Thursday, June 19, 2014

MTM-Style Dress (Mary Richards | The Mary Tyler Moore Show | Season 1)

While I was in the process of putting together my final 'dress up & review' for the mid-season finale of 'Mad Men' –– a series published at Examiner.com recently –– I dabbled with the year 1970 again. This dress has the semblance of a blouse, belt, and long skirt combo, but it is actually a one-piece gown. The dress immediately reminded me of MTM's mid-western American style on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'.

Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) wore a very similar look for her (disastrously funny) party in the wonderful S1E2 episode, 'Today I Am A Ma'am'. The episode aired on September 26, 1970. Despite being only the second episode of the esteemed sitcom, it is one of the funniest of the entire series –– which ran from 1970 until 1977. 

In it, Mary and Rhoda (Valerie Harper) fret over being single and having crossed over into the 'ma'am' territory. They decide to invite dates to Mary's apartment on the fly. Rhoda invites someone she barely knows, only to realize that she had unwittingly invited a married couple as her 'date'. Hilarity ensues.

Watch the episode on Hulu.com: http://www.hulu.com/watch/684

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Brady Bunch Blow-Up (Video)

My latest video creation –– 'Brady Bunch Blow-Up' –– is heavy and far-out. Super-dad Mike Brady helps his son Greg uncover a bad referee call! Antonioni might as well have directed the episode of 'The Brady Bunch' entitled 'Click'. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Red, White + Blue Bandanna Dress | The Mad Men Mid-Season Finale

(Originally published for Vintage Fashion at Examiner.com.)

THE LOOK ~  This dress looks like a giant bandanna: red, white + blue. All-American. The look I went for here is: 'Made in the U.S.A.' This is sportswear. My hairstyle remains a nod to a Brit (Jean Shrimpton), but the cut of this dress is also very 1969 California girl; it's strikingly similar to what Bonnie wore on her shopping spree in S7E6. While the 1960's were heavily influenced by British and French pop culture juggernauts (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Mary Quant, Shrimpton, Twiggy, Bardot, etc.), the following decade was all about the Americans.
In the 1970's, where 'Mad Men' is heading fast, British bands channeled American country-western, and rhythm + blues; one British band decided to call themselves America. The Eagles soared. Karen Carpenter's voice filled the airwaves. Steve McQueen was the world's biggest movie star. Mary Tyler Moore, 'The Brady Bunch' and 'Charlie's Angels' took over television.
Speaking of which, there were those natural blondes: Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley. Fresh-faced, tan, sporty. Their look was all the rage, and Halston was the king of fashion.
Yes, the transition from the 1960's to 1970's brought about a cultural shift towards all things sporty and American. But 'Mad Men' has always decidedly been about Americans. Megan, the Canadian, has been one of few exceptions –– and we might see much less of her when the show returns. The other notable foreigner was Lane Price, who worried about the status of his residency in the U.S. until he (sadly) let his British stiff-upper-lip mentality get the best of him. And since the mid-season finale aired over Memorial Day weekend, this red, white + blue bandanna dress also felt like a great fit for that American holiday. Especially because Vietnam continues to loom heavy in 1969. What else might this dress signify?

