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Real life models for ‘Mad Men’ characters
09.10.2010
03:25 pm

Topics:
History
Television

Tags:
Mad Men

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Fascinating think piece about advertising in the 1960s (and a little beyond) from Century of the Self documentarian Adam Curtis that sheds some interesting light on the actual historical Madison Avenue figures that certain characters from Mad Men seem to be based on.

For instance, although the deeply complex and anxious Don Draper character was obviously invented, there were certainly men in advertising during the era whose accomplishments and attitudes towards their craft might be seen to have an influence on how Draper is drawn, to wit, Rosser Reeves, legendary chairmen of the Ted Bates agency and pioneer of television advertising.

In his book, Reality in Advertising, Reeves delineated the concept of the USP or unique selling point. The idea was to condense the products’ benefits into as direct a statement as possible and then carpet-bomb the population with the advertising campaign so that this message penetrated the mass consciousness

Reeves’ favourite slogan was the one that he—and Don Draper—came up with for Lucky Strike: “It’s Toasted.”

If you are a fan of the series, Curtis’s essay is a must read:

Other than Herta Herzog there were few women in high positions in Madison Avenue. But then Shirley Polykoff rose up because she invented the phrase for Miss Clairol hair colour bath - “Does She, or Doesn’t She?”

Polykoff is the model for Peggy Olsen in Mad Men. She was a junior copywriter at Foote Cone and Belding and she was convinced that women should be allowed to be what they wanted to be - and she expressed that through a series of adverts for Clairol.

Clairol’s products allowed women to colour their hair themselves at home for the first time. But there was widespread social disapproval - only “chorus girls” coloured their hair. Polykoff broke that. For Nice ‘n Easy, Clairol’s combined shampoo and colour she wrote - “The closer he gets, the better you look”.

And then for Lady Clairol - which allowed you to become a platinum blonde for the first time - Polykoff wrote one of the greatest slogans ever:

“If I’ve only one life, let me live it as a blonde”

This campaign was running when Betty Friedan was just finishing The Feminine Mystique. She was so “bewitched” by the slogan, and its message, that she went out and bought some Lady Clairol and bleached her hair.

Madison Avenue (Adam Curtis Blog)
 
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Thank you, Michael Backes of Los Angeles, California!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Thirty-nine years of Attica: Ali & Lennon speak out

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September 9, 1971 saw the population of Attica State prison in western New York state rise up and seize the facility, taking 33 staff hostage. Attica was infamous at the time for both being stuffed at twice its capacity, and for the inhumane living conditions of its majority-black and Puerto Rican community. Prison officials allotted one bar of soap and roll of toilet paper per month and a bucket of water per week as a shower. Inmate mail was regularly censored, visits were highly restricted, and prisoner beatings happened constantly. Responding to news of the imminent torture of one of their fellows who’d assaulted a prison officer, a group of prisoners freed their brother and rose up after guards denied yard-time to the full population.

After four days of negotiation, Governor Nelson Rockefeller—who refused the prisoners’ requests to come to the prison and hear their grievances—blessed Correctional Services Commissioner Russell G. Oswald’s order to retake Attica by force.  This resulted in the death of nine hostages and 28 inmates in an episode that shocked the conscience of a nation wearied by war, assassination and urban unrest. It also saw the birth of modern prison reform.

The episode is chronicled in four feature film adaptations—and famously referenced in Dog Day Afternoon)—alongside numerous documentaries, the best being Cinda Firstone Fox’s recently preserved 1973 piece. That one isn’t up on YouTube, but here’s a short doc from the great grassroots media hub Deep Dish TV.
 

 
After the jump: Muhammad Ali recites and John & Yoko sing out on Attica…
 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
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‘William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe’: Powerful documentary streaming free now

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Today is the 39th anniversary of the start of the Attica prison riots. In this clip from the documentary William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, attorney Kunstler is called in to negotiate on behalf of the prisoners. The film was directed by Kunstler’s daughters, Emily and Sarah.

You can watch the entire film at the Point Of View website, click here. It will be streaming until midnight Pacific Time on September 21, 2010.

