Son of a Mad Man

Saturday, November 07, 2009 - 10:00 AM

The television series Mad Men concludes its current season this Sunday night at 10 pm. I've been following it closely for its intricate, provocative story, intriguing characters, great acting, and period detail. I feel that Mad Men, set in the New York advertising world of the early 1960s, is the TV equivalent of those "meeting points of Art and Pop" I like to present on Spinning On Air.

That man pictured on the left is not a member of the Mad Men cast in costume. That's my father, Kenneth Garland. The photo was taken circa 1963, the year depicted in Mad Men's current season. Dad was an Ad Man, if not a Mad Man. He was an Account Executive for an advertising agency in Boston during most of my childhood. He's not around anymore to tell of his experiences, but I don't think they included nearly as much alcohol, cigarettes, and secrecy as those depicted in Mad Men.

In fact I just recently came across a few pages he wrote about his career in which he said, "I could not find any real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction through association with the typical 'consumer' advertising characterized by the famous expression from The Hucksters, 'Love that soap.'" So he worked for a firm whose accounts were of the "industrial type." Unlike most of the Mad Men characters, my father had a fulfilling life outside the ad agency, and I think he cared more about his amateur singing and theater work than he did about manipulating consumers.

I'm probably the same age the Mad Men character Sally Draper would be. She's the daughter of the handsome, beautiful, frustrated and flawed main protagonists Don and Betty Draper. My parents, also handsome and beautiful (if I may say so), were Kenneth and Barbara Garland. That's right, Ken and Barbie, like the dolls. And like any kid of the '60s, I grew up an avid consumer, seduced by advertising. But my parents gave me a childhood rooted in the "real" world of creativity and the arts.

I salute the artistry of the creators, cast, and crew of Mad Men. I thank them for a good story well told, and for an adult's view of my childhood milieu.


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Comments [16]

Jennifer R from NYC

I too would appreciate some comments on Mad Men's score. I heard the 3rd part of Il Trittico on WQXR a few weeks ago and am convinced the opening bars of the Mad Men theme were sampled from a small section in that piece of music, although I haven't been able to find out if that's true or not.

Jan. 19 2010 08:04 AM
Lynn from NJ

Jill, Thank you for your kind words. It's funny how something can haunt you for a very long time, and I'm so relieved to know that I wasn't as evil as I've thought myself so long ago. I am considerably more careful about what I put in writing, which is a good lesson to learn.

And David, thank you for your thoughtful comments and selections.

Dec. 26 2009 07:09 PM

Nimet Habachy's signature tune for "New York at Night" was Debussy's "En Bateau", for 2 pianos. Does anybody know which recording of "En Bateau" was used in her show?

Dec. 06 2009 03:48 PM
Nat Geller from New Jersey

Hello M'r Garland.
I"m a great fan of film scores. especialy of 50's & 60's European films. can you please include some of those next time? or even a special program?
Nino Rota, Jean Constantine, Vladimir Cosma,Maurice Jarre, Jean Delarue. & others.
thank you
Nat Geller

Dec. 03 2009 09:13 AM
Gregg from Astoria QNS

I've been listening to WQXR for a very long time now. When the station moved over to the present location I of course followed. I get an excellent reception of course.

David your style of playing on your regular shows including the one on movie music is perfect.

Dec. 02 2009 03:29 PM
Jill from Dobbs Ferry, NY

I am the daughter of the Ken Garland of which Lynn speaks. He passed away in 1992 at 65 after having spent three decades on the radio in Philadelphia. He had just started at WIP in the mid-60's (the family spent a year in NYC when he was on WINS) and I imagine that he took great delight in audience reactions be it positive or negative. Fear not, there's is absolutely no way that your letter hurt him. He loved lively conversation and respected those who disagreed with him. Love the music David. Thanks for keeping the Garland name alive in radio.

Nov. 30 2009 10:15 PM
Franklyn Dunne from Guadalajara, Mexico

I am listening to your program while in Guadalajara Mexico.
A life long,until now, resident in the New York area, my most memorable celebrity encounter was near Lincoln Center. I was crossing Columbus Ave, actually waiting for the light to change, so that I could cross and I found myself standing next to Isabella Roselleni and her daughter who were also waiting to cross. I had no words to speak, but when the light changed and they began to cross, I noticed that the child or her mother had dropped a glove in the street. I quickly retrieved it ,mumbled a few words and handed it to Ms. R. She turned and gave me one of the most dazzlingly warm smiles I had ever received.

Nov. 14 2009 06:25 PM
dgarland from WQXR dgarland

Thanks for your interesting responses! JB, that's so cool about your father's Hilton logo! Michael, no question about the talent, hard work, artistry and craftsmanship that motivated most ad men and women. Paul, I think one of the strengths of Mad Men is that they're not really telling a generalized or generalizing story, but one involving specific characters and circumstances. Claudio, yes, music is used well in the show; not just the songs at the end, but the score throughout is interestingly spare and effective. And Walter, Bob, and Darkers, thanks for your observations.