THE ANECDOTE ~  The 'Mad Men' mid-season finale, entitled 'Waterloo', notably features the moon landing –– a major coup for The United States. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. (My personal connection with this is substantial: my father was an aerospace engineer for NASA in the early-to-mid-1960's. His mission was helping to build the Apollo space shuttle.) Meanwhile, when thinking about this bandanna dress, I started to think about biker counterculture in 1969. We're sure to see or hear about Altamont when 'Mad Men' returns next year –– either peripherally, or directly. The Altamont Speedway Free Festival, which took place on December 6, 1969, came to symbolize the final nail in the casket of the peace-and-love movement of the late-1960's.
But let's take a closer look at July, 1969, where the mid-season finale left off: 'Easy Rider' was released on July 14, 1969, one week before the moon landing. Now it all makes sense! We know Ted Chaough goes to the movies, and it's very likely that he saw 'Easy Rider' the week it was released. Right before his big move of frightening clients while flying them in his plane. And what about his being adamant about wanting out of the advertising game altogether? Supposing someone like Ted had just seen 'Easy Rider': kindly, idealistic Ted would've identified with Peter Fonda's character, Wyatt, who was also called: Captain America. As in, the captaining of a plane. Just like Ted. Or the captain of a space shuttle on its way to the moon.
'Easy Rider' had a profound impact on men who longed for personal freedom, men who wanted to be cowboys riding away on their steel horses. While Ted's predicament could have been explored much more deeply, (there didn't seem to be adequate time to explore every vital character's life in the span of those seven episodes), he was undoubtedly displaying this particular type of longing before he reluctantly agreed to 'sell out' again. It wasn't directly referenced in 'Waterloo', but I strongly suspect Matthew Weiner and the 'Mad Men' writers were alluding to this counterculture mentality (one further catalyzed by the mainstream popularity of 'Easy Rider') via Ted Chaough's strange behavior.
THE REVIEW ~  ‘Waterloo’, the mid-season finale of ‘Mad Men’, begins and ends with Bert Cooper. We first see Cooper sitting alone, watching the televised lift-off of Apollo 11. He stares in awe as the space shuttle launches, then utters a childlike, happy sigh.
Cut to Ted Chaough, captaining his small plane, containing two nervous fellas from Sunkist. They talk about the Apollo 11 mission; Ted suggests that the astronauts might die, before he shuts off the engine mid-flight. While the clients freak out, Ted shrugs and says: ‘You wanted to go up in the plane. We went up in the plane.’ Cutler and Pete (needless to say) are furious with Ted when they discuss the incident later on the phone; Ted explains that he doesn’t want to die, he only wants out of the business.
Betty’s college friend, Caroline, arrives at the Francis home along with her entire family. This visit must be Betty’s way of driving home the fact that she went to college to Henry, and to her kids; she’s following up on her earlier declaration of intellect by introducing physical evidence of her academic history. Caroline has two sons: a nerdy teenager named Neil (in a much-too-direct correlation with Apollo 11) who’s upset because he can’t find his telescope, and the older teenager –– a tan and highly athletic type named Sean who’s considering football scholarships. Sean and Sally give each other the heavy look-over when introduced. Betty reminds Bobby that he has a telescope and Neil’s face lights up. Back at SC&P, The Burger Chef team meets for a final run-through of their big pitch. When Harry asks, Don recommends that he take the partnership deal he’s been offered, without negotiating. If only Harry had run out to sign those papers, then and there.
Peggy gets a date with Nick, the handsome repairman installing her drop ceiling tiles at home. ‘It’s so hot in here,’ she says. Ceilings in this episode (again, too-directly) allude to the space pioneers heading to the moon, as well as the glass ceilings that female pioneers like Peggy are tackling. Betty chats with Caroline in the kitchen; when the subject of Don comes up, Betty explains their current relationship: ‘I’m starting to think of him as an old, bad boyfriend. Someone a teenage anthropologist would marry.’ As if on cue, shirtless Sean (or mini-Don Draper) walks into the kitchen. Sally (or mini-Betty) also stops by, sporting a freshly styled ‘big’ hairdo and makeup on her way to life-guarding.
Clueless Meredith (apart from her obvious social limitations, the poor girl also has notably terrible taste in clothes) shows Don the Cutler-initiated ‘breach-of-contract’ letter –– which will quickly escalate into huge changes at the agency. Don, furious, confronts Cutler, then calls out all of the partners from their offices. When Harry shows up, Joan reminds him he’s not a partner yet. Bert yells at Cutler: ‘You had no right to put my name on that!’ They take a vote to keep Don. Pete is also infuriated by Cutler’s tactless move. Despite being the only other partner to vote against Don, Joan disapprovingly tells Cutler: ‘You shouldn’t have done that.’ Peggy has an emotional moment with Julio, the neighbor boy to whom she’s been a surrogate mother. He tells her he has to move away to Newark and that he doesn’t want to go. They hug and cry. While her ceiling now looks pristine, some aspects of Peggy’s inner life still need attention.
