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The Playboy Club and the ‘Mad Men’ Fetish

I can’t get away from dudes lining up to look like Don Draper, the man women want and men want to be, despite the fact that he’s a self-loathing jerk. Or maybe I’m just jealous that I’m not being target-marketed to.

I awoke this morning to the radio telling me that the (still quite vaguely) planned Playboy Club in River North is ultimately the result of Mad Men, something echoed in the original Crain’s report:

The Playboy Clubs’ revival comes at a time when the country is enamored with 1960s pre-feminist culture, as epitomized by the TV show “Mad Men.” Playboy hopes to capitalize on that appeal with the fall debut of an NBC television series about the original Chicago Playboy Club.

(Update: Bryan Smith’s 2009 story on saying good night to the Playboy Club era,* and our interview with the creator of the NBC series The Playboy Club, a Northwestern grad and Highland Park native.)

The show won’t leave me be. I was walking by Banana Republic on the way to work this morning, and was simultaneously creeped out and resentful that I wasn’t being target-marketed to:

Banana Republic Mad Men Collection

An philandering, handsome alpha-male? No. But an awkward, four-eyed new-media dweeb?

Much better. Though clearly ineffective for Banana Republic, perhaps some enterprising thrift store can make use of it. I recommend the Salvation Army in south-suburban Bridgeview for dressing like the minor Mad Men characters.

It’s even following me to the office, as in our own Best Hair feature:

This Logan Square storefront salon only recently celebrated its first anniversary, but Wabbel, its owner, has been cutting hair for years out of the backrooms of art galleries she owned. She still displays local artwork in her salon, along with mismatched 1960s-style furniture. Fitting, since lately Wabbel gets walk-ins asking for the Don Draper look from Mad Men.

I get that early ’60s style is in—if I had a nickel for every time I saw an ad for “Eames-era” furniture, I could buy actual Eames furniture—but the fetishization of Mad Men still gives me the fantods. And I’ll grant that the idolization of troubled rogues is more common than not…

Tony Montana Don Draper

… but the last thing Mad Men’s atmosphere of claustrophobic self-loathing makes me want to do is pick up a cocktail shaker. I’ll just have to wait for the wheel of retro to keep spinning until it lands on a depiction of male-female tensions and the glass ceiling that’s closer to my tastes and experience (and closer to Chicago).

Roseanne opening credits

 

* But so powerful were those days, those memories, that the King of Fantasy, in this late afternoon of his life, admits he would love to turn back the clock, if only for a moment. “What I would love to do,” [Hef] says, his voice taking on a curious poignancy, “would be to get in a time machine and simply walk back into that mansion in 1965.”

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