are you going to sell me with the next merger?”

“Not exactly,” he said.

He showed me the card. On one side, he had written out his own best character traits. Then he turned it over. On the other side he had written out mine. Mine were better than his, so I knew he wanted something. I thought, What in the world has got into him?

“I’ve been thinking about this for nine months, Myra,” he said, “and I think we would make a great team.”

I said, “I think we are a great team. Think of what we’ve accomplished so far this year.”

He said, “I’m talking about a different sort of merger.”


“Yes, I’ve decided I’d like to marry you.”

I lost my voice for a moment, because I had never thought of the man that way before—and had no idea he had thought of me that way. Dan was twelve and a half years older than I and had been married before. I was against divorce in those days. But more importantly, I was happy with my life. I told him that.

“All right,” he said. “Let’s talk about it again tomorrow.” And then he walked out whistling—which, to me, was one of the most maddening things anyone can do, particularly under the circumstances.

My assistant said, “Did you get another account? Mr. Daniels seems very happy.”

I went home early and called Len, my fiancé, back in Washington. I told him what Dan had just said.

Len laughed. He knew Draper Daniels. “Come on,” he said. “He’s pulling your leg.”

The next day I wrote out a note and had it placed on Dan’s desk. “Merger accepted in fifteen years,” it said. “Today, let’s get some new business.”

Well, Dan came down from his office on the double, carrying a Peacock jewelers ring box. “Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “Put that in the safe. I couldn’t even think about marrying someone without a year’s courtship.”

“All right,” he said. “We’ll count today as day one, then.” And he put out his hand and we shook, as if sealing a business proposition.


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


4 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!

4 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.

2 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!

1 year 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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