Don calls Megan, who's sitting on her deck in a bikini, drinking white wine, reading a script. She also has a telescope nearby. It's another thematic image –– one of looking out into the distance or the future –– that repeats in this episode. When Don brings up the possibility of a permanent move to L.A., something Megan seemed to have wanted for so long, she essentially ends their marriage on the phone.
There will be speculation as to why Megan did this: why now, why this way? But Megan is pragmatic, focused. There has been a distinctive pattern with Megan during this season, and it rings true with a determined actress trying to make it in Hollywood. As an unknown starlet, being married would've never been a great selling point in landing her a role. Sad as it is to say, Megan is more focused on her career than on saving her marriage. 
(After all, being self-absorbed is a prerequisite for success in Hollywood.) While Megan had it in her to be an empathetic, connected human being, successful in some other type of creative field, this is the path she has chosen. And she is trying to stick with it. With their bi-coastal marriage, she felt like she could juggle both worlds; when Don offers to move (something she claimed she wanted, during times of frustration over her career) she immediately cuts off that part of her life in favor of the other. Which is why she cries and looks so terribly sad (and terribly sorry) when she tells him: ‘You don’t owe me anything.’ She feels guilty, because this is her choice. And she still loves Don. But again: she is being pragmatic. It’s a crushing scene for Don, and for those of us who rooted for them.
Roger and Bert have their final conversation, in which Bert is intentionally discouraging enough to compel Roger to rise to the occasion and prove himself a leader. Bert mentions Napolean and Waterloo. The Burger Chef team flies to Indianapolis. Pete compares Ted to Lane Price and suggests that Don heads up the L.A. office, and Don lets Pete know that ‘there’s no reason to go to L.A.’ Pete realizes Don and Megan have ended it and gives us another Pete Campbell nugget: ‘Marriage is a racket!’
The moon landing happens. Everyone watches Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon from their respective homes, with their respective families. Important to note: every member of the Burger Chef team watching TV together from their Indiana hotel room (Pete, Harry, Peggy, and Don) would have watched the moon landing alone, otherwise. So, as Peggy’s Burger Chef pitch suggests, Burger Chef even brought this team together, in this moment, as a pseudo-family.
Roger and his family watch together, minus ‘Marigold’. Bert Cooper watches with his maid, and he says what becomes his last word on the show (until he sings us out): ‘Bravo.’ At Betty’s house, Sean sours the mood for everyone by sharing a popular sentiment among angst-ridden youth of the time: the cost of this mission was too steep. Don, being the loving father he is, calls to speak with his children so they may share this important memory together. Sally (ever the teenage girl) immediately adopts the cynical P.O.V. Sean just blurted out, but Don quickly manages to reverse this by asking Sally if she wants her little brothers to think that way.
Roger also receives a phone call in the midst of the moon landing and finds out that Bert Cooper, his father figure, has passed away. Cutler’s determination to rid the agency of Don, which he immediately mentions again, prompts Roger to take action against Cutler’s vision of the future, which consists solely of computers instead of people. (‘It’s the agency of the future.’) Speaking of futures, out in the backyard, Sally kisses the teenage scientist named Neil as if to reverse any indication that she is like her mother, someone who makes herself pretty and adopts a handsome guy’s thoughts instead of thinking for herself. When she kisses Neil, she offers herself hope that she has another future in store. Roger tells Don about Bert and they console one another. Don tells Peggy to deliver the Burger Chef pitch. Despite her trepidation, he insists she’s ready. He believes in her. Don is certainly doing everything right, and it’s inevitable that his luck is about to change.
And that change (for the future) does come, in the form of Roger as leader. Roger makes a deal with McCann Erickson to buy out SC&P. Meanwhile, Peggy delivers a flawless pitch and wins the Burger Chef account.
The next day, Roger tells the partners they will be rich if they take the McCann deal. When Joan finds out just how rich, she’s immediately on board, and ecstatic. (Harry pops in for the meeting, but misses the boat, again. A huge boat this time. ‘I’ll take the deal! But he's too late.) Cutler argues against the deal, and Don. Again. Roger explains: ‘All they care about is me, Don and Ted.’ Ted insists he doesn’t want to be in the business. But Don talks Ted into it by candidly describing his own recent struggles in trying to regain his career. They move to vote and everyone, including Cutler, votes yes. To everyone's surprise. But Cutler explains: ‘It’s a lot of money!’ Consistent indeed.
The mid-season finale ends with a surreal ‘soft sock’ dance and song by Bert Cooper. It's an appropriate send-off for an actual song-and-dance man: ‘The moon belongs to everyone. The best things in life are free!’