From the press release on William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe:

The man who had marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., and who had defended the Chicago 8 anti-war protesters, Native American activists at Wounded Knee and prisoners caught up in the Attica prison rebellion was now seen kissing the cheek of a Mafia client and defending an Islamic fundamentalist charged with assassinating a rabbi, terrorists accused of bombing the World Trade Center and a teenager charged in a near-fatal gang rape. The sisters remember the shock of disenchantment they felt. Disturbing the Universe is Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler’s attempt to reconcile the heroic movement lawyer from the past with the father they knew.

“I’m not a lawyer for hire. I only defend those I love.” William Kunstler.

 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Bizarro French animation of the early 20th century
09.08.2010
11:19 pm

Topics:
Advertorial
Animation
History

Tags:
animation
O'Galop

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Marius Rossillon who went by the pen name of O’Galop was a French cartoonist and early film animator. He’s best known for creating Bibendum, the Michelin man. In these short public service announcements made in 1912 and 1918, O’Galop warns of the hazards of alcohol and tuberculosis. The film on tuberculosis was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation to inform the people of France on the spread and treatment of the disease. In both films, O’Galop uses some pretty bizarre imagery to get the point across.

I particularly dig the degenerate spawn of the alcoholic and the drunk clinging to the psychedelically swaying streetlights. His depiction of TB as a malicious skeleton makes for some amusing imagery.

Music by Blind Lemon Jefferson and Link Wray.
 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everbody Talkin’ About Him?)
09.08.2010
07:04 pm

Topics:
Heroes
History
Movies
Music

Tags:
Harry Nilsson
John Scheinfeld

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A conversation with director John Scheinfeld about his superb documentary, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?).

If you’re under 45-years of age, you might have little idea of who the great singer/songwriter/hellraiser Harry Nilsson was, but surely almost everyone has heard his biggest hits “Everybody’s Talkin’” (from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack), “Without You” (a Badfinger cover given its devastating emotional impact by Harry’s plaintiff three octave vocal range, later recorded by Mariah Carey) and “Coconut” which was used in dozens of movies (normally during a drinking scene) and in more than one 7UP advertising campaign.

Harry Nilsson was also responsible for co-creating the much-loved children’s TV movie, The Point, a Ringo Starr-narrated fable about a boy named Oblio, born with a round head in a land of pointy-headed people. (”Me and My Arrow” and “Are You Sleeping” are two of the best remembered songs from the project. Scratch someone in their 40s and trust me, they’ll be able to sing both from childhood memories of The Point)

Another important thing to know about Harry Nilsson is that he was the favorite American musician of both John Lennon and Paul McCartney, no small achievement, that! After Apple Corps press officer Derek Taylor heard Nilsson’s autobiographical “1941” (from his 1967 RCA debut Pandemonium Shadow Show) siting in the car waiting for his wife, he bought a box of the album and gave it away as presents, including to all four Beatles. The story goes that Lennon listened to the album for 36 straight hours before calling Nilsson in Los Angeles and telling him how much he loved his record. McCartney did the same soon after. Nilsson became a part of the Beatles inner circle, becoming close friends with both John (who would produce his 1974 Pussy Cats album) and Ringo (who was the best man at Nilsson’s second wedding).

The documentary features stellar interviewees such as Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb, Van Dyke Parks, Yoko Ono, Paul Williams, Mickey Dolenz, Ringo Starr, The Smothers Brothers, and Pythons Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle,
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Young punk icons at CBGB New Year’s Eve party in 1975
09.08.2010
03:24 pm

Topics:
History
Punk

Tags:
Ivan Krall

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Fascinating! This short film by Ivan Kral of the Patti Smith Group takes a look around a New Year’s Eve party at CBGBs. Viewing this now, it’s striking how many of these people went on to become generational icons.

New Year CBGB party filled with local bandmates like Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Lenny Kaye, JD Daugherty, Patti Smith manager Jane Friedman, Arista, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, Roberta Bayley, Lynette Bean, Tom Verlaine, Richard Robinson, Lisa Robinson, David Byrne, Television, Velvet Underground’s John Cale, many more—too many to mention. All us musicians were broke and dreamed of getting a record deal. Dreams came true.

I can’t embed it here, so you’ll have to click through to Ivan Kral’s YouTube channel to view it.

