'Mad Men' Gets It Right: Booze, Sex, Secrets

"There is such a great difference between the generations," she said. "It's fun to watch people go through drinking and smoking. It's entertaining and beautifully shot. I think it's fun and interesting for young people to care.

"And I do see the parallels a bit between the Kennedy era and the era of Barack Obama," said Jones. "We feel a little scared, but hopeful."

Cory Kern, a retired middle-school teacher from Bloomfield, Conn., knows the Don Draper character, as her father kept his own dark secrets while raising his family in the 1960s in a Boston suburb filled with aspiring executives.

Kern's mother, who married at 17, spent her waking hours cleaning and being "the perfect wife."

Today, Kern's mother refuses to watch the show. "I lived it," she told her daughter.

Kern's father, a mechanical engineer, never finished high school and fabricated a college degree. "He was brilliant but very troubled," said Kern, now 57.

"He wanted to be successful, wear nice suits and have beautiful secretaries, the well-paying job and the trophy wife and good kids," she said. "He wanted to be the Don Draper type but couldn't figure out how to play the game seamlessly."

Her father's life ended at the age of 39, when he crashed the small plane he was piloting, taking with him the life of her 18-year-old brother.

'Mad Men' Burn Out Keeping a Secret

""He was in extreme despair and not getting help, she said. "My theory was he was creating an illusion. He just realized he couldn't masquerade any longer as a successful middle-class guy. He didn't know how to do it."

Kern also identifies with young Sally, who is sensitive to the weaknesses of those around her and yet rebels by stealing money from her grandfather.

"I think Sally is going to have the benefit of the late '60s and 7'0s," said Kern. "This season is a perfect time for her to start exploring not being perfect instead of playing the role everyone expects of her."

Dick Joslin was a "Mad" man taking a job right after college in 1964 as a trainee copywriter for BBDO, one of the big, flashy Madison Avenue firms. There he worked for 12 years.

His first flashback while watching "Mad Men" was the sight of a Remington typewriter.

"The total look of the offices, the windows, the cubicle dividers, private offices, colors and furniture were right," said Joslin, now 66 and retired, living in Lawrenceville, N.J.

"Everything was so merit-based, they didn't' care what your background is if you are creative," he said.

The "multi-drink, lush lunch" was de rigueur for many, said Joslin. "That was more of a perk for senior executives with expense accounts."

He was married, but many of the executives went on to marry their secretaries. Being able to rise up and be a copywriter "happened a lot," said Joslin.

"When an assignment was tossed out to a creative group, someone who was not actually a copywriter could contribute -- everybody got a shot," he said. Peggy Olson, Sterling Cooper's copywriter, "was quite typical. They were pretty feisty people."

Judy Darnell, a 59-year-old from Felton, Calif., is fascinated to see the "conformities" of her parents' generation playing out on her TV screen.

"Think of how much brighter we'd all be if our parents weren't chain smokers and drinkers," she said. "Perhaps it's why our generation is so screwed up."

Darnell's father, an executive, was not so different from Draper -- "good-looking, debonair and a social butterfly."

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