20 Fascinating Facts About Mad Men

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

In “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” Mad Men’s pilot episode, Don Draper drops a hard truth on client/love interest (who isn’t his wife) Rachel Menken when he tells her that he’s “living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.” Amazingly, that was 10 years ago. As fans of Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed advertising drama celebrate the beloved series' 10th anniversary, we’ve gathered up 20 facts you might not have known about Mad Men.

1. DON DRAPER OWES A DEBT OF GRATITUDE TO TED DANSON.

Matthew Weiner dreamed up the idea for Mad Men while working as a writer on the Ted Danson sitcom Becker. He wrote the pilot in 1999.

2. THE MAD MEN PILOT GOT WEINER HIS JOB ON THE SOPRANOS.

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In 2002, Weiner sent the Mad Men pilot to David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, as a writing sample. In 2012, The New York Times asked Chase how Weiner came to his attention. “We were looking for writers, as we always were, and he was submitted,” Chase recalled. “He told me later that he insisted that he be submitted—his agents didn’t want to do it. And what was submitted to me was the pilot for Mad Men. And it was quite good, and I met with him and he was hired. And then two or three years later, he took that pilot and apparently got somewhere with it.”

3. HBO PASSED ON MAD MEN—AND IT’S ALL DAVID CHASE’S FAULT.

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Before AMC signed on to broadcast Mad Men, Weiner spent some time shopping the script around. Considering its dark content, HBO seemed like the perfect fit. David Chase thought so, too, and delivered the script for the Mad Men pilot to the network's executives himself. Though HBO has never made any official comment about passing on the series, according to a 2009 story in Vanity Fair, both Chase and Weiner told the writer that “HBO indicated it would make Mad Men on the condition that Chase be an executive producer, and Chase said he had further discussion with Weiner about directing the pilot, but despite being ‘very tempted’ by directing, he said no to both propositions, wanting to move away from weekly television.”

4. DON DRAPER IS BASED ON A REAL PERSON.

At least parts of Don Draper are based on a real person: Draper Daniels, the legendary Chicago ad man who, while creative head at Leo Burnett, invented the Marlboro Man. In 2009, Daniels’ wife even penned a piece for Chicago Magazine about the real-life Don Draper, noting that Weiner “acknowledged that he based his protagonist Don Draper in part on Draper Daniels, whom he called ‘one of the great copy guys.’”

5. THE PILOT WAS SHOT WHILE THE SOPRANOS WAS ON HIATUS.

Because The Sopranos’s final season was shot in two parts, Weiner took advantage of the hiatus he had to shoot the pilot episode of Mad Men. He was able to recruit several of his collaborators on The Sopranos to help. “Matt asked Alan Taylor to direct while all his buddies on The Sopranos were on hiatus,” Rob Sorcher, AMC’s former executive VP of programming and production, told TV Insider. “They shot the pilot in 10 days in Queens.”

6. THE PILOT IS THE ONLY EPISODE THAT SHOT IN NEW YORK CITY.

Though Mad Men is largely a New York story, all but one episode—the pilot—were shot in Los Angeles.

7. THE FIRST AND SECOND EPISODES WERE SHOT ONE YEAR APART.

In TV Insider’s oral history of the series, Weiner said that nearly a year elapsed between shooting the pilot for Mad Men and its second episode. “There’s seven years between when I first wrote the pilot, and then writing the second episode,” Weiner explained. “A lot about my vision changed in terms of how the storytelling would be done. Ultimately it was done very much in the pilot the way we continued to do it. But I didn’t know if it was just going to be a premise, or if we were going to be able to do something like that every week.”

8. ROGER STERLING WANTED TO BE DON DRAPER.

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

John Slattery, who played Roger Sterling, originally auditioned for the role of Don Draper. When asked by ShortList.com whether he secretly hated Jon Hamm for getting the part, Slattery laughed that, “[Hamm] says I did, and not even secretly, but … no, I didn’t hate him, deep down. The thing is, it was apparent from the beginning how annoyingly good he was in that role. I don’t think people appreciate how difficult it is to play something as subtle as he does. Trying to communicate so much from a guy who keeps his cards so close to his chest is almost an impossibility.”

9. BETTY DRAPER WANTED TO BE PEGGY OLSON.

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January Jones auditioned not once but twice for the role of Peggy Olson, which eventually went to Elisabeth Moss. But Weiner had another part in mind for Jones, even if he hadn’t really written it yet. “I came in for Peggy twice,” Jones told The Hollywood Reporter. “Matt said, ‘Well, there’s another role, but I don’t really know what’s going to happen with her.’ He didn’t have any scenes for me, so he quickly wrote a couple.”