Via Planet Paul

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Two magical short films from 1907 created by special effects pioneer Segundo de Chomon

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Les Kiriki: Acrobates Japonais, directed by Segundo de Chomon in 1907, is a lovingly hand-tinted artifact from the early days of French cinema. Similar in technique to George Melies, Aragonese film maker Chomon was a pioneer of cinematic special effects. In Les Kiriki, Chomon creates the illusion of complex, gravity defying acrobatics by having dancers lay on a black floor and filming them from above. The feat, while not as miraculous as if they were actually standing upright performing the balancing act, is still imaginatively choreographed, requiring considerable skill. The use of absurd Japanese wigs, pulsing colors and the primitive set result in a witty and surreal little film. For the soundtrack I added The Ventures’ “Let There Be Drums.”

The second video is Chomon’s Le Spectre Rouge which was also made in 1907 but released in 1908. Music by Shpongle.

 
The Red Spectre after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Early David Bowie video: Ching-A-Ling (1969)
09.07.2010
11:11 am

Topics:
Heroes
History
Music

Tags:
David Bowie

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Early David Bowie music video for “Ching-A-Ling” taken from the Love You till Tuesday promotional film. Made in 1969, but unreleased until 1984, this film also features Hermione Farthingale (Space Oddity’s painfully intimate love-song “Letter to Hermione” was for her, obviously) and his friend Jono “Hutch” Hutchinson. The trio performed under the name “The Feathers.” The filming for Love You till Tuesday would be the last time Bowie and Farthingdale would see ever each other.

Note that Bowie is wearing a wig: He’d had to cut his hair for a role in a film called The Virgin Soldiers. “Ching-A-Ling” was recorded on the sly at Trident Studios by famed producer Tony Visconti in 1968. The harmonies would be revisited on The Man Who Sold the World’s “Savior Machine.”
 

 
After the jump, another early Bowie video for “Sell Me a Coat.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Captain Beefheart Trout Mask Replica house still for sale

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I’m going through one of my periodic Captain Beefheart obsessions, mostly due to being immersed in John “Drumbo” French’s harrowing memoir. It’s always been a point of pride for me as a life long denizen of the San Fernando Valley that much of Beefheart’s history took place here, so in planning a pilgrimage to the Woodland Hills house where the Trout Mask Replica LP came tortuously into being, I happened to notice the place is still on the market for a much reduced 325k. Mind you in 2006 it was going for 849k ! Hard to believe a Matt Groening or a Julian Schnabel hasn’t snatched it up yet !
 

 
Buy the Trout Mask Replica house
 
Obama endorses Beefheart
 
Beefheart: Through the eyes of magic
 
Banned Captain Beefheart TV commercial
 
Run Paint Run Run: The Painting of Don van Vliet AKA Captain Beefheart

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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The Terminal: The roughest bar in New York City

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Stefan Nadelman’s Terminal Bar is a document of the infamous New York City dive located across the street from the Port Authority bus terminal near Times Square. Stefan’s father, Sheldon, was a bartender at the Terminal from 1972 to 1982 and took thousands of photographs of the drunks, drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes that hung out at what was considered to be the roughest bar in NYC.

Sheldon also photographed the bartenders, bouncers and porters that worked the joint. I can’t imagine a tougher gig. I used to poke my head into the Terminal back in the late 70s. Its notoriety drew artists and punks and the curious. But, it wasn’t welcoming to slumming hipsters or bush league Bukowskis. It was an enclosed society with it’s own brutal code, not easily cracked by the voyeuristic aesthete.

Stefan recalls what it was like to live among the images of the Terminal:

Our house [was] basically my father’s gallery, I grew up looking at these faces of the Terminal Bar. My father would also paint on the matte around the photos to further make his point. He used a lot of wordplay…like GRAPE/RAPE/APE (the effects of wine). Each picture had its lesson or story and I think they subconsciously warned me of the ramifications of heavy drinking. Looking back, I can see how odd it may have seemed to have your house’s walls filled with 16x20’s of drunken strangers.

Terminal Bar is a stunning achievement, an evocation of a period in New York City’s history when the streets were wild with life and filled with the stench of garbage, booze, sex and death. The city is cleaner now, domesticated, safe, but lacking that certain soulfulness that is at the heart of Sheldon Nadelman’s dark and deeply human photographs.
 
Here’s the trailer and a clip from Terminal Bar. The entire 23 minute film is available on DVD here. Stefan is working on new video vignettes using his father’s photographs and I’m looking forward to future installments.
 

 
More of The Terminal after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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