The Three-Martini Lunch - Jane Maas

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It's Mardi Gras, and people all over the world are celebrating and many of them are having a bit more to drink than they usually do. So my thoughts naturally turn to the Mad Menera of the 1960s, the era famous for the three-martini lunch.

Whenever media people interview me about my book Mad Women,one of the first questions they ask is: did people really drink that much? Does Mad Menget it right? Almost everyone I know who worked on Madison Avenue in the sixties complains that the TV series exaggerates the liquor consumption that went on. "It's not at all realistic," one account man told me indignantly. "We never drank in the morning."

"How did you do it?" people ask. "How did you drink that much at lunch and then go back to work?" Jerry Della Femina says we got away with it because our coworkers and our clients had just as much to drink as we did, so it was a level playing field. I think it was also because we were so young and so healthy – and so stupid – that we didn't think booze or cigarettes, or anything, could kill us.

Looking back, it seems to me that the men I worked with went out to lunch every day, but the women didn't - - probably due to work ethic and calorie control. Often, it was the men in our working lives who urged us to "have another."

Linda Bird Francke, who left copywriting to become an award-winning biographer, remembers working for a creative supervisor at Young & Rubicam. He took her out for lunch quite often. "We'd start with martinis and end up with Rusty Nails - - that's a combination of scotch and Drambuie." I asked Linda the usual question - - how did they manage to go back to work. "I think what saved us," Linda said thoughtfully, is that we didn't have wine in between."

The late Jo Foxworth, one of the rare women in the Advertising Hall of Fame, wrote "Nine Commandments for Career Women." The Eighth Commandment was: "Thou shall not match martinis with the men. Some women can drink some men under the table. But a man under the table can still be dangerous."

Jane Maas is a former creative director at Ogilvy & Mather and Wells Rich Greene, and was president of the New York office of Earle Palmer Brown. Her newest book,Mad Women, is the real story of what it was like to be a woman in advertising in the sexy and sexist era of television’sMad Men. Jane can be reached at janemaas@att.net.

Read all Jane's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at MAD WOMEN: the Other Side of life on Madison Avenue in the Sixties and Beyond.

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