Mad Men Unbuttoned
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Mad Men Unbuttoned [Paperback]

Natasha Vargas-Cooper
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Entering its fourth season on July 25, AMC's critically acclaimed TV series Mad Men takes place on Madison Avenue during the early 1960s in the fictional Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency. Inspired by the TV series, L.A. freelance writer Vargas-Cooper launched a nicely designed and engaging blog, the Footnotes of Mad Men, to survey not only the show but also the real-world historical and cultural artifacts of that period. Now her attractive blog has been adapted into an equally attractive book. As Vargas-Cooper sees it, the series is "about the culture clash and contradictions that occurred during the twilight of the Eisenhower era, the great societal shake-up of the 1960s" and its impact on modern America. She focuses on advertising, design, films, literature, politics, sex, style, and the workplace in order to probe "the most dramatic cultural shift in the 20th century." She begins by detailing all the series' regular characters and then moves on to profile real-life ad man Leo Burnett (Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Marlboro Man), followed by everything from skinny ties, condoms, John Cheever and Frank O'Hara to Jackie Kennedy's White House tour on CBS and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. All are neatly linked with specific TV episodes, making this both an entertaining read and the definitive companion book for the series.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Well, maybe that romp in the subtitle is an exaggeration. In fact, this is a pretty quiet book, although its author is clearly an enthusiastic fan of the hit TV series Mad Men (she operates a Web site with the same name as the book), and the book is sure to appeal the show’s many devotees. Vargas-Cooper uses the show, about advertising executives in the 1960s, as sort of a portal into the decade, showing how television fiction reflects the era in which it’s set. She discusses some real-life advertising giants (Ogilvy, Burnett, Daniels), talks about social mores (particularly sex), and delves into pop culture (books, movies, etc.). The book is packed with information, and some proves quite fascinating; but readers who aren’t serious fans of the show may be put off by the bland prose and the distractingly large number of footnotes. A thoroughly enjoyable handbook, though, for anyone who wants more information about what Don Draper and his colleagues and friends smoked, drank, read, and talked about. --David Pitt


“Possibly the richest of the “Mad Men” books...Mad Men Unbuttoned is a well-versed primer to the most literate show on television.” (The New Yorker)

“Mad Men Unbuttoned is likely to become a trivia-lover’s bible, as well as recommended reading for the inevitable college media-studies courses on this pop-cultural phenomenon.” (New York Review of Books)

“Natasha-Vargas Cooper nails the 1960s and the ad industry during this fascinating era. A good, fast, joyful read.” (Nina DiSesa, Chairman, McCann New York)

“A dazzling pop-culture history of the 1960s. [Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s] zeal for detail is unparalleled. This is an opinionated, sexy history book for those who hate studying.” (Penthouse)

“[Vargas-Cooper] focuses on advertising, design, film, literature, politics, sex, style and the workplace in order to probe ‘the most dramatic cultural shift in the 20th century’...the definitive companion book for the series.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Mad Men Unbuttoned lends real-life context to the show’s most memorable scenes and references.” (Interview)

“Mad Men Unbuttoned is like an easy, vibrant reference tool for the thirtysomething, Sixties-obsessed set.” (Women's Wear Daily)

“Mad Men Unbuttoned is a stylishly designed, intelligently written book.” (The Oregonian (Portland))

From the Back Cover

Mad Men Unbuttoned, footnotes to the show and the era, including these fascinating tidbits:

  • Don Draper's character is based on the real-life Draper Daniels, protégé of Leo Burnett who started off as a copywriter and rose to creative director, eventually heading the team that launched the Marlboro Man.
  • The iconic "Think Small" Volkswagen ad positioned the Beetle as an ugly but well-made car—a revolt against excess. Not only did unit sales top 500,000 cars a year, but the campaign succeeded in junking all the rules of car advertising.
  • When barred from visiting Disneyland on a trip to the United States, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev threw a tantrum and left Los Angeles in a huff the very next day.
  • The Group by Mary McCarthy, the novel Betty Draper is seen reading in the bathtub, transformed the way women viewed love, sex, and marriage.
  • In 1947 Christian Dior showcased its revolutionary New Look line. Betty, Peggy, and the rest of the steno pool at Sterling-Cooper can be seen sporting the sloping shoulders, hourglass silhouettes, and billowing skirts of the New Look style.

About the Author

After graduating from UCLA with a BA in history and working as a union organizer in L.A. and Washington, D.C., for a number of years, Natasha Vargas-Cooper began her writing career as a film critic for E! Entertainment. Her reporting, essays, and interviews have appeared in print and Web publications ranging from the Daily Beast, New York magazine, BlackBook, Gawker, and Interview. She is currently the Los Angeles correspondent for The Awl.

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