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Decade-Transitional Beaded Dress + Double Recap of Mad Men (Episodes 705 & 706)

(Originally published for Vintage Fashion at Examiner.com)

THE DRESS ~ This dress has a distinctively decade-transitional appeal: its heavy beading, lacy-sheer arms, and straight-shift style are pure 1960's; however, the longer skirt, wide lapel collar and cuffs take it right into 1970 –– and beyond. The cut of the top captures the moment well, and it looks incredibly close to the one worn by the girl in the (wonderful) image that appeared on the cover of LIFE Magazine from August 22, 1969.
Essentially a shirt dress, this is a more conservative look for 1969 as it eschews any sign of the trendy hippie (flowery prints, crocheted outfits, soft organza fabrics, prairie style, etc.) It's a dress for the 1969 gal who knows she'll stand out at a party by not blending in with the latest fads. She may even be a free-spirit taking a break from all of the freedom 1969 has afforded her, opting for a look that recalls 1966 –– a sparklier time just before all of the current 1969 madness. (Peggy, in Episode 706, recalls 1965 as being a very good year, while Don shares the same sentiment for 1955.) Trudy might wear this dress. Or someone like Bonnie –– who is far from a dirty hippie; she was disgusted by how dirty her feet were (literally) after shopping in her sandals in Manhattan all day. Much like the girl on the cover of LIFE Magazine.
THE ANECDOTE ~ As someone who's managed to incorporate the 1960's into her significant life experiences, thus far, this dress reminds me of the one I'd originally planned to wear for my wedding –– years before I had plans to be married. The dress I kept in mind to wear was a shimmery, light yellow-gold, long-sleeved number worn by Jean Shrimpton in the 1967 film 'Privilege' (a film that's painfully under-seen state-side.)
I couldn't find anything even remotely similar to that dress when the time actually came to get married. With too little time, and finances, I couldn't have a replica made. Then I found an alternative look for my wedding, this one was based on another image of Jean Shrimpton (no surprise!) wearing Nina Ricci in 1966.
I finally ended up with two dresses, two looks, both inspired by Jean Shrimpton. This dress also reminds me of an image of Francoise Hardy from 1969 in which she's wearing a yellow beaded turtleneck gown.
Like Shrimpton, Hardy was the type of gal who could go to a party in 1969 wearing something conservative and classic, unlike the most current trends –– only to stand out because of her non-conformity. The dress also recalls the type of beaded, buttoned-up (but fashion-forward) looks Diana Rigg's character, Tracy –– the only Mrs. Bond –– wears in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' from 1969. Tracy even wore a heavy-on-the-lace jumpsuit for her wedding to James Bond (a wink to Rigg's memorable turn as perpetually jumpsuit-clad Mrs. Emma Peel in the 'The Avengers'.)

