If you watched Mad Men's fifth season premiere this past Sunday, you probably had the same series of reactions to the opening that I did. First, you worried that some sort of neurological disorder made you forget what the actors' faces looked like. Then you waited eagerly for Don to come in and give these new hires the what-for. Then you cringed as this group of jackasses started hurling water and ice from their windows onto a group of African-American protesters. Finally, you cheered when the protesters, bless them, marched right through the doors of rival agency Young & Rubicam to confront the culprits on their sub-frat-boy-level "prank." I am almost 100% sure everyone in the audience did this.
But if you were wondering how Matthew Weiner got away with implicating an actual agency, even forty-five years after the fact, in such awful actions — or how he allowed a line as ham-fisted, if accurate, as "And they call us savages" to make it on air — wonder no more! The entire opening scene, down to the detail of the ad men using paper bags as make-shift water balloons, actually happened back in 1966. Yes, even that line, though it's still terrible. I stand my ground on that.
Now, the Times has dredged up its own report of the incident, written by reporter John Kifner, which also served as the source material for Weiner:
“Poverty Pickets Get Paper-Bag Dousing on Madison Avenue,” the headline read. The article described more than 300 people picketing the Office of Economic Opportunity, between East 40th and 41st Streets, the day before, chanting, “O-E-O, we’ve got the poverty, where’s the dough?” Executives upstairs at Young & Rubicam, half a block from the building, shouted at the protesters, and hung up signs saying “If you want money, get yourself a job.”
And luckily, the current Young & Rubicam doesn't have a problem facing some ugly moments from its past. Head over to the Times site to check out the full article. And let this be a lesson to you, if you didn't already know: Matthew Weiner really, really, really does his homework. (That line was still a head-shaker, though.)