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.
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