THE REVIEW(S) ~ Episode 705 begins with Stan discovering evidence to Lou's side ambition at the copy machine. Plenty can be said about the hilarity that ensues over 'Scout's Honor', as well as Lou's curmudgeonly grievances towards his subordinates' lack of appreciation for his humor and talents. However, I'd like to focus for a moment on what actor/comedian Allan Havey, who plays Lou Avery, said in a recent interview. It is one of the funniest, simplest, and most accurate things I've ever heard an actor say about his character: 'Lou has a love interest on the show and it's Lou.' Meanwhile, Ginsberg shows signs of his upcoming breakdown, the final result of which has become one of the most memorable moments on 'Mad Men'.
Don gets a call from Stephanie Horton, the 'niece' he inherited from his marriage to Anna Draper. She tells him from an L.A. payphone near Capitol Records that she's pregnant and that she could use his help. Don's immediate reaction is heartwarming. He seems thrilled at the prospect of helping out this 'family member'. He enlists Megan, who is game and just as sweet as Don about the idea of helping Stephanie out. Stephanie arrives at Megan's place, friendly preliminaries give way to real conversation –– and Megan's disposition sours when Stephanie innocently suggests the deep bond she has with Don. Megan, grows more insecure by the day while living as a struggling actress in L.A., and she takes most things far too personally as of late. Don arrives the next day, Megan has a party. The party is so incredibly different from the one Betty has for Henry at their home in this episode. The two parties offset one another visually in a wonderful way. The menage a trois at the end of the evening is not much of a gain for reluctant Don; the information he gets from Harry Crane during the course of the evening is far more valuable to his livelihood.
The episode ends with two men taking charge of their oppressive predicaments in very different ways, with very different results. Poor Michael Ginsberg. Everyone realized too late how badly he needed help. He was not being eccentric; mental illness was rapidly taking over. And all the while, he blamed the giant computer. That paranoia is probably what accelerated his condition. So he took initiative and cut off 'the valve' so that he could release the pressure. The valve being his nipple. 'The most talked about scene' of this season (at least, if not several seasons) is a truly sad one. (Side note: Pink Floyd's 'Brain Damage' from 1973 and its 'lunatic' protagonist had been on my mind earlier the very day this episode aired; I was deeply saddened to see that Ginsberg had actually become the lunatic.) Don also takes charge of the pressure-cooker his place of employment had become –– and he releases that pressure by crashing a cigarette meeting with bold suggestions, subsequently positioning himself back on steadier ground with adversaries Lou Avery and Jim Cutler, whether they'd like to admit it or not. After quite an eventful episode, Waylon Jennings sings us out triumphantly with 'Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line'.
* * * * * *
There is a lot to cover in Episode 706. The episode begins with a hurried mother in a station wagon with her kids in the parking lot of Burger Chef getting grilled by Peggy for information and insight into why she chose get her family's dinner there –– the big takeaway of the interaction turns out to be that she feels guilty about feeding her family greasy fast food, and that she wants to stop answering questions and get them home. This entire episode is about longing –– and about how each individual has a different perception of his or her own failings. Bonnie and Pete fly to New York together; we discover that Bonnie is a divorcee. She makes it clear to Pete that she'd like for him to get a divorce from Trudy so their relationship has a chance to move forward, before she invites him to join her in becoming a member of the mile-high club.
Peggy explains the pitch she's been piecing together to the team. Her position is that mothers feel guilty, so their job will be to give them permission to feed their families with Burger Chef. Lou jumps in and says, 'Well, who gives moms permission? Dads.' (Oh, Lou...) She runs through the proposed ad, her idea is adequate, and everyone is satisfied. But her ad's cookie-cutter family appeal gnaws at Peggy's own sensibilities, the idea that times have changed and the family she was depicting no longer exists. In Lou's office, Pete asks Peggy to let Don pitch to Burger Chef. He has more confidence in Don's ability to win the account, which bothers Peggy deeply, but she concedes. Her unraveling begins to show, but it had started before this account ordeal ––  she later reveals to Don that she recently reached a milestone birthday, 30, without telling anyone. She'd kept her birthday a secret. Despite her level of success, she is still treated as a woman on the job and she's given limits at every turn, and she feels unfulfilled in her private life.