10. WEINER WAS ALLOWED THREE “SH*TS” PER SHOW.

In 2011, Weiner participated in a wide-ranging Q&A with Curb Your Enthusiasm star Jeff Garlin in Los Angeles. When asked about how Mad Men might have been different had it sold to HBO, Weiner replied that “Mad Men is TV-14, not even TV-MA. I’m allowed three 'sh*ts' a show. I can say ‘Jesus,’ I can say ‘Christ,’ but I can’t say ‘Jesus Christ’ unless he’s actually there.”

11. MAD MEN BOOSTED LUCKY STRIKE'S SALES.

The old-school cigarette brand, which played a recurring role on the show since its very beginning, benefited from its association with Mad Men: The company nearly doubled its sales during the show's run (selling an additional 10 billion cigarettes).

12. WEINER’S WIFE CONTRIBUTED SOME MAJOR PLOT POINTS.

“My wife, Linda Brettler, is a big contributor to the show,” Weiner told Fresh Air. “She reads the scripts and so forth and really weighs in on things. And later and later in the process each year, actually, it’s gotten more helpful for her to see, like, what I’m trying to do and then weigh in on it.” Weiner points to a very specific example of this, with season five’s “Lady Lazarus” episode: “It’s the [episode] where Megan quits, where Megan rejects Don’s way of life, and Don doesn’t even know how painful it’s going to be … [My wife] pitched this idea that he opens it and sees that elevator is not there. And to me, yes, it is really physical danger—'I almost dodged a bullet.' But what it was really about to me is, how do I convey to the audience that this man—because we’ve seen him react to things: he’s going to drink, he’s going to go and bang some stranger, he’s going to medicate in whatever way he does—how do we express the deep feelings of loss that he has as he says goodbye to his wife, to his idealized version of his romantic relationship?”

13. WEINER PAID $250,000 TO USE A BEATLES SONG.

Weiner paid big bucks to close out that “Lady Lazarus” episode, spending $250,000 to license the rights to The Beatles’s “Tomorrow Never Knows”—which was a small price to pay for authenticity. “It was always my feeling that the show lacked a certain authenticity because we never could have an actual master recording of The Beatles performing,” Weiner told The New York Times. “Not just someone singing their song or a version of their song, but them, doing a song in the show. It always felt to me like a flaw. Because they are the band, probably, of the 20th century.”

14. JESSICA PARÉ SCORED A HIT WITH HER RENDITION OF “ZOU BISOU BISOU."

Ron Jaffe/AMC

Jessica Paré, as the new Mrs. Draper, stole the season five premiere when she serenaded Don with her sexy take on “Zou Bisou Bisou.” It didn’t take long for her performance to transcend television and take over the music world, eventually becoming the number one song on Billboard’s World Digital chart

15. PETE CAMPBELL AND STAN RIZZO WERE TEEN IDOLS IN THE 1990S.

Both Vincent Kartheiser and Jay Ferguson—who played Pete Campbell and Stan Rizzo, respectively—got a taste of what it feels like to be a teen idol back in the 1990s. Kartheiser’s career kicked off in 1993 with a small role in the Christian Slater film Untamed Heart; bigger parts in Little Big League, The Indian in the Cupboard, and Alaska followed. Ferguson’s fame came when he was cast as Ponyboy Curtis in the 1990 TV adaptation of The Outsiders.

16. FREDDY RUMSEN IS BILL MURRAY’S BROTHER.

Jordin Althaus/AMC

Booze-swilling ad man Freddy Rumsen is played by Joel Murray, brother of Bill Murray.

17. NO, THE ACTORS DIDN'T SMOKE REAL CIGARETTES.

“You don’t want actors smoking real cigarettes,” Weiner told The New York Times. “They get agitated and nervous. I’ve been on sets where people throw up, they’ve smoked so much.” Instead, they smoke herbal cigarettes. “They’re disgusting,” Christina Hendricks told Esquire.

18. THE WRITERS’ ROOM WAS FULL OF WOMEN.

In 2009, The Wall Street Journal went behind the scenes of Mad Men and discovered something interesting: It was a female-dominated world. At the time, seven of the show’s nine writers were female. And five of the third season’s 13 episodes were directed by women.

19. THE DRAPERS’ CREEPY NEIGHBOR GLEN IS WEINER’S SON.

Ron Jaffe/AMC

Glen Bishop, the Drapers’ creepy kid neighbor who obsesses over Betty before moving on to Sally, is played by Matthew Weiner’s son, Marten. “He was cast because he was the best person available for the role,” Weiner told NPR. “I would have never thought of him if he wasn’t my son. It was actually someone else’s idea, and I was counseled against it from all the complications that could happen from him failing at that job. But he really nailed it, and he’s a really good actor.”

