Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I was Like Peggy on Mad Men

There was a time in my twenties when I was at a loss. I didn’t have a regular job. I didn’t have a regular life plan. If I had rolled my future out on I-95 it would have had no milestones or events to mark. I had trashed a very good career in copywriting by quitting to be a “writer”. Nine months later, I hadn’t written one word. There was a stillness around me that was scary. The phone didn’t ring and no one came to visit.

In desperation I became a Kelly girl. Each day when I arrived at the office where I was a temporary worker I said, “Good morning, I’m your Kelly girl.” I worked for a company that imported and sold mica. It was a small office and the man that sat next to me, a former actor, had been in a mental institution and kept asking if he was acting normal. Instead of saying good morning, he’s say “I can tell by your face that act two needs a re-write.”
I temped for Estee Lauder and met Estee who was okay. She sent me to Saks Fifth Avenue to pick up some stuff she had bought. Nobody liked me there because I dressed like the Greenwich Village bohemian I was.

Eventually, I came to my senses and wanted back into the ad world. Originally, like Peggy in Mad Men, I was plucked from the secretarial pool to write ad copy. Unlike Peggy, I didn’t have a baby out of wedlock and space out about it.
My accounts were Ronzoni spaghetti, Barney’s Boystown (Barney’s was not born a great fashion mecca. It started out as a dorky boy’s store where “husky” lads could get pants that fit.) and the Bavarian Motor Works (known today as Beemerland.)

Re-entry into Mad Ave. was difficult. The only job I could get was writing copy for the Macy Corp. chain in New Jersey known as Bambergers. I worked at the flagship store in Newark and commuted in reverse taking the Path train from Christopher Street to Newark, a crime-ridden city. The reason I’m writing this blog is because even though I wrote about electroplated charms, flame retardant plush nylon carpeting, budget coats made with re-processed wool and risked a drive-by shooting walking to and from the train station, those were some of the happiest days of my life. Here are the ingredients that made my days so happy.

1. The artists and writers were a merry band of workers - funny, accepting, ambitious and talented. We laughed at our predicament, our reverse commute, and the crappy merchandise.
2. The daily ad schedule was grueling but we were learning how to write efficiently, persuasively and everything we wrote was published.
3. We took long, raucous lunch hours during which we drank vodka gimlets or had shots of Bell’s Twelve in the middle of the day and seemingly without impairment.
4. Newark wasn’t Paris. We were not Fitzgeralds or Hemingways. But we felt the same giddy excitement of expatriots re-inventing ourselves in a strange land.


  1. I loved reading Nothing to Lose...your characters and their lives reminded me so much of my start in advertising. I was designing dvd cases and ads for horrible music and movies, but the camaraderie and the sense that we were all struggling together made it downright enjoyable. Not to mention that we all felt so superior to what we were working on.

    I can remember being just old enough to be interested in clothes, and looking at those sale ads and dreaming of the day when I would have a job and buy whatever cut-price designer knock off my little heart desired.

  2. I agree Carla - it was the camaraderie that made it memorable. I did learn a lot about writing.
    When we did the catalogue and had to fit two pages of copy into one inch, I had to be inventive.

    Thank you for your comments and so happy you related to the setting of Nothing To Lose. I had to use those days in my fiction and find a worthy heroine to put in there.