Bob Benson returns to the office with their clients from Detroit; Clara, Cosgrove's secretary is suddenly very pregnant. There's some small talk between the Detroit guys and Ken, with his eye patch a reminder of the harm they caused him. He's asked about his little boy, and Ken wins with this line: 'Are you kidding? He's crawling all over the place. You really gotta keep an eye on him.' Joan and Bob are clearly very happy to see each other again. Megan stops by to visit Don at the office and Peggy is the first to welcome her. One of the newer secretaries tells Megan she didn't know Don was married –- which shouldn't matter, considering the lack of communication at that office, and the fact that Don had been M.I.A. for quite a while –– but Megan takes it badly, as evidenced by the sudden discoloring of her face. She, too, is unraveling; she is filled with angst, longing, worry. This is not the Megan from 1965 or 1966 who breezed through life and had everything good happen to her so naturally.
After rescuing the closeted Detroit client from a late-night arrest, Bob gets word that Buick will be hiring him, which means he would have the leave the agency. He whips up a plan to propose to Joan so that he can have a ready-made family and create an appropriate front for himself. Joan lets Bob know that she knows he isn't into women; he adjusts his proposal to ask whether she'd still consider the fact that, as a single working mother, she is not likely to find another husband. She refuses his not-so-great offer, again. Now their friendship is forever tainted. Pete shows up to see his little girl –– and Trudy. But Trudy stays out for the entire time he visits. When she finally comes home, his relaxed, giddy, southern California demeanor is nowhere to be found, replaced by bitter, angry Pete who reminds her that they're still married. Trudy holds her own, as she always, always, always does. Trudy is one cool woman, truth be told. She is quite possibly the most perfect individual on 'Mad Men'. She's whip smart, she has progressive and open-minded views, she's accepting, she's pretty, she's fun, she's a great daughter, wife and mother. A true lady. We don't see her very much, but she is always respectable, sweet, and lovely. It's no wonder Pete does not want to divorce her –– the idea that she could become a divorcee, with mile-high club potential for another man, is suddenly too much for Pete.
Don wakes up to see Megan on the terrace and the happy expression on his face, as he looks at her without her knowledge, speaks volumes. He loves Megan. He loves having her near him. He puts his arms around her and says: 'Tell me you didn't miss this.' Megan, surprised by his good mood and not entirely comfortable with the idea of being back in New York says: 'I missed you.' Don offers to take her shopping, she agrees, and the little bit of joy that's in her heart shows in her face. Meanwhile, Peggy stews as she works in the office while others are enjoying the weekend. She doesn't trust her strategy and she doesn't trust her abilities. She calls Stan, then Don, and complains and barks at them both. Megan's packing and the search for her fondue pot the next day is indeed a tell-tale sign. Don says he thought she just needed summer clothes to take back to L.A. and she replies, sheepishly: 'I miss my things.' Don tells her he sleeps better when she's there, in New York. (Awww...) Don offers to take some things back with him when he visits at the end of July, and Megan suggests they meet somewhere next time that's not New York, and not L.A. Bonnie returns after a day of shopping to find Pete having ordered and eaten room service. Disappointed, she shows him her dirty feet from wearing sandals in the city. 'I look like a hobo,' she says. She also tells Pete she doesn't like him in New York, since he's been so preoccupied with work and Trudy, etc. while the trip was meant to be her vacation. Mainly, she's jealous of Trudy –– and senses a distance has come between her and Pete.
Don visits Peggy at the office, who's still working on a Sunday. She is snippy from the get-go, but he takes it all in stride. When Don jokes that he's 'still scandalized' from seeing 'I Am Curious (Yellow)' that afternoon, Peggy grumbles, 'Of course Megan would want to see a dirty movie.' Don mentions the pros of the work: it's almost done; it's good; the account man is overjoyed; and the client is on board. Peggy quips that he knows those are the cons. (Clever bit, that one.) And so the thawing of an old friendship finally begins. Don tells her: 'Well, when I'm really unsure about an idea –– first, I abuse the people whose help I need.' To which they both smile. 'And then I take a nap.' And Peggy says: 'Done.' So they get to work. They reminisce about earlier years –– Don says 1955 was a good year, and Peggy says she loved 1965, to which Don says: 'I got married.'
When Peggy suggests the ad could be about a working mom, instead, Don tells her the idea is too sad for an ad. The realization that keeps coming back to Peggy is that the family unit that existed back in 1955, or even in 1965, has become obsolete. If families are still together, they watch TV while they eat. With Don's kindness and support, Peggy manages to find the idea she was looking for: that family can be whomever you're sitting with, across from the dinner table. The episode ends with the work 'family' of Don, Peggy, and Pete –– sitting together around a Burger Chef table to eat fast food and discuss the new strategy.