20. KIERNAN SHIPKA NEVER SAW THE SHOW.

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

In 2013, then-13-year-old Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper, told The Huffington Post that she had never actually watched an episode of Mad Men. “I’m probably allowed to watch them, but I don’t because obviously I wasn’t allowed to at the beginning,” she explained. “Now I figure it’s just best to sort of wait until the show’s over and maybe when I’m 16 or 17, I’ll binge watch them or something fun … I’ll go on Netflix or something.”

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor

Dash/Keurig
Dash/Keurig

If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.

Electronics

Dash/Amazon

- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

- Dash Deluxe Air Fryer $80 (save $20)

- Dash Rapid 6-Egg Cooker $17 (save $3)

- Keurig K-Café Single Coffee Maker $169 (save $30)

- COMFEE Toaster Oven $29 (save $9)

- AmazonBasics 1500W Oscillating Ceramic Heater $31 (save $4)

Home office Essentials

HP/Amazon

- HP Neverstop Laser Printer $250 (save $30)

- HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed OCR Scanner $274 (save $25)

- HP Printer Paper (500 Sheets) $5 (save $2)

- Mead Composition Books Pack of 5 Ruled Notebooks $11 (save $2)

- Swingline Desktop Hole Punch $7 (save $17)

- Officemate OIC Achieva Side Load Letter Tray $15 (save $7)

- PILOT G2 Premium Rolling Ball Gel Pens 12-Pack $10 (save $3)

Toys and games

Selieve/Amazon

- Selieve Toys Old Children's Walkie Talkies $17 (save $7)

- Yard Games Giant Tumbling Timbers $59 (save $21)

- Duckura Jump Rocket Launchers $11 (save $17)

- EXERCISE N PLAY Automatic Launcher Baseball Bat $14 (save $29)

- Holy Stone HS165 GPS Drones with 2K HD Camera $95 (save $40)

Home Improvement

DEWALT/Amazon

- DEWALT 20V MAX LED Hand Held Work Light $54 (save $65)

- Duck EZ Packing Tape with Dispenser, 6 Rolls $11 (save $6)

- Bissell MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage Auto Vacuum $111 (save $39)

- Full Circle Sinksational Sink Strainer with Stopper $5 (save $2)

Home Décor

NECA/Amazon

- A Christmas Story 20-Inch Leg Lamp Prop Replica by NECA $41 save $5

- SYLVANIA 100 LED Warm White Mini Lights $8 (save 2)

- Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle Vanilla Cupcake $17 (save $12)

- Malden 8-Opening Matted Collage Picture Frame $20 (save $8)

- Lush Decor Blue and Gray Flower Curtains Pair $57 (save $55)

- LEVOIT Essential Oil Diffuser $25 (save $5)

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12 Surprising Facts About T.S. Eliot

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Getty

Born September 26, 1888, modernist poet and playwright Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot is best known for writing "The Waste Land." But the 1948 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was also a prankster who coined a perennially popular curse word, and created the characters brought to life in the Broadway musical "Cats." In honor of Eliot’s birthday, here are a few things you might not know about the writer.

1. T.S. Eliot enjoyed holding down "real" jobs.

Throughout his life, Eliot supported himself by working as a teacher, banker, and editor. He could only write poetry in his spare time, but he preferred it that way. In a 1959 interview with The Paris Review, Eliot remarked that his banking and publishing jobs actually helped him be a better poet. “I feel quite sure that if I’d started by having independent means, if I hadn’t had to bother about earning a living and could have given all my time to poetry, it would have had a deadening influence on me,” Eliot said. “The danger, as a rule, of having nothing else to do is that one might write too much rather than concentrating and perfecting smaller amounts.”

2. One of the longest-running Broadway shows ever exists thanks to T.S. Eliot.

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In 1939, Eliot published a book of poetry, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which included feline-focused verses he likely wrote for his godson. In stark contrast to most of Eliot's other works—which are complex and frequently nihilistic—the poems here were decidedly playful. For Eliot, there was never any tension between those two modes: “One wants to keep one’s hand in, you know, in every type of poem, serious and frivolous and proper and improper. One doesn’t want to lose one’s skill,” he explained in his Paris Review interview. A fan of Eliot's Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats since childhood, in the late '70s, Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to set many of Eliot's poems to music. The result: the massively successful stage production "Cats," which opened in London in 1981 and, after its 1982 NYC debut, became one of the longest-running Broadway shows of all time.

3. Three hours per day was his T.S. Eliot’s writing limit.

Eliot wrote poems and plays partly on a typewriter and partly with pencil and paper. But no matter what method he used, he tried to always keep a three hour writing limit. “I sometimes found at first that I wanted to go on longer, but when I looked at the stuff the next day, what I’d done after the three hours were up was never satisfactory," he explained. "It’s much better to stop and think about something else quite different.”

