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March 21, 2012

Midweek Madness: Thoughts of Mad Men and Miss Marmelstein

Like "Mad Men" fans everywhere, I've been chomping at the bit for the start of Season 5 on Sunday.

I also happened to notice that Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of a Broadway musical that, except for the specific occupation involved, and except for the time period, and, oh, yes, except for the ethnicity, is really a lot like "Mad Men."

OK, a little bit, but enough to justify my using it to generate this installment of Midweek Madness.

The musical, of course, is "I Can Get It For You Wholesale," which opened on Broadway March 22, 1962.

The plot revolves around a moral-less, ruthless guy trying to claw his way to the top of New York's garment industry. Naturally, he uses people, undercuts his colleagues and takes advantage of women. Sounds like Don Draper with a measuring tape to me.

And you just know that female employees in the garment industry ...

would have been subjected to a heap of sexism, just like on Madison Avenue.

As it turns out, one secretary depicted in the musical actually craves some sexism. She's Miss Marmelstein, portrayed 50 years ago by a woman still in her teens and destined to steal the show.

So here to sing about the humiliation of not having men in the office get fresh with her (almost sort of like Peggy Olson, before she got wise), is the one and only Barbra Streisand:

Posted by Tim Smith at 6:07 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens


Great tie-in, Tim! One other link you may recall is that in the last season of Mad Men (oh so long ago) there was a flash-back that showed a young Don Draper working for a furrier. If I remember correctly, that was in fact where he met Betty. They could have thrown in a musical number there,

Wow. I wish I had your memory. Now that you have jogged mine, I will pretend that this was my idea all along. Thanks. TIM

I can’t wait for the premiere and I’m planning to throw an authentic period “Vodka Party” to celebrate, using this guide. I’ve been archiving authentic early-60s party recipes on my blog this original promo pamphlet has swinging vintage hors d'oeuvres and cocktail recipes displayed with real Mad Men-era style. I especially like the Avocado Dip (like a frothy guacamole) and a Moscow Mule to wash it down. Here's a link to the original "How to Give a Vodka Party" guide:

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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