Lynn, what a story! The Ken Garland you remember was not my father. It sounds like hearing your "screed" read back to you over the air was a life changing moment! (Maybe I'll use that tactic sometime.) Thank you for your sensitivity, and on behalf of all DJs, I accept your apology!


Nov. 13 2009 01:19 PM

From an email I just sent to the WNYC general mailbox,

"Hey guys:

Please let your program hosts script their own play lists. The programming on WQXR, particularly in the evening, is leaden; it expresses a top down, up tight vision of conventional classical music. You’ve got great DJ’s in David Garland and Terrance McKnight but with the transition from WNYC they have lost their individuality. Please let their curiosity roam again; I miss the wonderful insights I used to get from listening to them. Thank you from a long time subscriber to WNYC."

Nov. 11 2009 04:36 PM
Michael from sss

My dad was an Art Director at McCann-Erickson in the 50'-60's and Creative Director for the agency at end of his career in the late 70's. Mad Men is "Hollywood". It's fun and it's silly. Reality in the Ad game? How 'bout flying all over the country for six week shoots, five times a year. Working weekends to finish campaigns, drawing storyboards on weekends and late at night with six kids stealing magic markers till all you had left was orange and pink. Cocktails? You bet your ass, and they earned them, but never at work. They worked hard at work. They shot great commercials. Most were brilliantly talented artists like my Dad who dreamed of being an illustrator like his hero N.C. Wyeth.

Nov. 10 2009 09:00 PM

Having spent over 20 years starting in the early '50s (the time frame of Mad Men) with one of the most prestigious advertising agencies in New York I feel qualified and obliged to comment on the work environment portrayed in the show..

Not only is it structurally inaccurate (an account executive reporting the the creative director - come on!!!) the show defames an honorable profession. Not even during the famed Christmas parties did the drinking and sexual escapades exist - let alone on a day by day basis.

Mad Men is entertaining and provocative perhaps yes -but not even close to the reality bone

I hope this comment helps to vindicate the image that the show may have created to the children and grandchildren of those men and women who toiled on Madison Avenue.

Nov. 09 2009 04:49 PM
Lynn from NJ

I heard your comments on the radio on Saturday afternoon, and was caught by your dad's name: Ken Garland. He wasn't by chance a radio announcer in the 60s on a pop station, was he? It could have been WABC or something like that.

One of my biggest regrets is writing a nasty letter to a radio announcer with that name. It was the mid-60s, and I was a rabid Beatles fan. Ken said something on the air that I thought was derogatory toward my idols, and I fired off a very intemperate letter. I was feeling awfully righteous in my anger.

Then I was having breakfast with my family, and he read the letter on the air, without mentioning my name. I was mortified. It seemed as if I had written something (or lots of things) that had hurt him, and I was immediately profoundly sorry. I was too embarrassed to write to apologize, and I certainly didn't admit to my family that I was the writer of that letter.

I've thought about that often during the 40+ years since. I'm sure your dad (if it is your dad) has no memory of that letter, but I certainly do. I still regret it and always will.

So, 40 years late, I apologize, Ken Garland, for writing that letter that seemed to have hurt you. I guess I've learned my lesson because I've never written a screed like that since.

Mea culpa

Nov. 09 2009 03:19 PM
JB from New York

I am a daughter of an ad man during the same period as Mad Men. My parents (also handsome and beautiful) had fuller lives and less alcohol infusion, though they did have a cocktail when my father returned on the 6:45 to Pleasantville. I adore all the attention to detail in the wonderful show, but must note that my father, who had his own "shop"--not a big agency like Sterling Cooper--designed the Hilton Hotel logo that appears on the show--the swooping H, though he did it in 1967. The previous logo was a complex crest affair, far less modern. He's now 91 and it's a kick to know let him know he's a part of the culture a second time around.
I'm dying to see what happens tonight and so sorry it will be the end of the season.

Nov. 08 2009 07:03 PM
walter schretz from Morningside Heights

Happy to read about your dad-I am not surprised to learn you seem to have had a sweet and caring father-

Nov. 07 2009 08:21 PM

Reception in northern Wesrchester very p oor in car and at home (Armonk). Others in Larchmont and Pleasantville report the same. O.K. on line,but htis does restrict me to one location..too bad..I'll miss you.

Nov. 07 2009 07:23 PM
Claudio from New York City

The way music is used in Mad Men is one of that show's greatest achiements, I think. Could you incorporate into your show some comments on the Mad Men score? I think they would be much appreciated by your audience. I know I would. Thanks.

Nov. 07 2009 07:15 PM

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