4. T.S. Eliot considered "Four Quartets" to be his best work.

In 1927, Eliot converted to Anglicanism and became a British citizen. His poems and plays in the 1930s and 1940s—including "Ash Wednesday," "Murder in the Cathedral," and "Four Quartets"—reveal themes of religion, faith, and divinity. He considered "Four Quartets,” a set of four poems that explored philosophy and spirituality, to be his best writing. Out of the four, the last is his favorite.

5. T.S. Eliot had an epistolary friendship with Groucho Marx.

Eliot wrote comedian Groucho Marx a fan letter in 1961. Marx replied, gave Eliot a photo of himself, and started a correspondence with the poet. After writing back and forth for a few years, they met in real life in 1964, when Eliot hosted Marx and his wife for dinner at his London home. The two men, unfortunately, didn’t hit it off. The main issue, according to a letter Marx wrote his brother: the comedian had hoped he was in for a "Literary Evening," and tried to discuss King Lear. All Eliot wanted to talk about was Marx's 1933 comedy Duck Soup. (In a 2014 piece for The New Yorker, Lee Siegel suggests there had been "simmering tension" all along, even in their early correspondence.)

6. Ezra Pound tried to crowdfund T.S. Eliot’s writing.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1921, Eliot took a few months off from his banking job after a nervous breakdown. During this time, he finished writing "The Waste Land," which his friend and fellow poet Ezra Pound edited. Pound, with the help of other Bohemian writers, set up Bel Esprit, a fund to raise money for Eliot so he could quit his bank job to focus on writing full-time. Pound managed to get several subscribers to pledge money to Eliot, but Eliot didn’t want to give up his career, which he genuinely liked. The Liverpool Post, Chicago Daily Tribune, and the New York Tribune reported on Pound’s crowdfunding campaign, incorrectly stating that Eliot had taken the money, but continued working at the bank. After Eliot protested, the newspapers printed a retraction.

7. Writing in French helped T.S. Eliot overcome writer’s block.

After studying at Harvard, Eliot spent a year in Paris and fantasized about writing in French rather than English. Although little ever came of that fantasy, during a period of writer’s block, Eliot did manage to write a few poems in French. “That was a very curious thing which I can’t altogether explain. At that period I thought I’d dried up completely. I hadn’t written anything for some time and was rather desperate,” he told The Paris Review. “I started writing a few things in French and found I could, at that period ...Then I suddenly began writing in English again and lost all desire to go on with French. I think it was just something that helped me get started again."

8. T.S. Eliot set off stink bombs in London with his nephew.

Eliot, whose friends and family called him Tom, was supposedly a big prankster. When his nephew was young, Eliot took him to a joke shop in London to purchase stink bombs, which they promptly set off in the lobby of a nearby hotel. Eliot was also known to hand out exploding cigars, and put whoopee cushions on the chairs of his guests.

9. T.S. Eliot may have been the first person to write the word "bulls**t."

In the early 1910s, Eliot wrote a poem called "The Triumph of Bulls**t." Like an early 20th-century Taylor Swift tune, the poem was Eliot’s way of dissing his haters. In 1915, he submitted the poem to a London magazine … which rejected it for publication. The word bulls**t isn’t in the poem itself, only the poem’s title, but The Oxford English Dictionary credits the poem with being the first time the curse word ever appeared in print.

10. T.S. Eliot coined the expression “April is the cruelest month.”

Thanks to Eliot, the phrase “April is the cruelest month” has become an oft-quoted, well-known expression. It comes from the opening lines of "The Waste Land”: “April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.”

11. T.S. Eliot held some troubling beliefs about religion.

Over the years, Eliot made some incredibly problematic remarks about Jewish people, including arguing that members of a society should have a shared religious background, and that a large number of Jews creates an undesirably heterogeneous culture. Many of his early writing also featured offensive portrayals of Jewish characters. (As one critic, Joseph Black, pointed out in a 2010 edition of "The Waste Land" and Other Poems, "Few published works displayed the consistency of association that one finds in Eliot's early poetry between what is Jewish and what is squalid and distasteful.") Eliot's defenders argue that the poet's relationship with Jewish people was much more nuanced that his early poems suggest, and point to his close relationships with a number of Jewish writers and artists.

12. You can watch a movie based on T.S. Eliot’s (really bad) marriage.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Tom & Viv, a 1994 film starring Willem Dafoe, explores Eliot’s tumultuous marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, a dancer and socialite. The couple married in 1915, a few months after they met, but the relationship quickly soured. Haigh-Wood had constant physical ailments, mental health problems, and was addicted to ether. The couple spent a lot of time apart and separated in the 1930s; she died in a mental hospital in 1947. Eliot would go on to remarry at the age of 68—his 30-year-old secretary, Esmé Valerie Fletcher—and would later reveal that his state of despair during his first marriage was the catalyst and inspiration for "The Waste Land."

This story has been updated for 2020.