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DianeDobbler

The Marvelous Milieu of Mrs. Maisel: Mid-Century Manhattan

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Well, I just love looking at the Manhattan stuff. The look and vibe of the Mrs. Maisel NYC stuck around for a long time but started vanishing after 2000 - NYC's corporate/generic transformation has accelerated since then.  The only thing that threw me was I was positive the Gaslight was on Bleecker - that's the street it looked like every time the exterior was on camera. Then Joel bursts out of the Gaslight, punches that guy, I see the Washington Square Park arch down the street which means it's 5th Avenue, only it's running uptown for some reason and half the width it actually is. Oh well. And if only all of the women who worked at the make-up counters of NYC Department stores were all best friends, so happy in their jobs they danced, gossiped and frolicked in the break room. 

Love the apartments - the "bohemian" ones where the B. Altman crowd parties, the upper west side ones, and the places where Midge made the party circuit as a comic. For once, and because it's 1958, these are realistic. I've been in a million apartments like Midge's and her parents' place, apparently Suzy-type apartments are still around, and Joel's place with Penny, especially, was well done. Much smaller than where he came from, but the location of the bedroom just off the living room, the look of the lobby, and how everything was just a bit more downsized than below 96th Street was right.

Talked to a friend who is a lawyer. She'd spent a lot of time hunting for an apartment in the Village. I told her about Suzy's apartment on this show, and how I figured they'd vanished, and she said "Oh no, we looked at SO many apartments that had murphy beds" and extremely cramped arrangements like that. But consider this - this is a lawyer with a rent budget many fathoms above what a Suzy could afford, and her realtor showed her places like Suzy's, until finally something with a better layout became available. So these days, a Suzy couldn't even afford her own dump. 

Also love the clothes, especially the stuff worn by Midge's mom.

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This is your thread to discuss the times, the place, the mores, the memories illuminated in the show. Did your mother save the string from the baker's dozen in your pre-war 6? Did you meet at the Monkey Bar or the Lion's Head? Best night out: Lewisohn Stadium or Madison Square Garden? And what happened to that hatbox from Bonwits? 

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In the pilot, when Midge pulled the brisket out of the oven, I screamed out loud, "My mom had that pink Pyrex!"  Also, there was a green coffee mug shown that we had a set of.  Lastly, I can remember my mom setting my hair as a little girl with those pink rubber rollers that kind of turned in on themselves to hold them in place.  Talk about long-buried memories!

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As a lifelong Upper Westsider (born in 1953), who lives 2 blocks from the Maisel apartment building, I can’t help finding flaws, even though I love the show!  

Going in front of the co-op board?  In 1958?  No way!  Buildings on Riverside Drive did not go co-op until many years later!  

Benches in Riverside Park with metal railings?  No!  Only wood and concrete!

”nerd alert”?  A line spoken by Suzy.  Nerd was not a word in the ‘50’s. Perhaps she should have said, “that

guy is so square”!   

Ok...had to get that off my chest before watching another episode!  

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3 hours ago, Joanie said:

As a lifelong Upper Westsider (born in 1953), who lives 2 blocks from the Maisel apartment building, I can’t help finding flaws, even though I love the show!  

Going in front of the co-op board?  In 1958?  No way!  Buildings on Riverside Drive did not go co-op until many years later!  

Benches in Riverside Park with metal railings?  No!  Only wood and concrete!

”nerd alert”?  A line spoken by Suzy.  Nerd was not a word in the ‘50’s. Perhaps she should have said, “that

guy is so square”!   

Ok...had to get that off my chest before watching another episode!  

I thought so about the co-op!  To me, it seemed way too early for that.
I felt the same way about "nerd alert."  Definitely anachronistic.

Another anachronism, there was a line about pantyhose, which wasn't introduced to the world until 1959 (I Googled it) and even then, it took a while for pantyhose to catch on.  I can remember being a little girl and wearing stockings with garters, not pantyhose, with a party dress around 1964.  

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18 hours ago, Joanie said:

As a lifelong Upper Westsider (born in 1953), who lives 2 blocks from the Maisel apartment building, I can’t help finding flaws, even though I love the show!  

Going in front of the co-op board?  In 1958?  No way!  Buildings on Riverside Drive did not go co-op until many years later!  

Benches in Riverside Park with metal railings?  No!  Only wood and concrete!

”nerd alert”?  A line spoken by Suzy.  Nerd was not a word in the ‘50’s. Perhaps she should have said, “that

guy is so square”!   

Ok...had to get that off my chest before watching another episode!  

You're so right. AND besides 'nerd alert' ---- jeez, they did NOT have the term "off the grid" until the 80s. That set my teeth on edge.

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18 hours ago, Joanie said:

”nerd alert”?  A line spoken by Suzy.  Nerd was not a word in the ‘50’s. Perhaps she should have said, “that guy is so square

This isn't the only otherwise well done period piece of late with such anachronisms. I wonder. Is their use a deliberate choice to avoid losing the point on Millennials? 

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14 hours ago, ProudMary said:

I felt the same way about "nerd alert."  Definitely anachronistic.

Merriam-Webster says its first known use was in 1951 and may have come from a creature in the 1950 Dr. Seuss book If I Ran a Zoo.

This website says its use as a term for an uncool, unhip person began in Detroit in 1951 and spread from there.

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Going in front of the co-op board?  In 1958?  No way!  Buildings on Riverside Drive did not go co-op until many years later!  

According to Wikipedia, co-op boards have been in New York since at least the 1880s.  I can't speak specifically as to every building on Riverside Drive, but it doesn't seem like a stretch that a fictionalized version of a building would have gone co-op by the late 1950s.     

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On 1/13/2018 at 5:43 PM, Joanie said:

As a lifelong Upper Westsider (born in 1953), who lives 2 blocks from the Maisel apartment building, I can’t help finding flaws, even though I love the show!  

Going in front of the co-op board?  In 1958?  No way!  Buildings on Riverside Drive did not go co-op until many years later!  

Benches in Riverside Park with metal railings?  No!  Only wood and concrete!

”nerd alert”?  A line spoken by Suzy.  Nerd was not a word in the ‘50’s. Perhaps she should have said, “that

guy is so square”!   

Ok...had to get that off my chest before watching another episode!  

"Nerd alert" really bugged me, too. There were other anachronistic epxressiosn,, but that one stood out the most - or worst.

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On 1/14/2018 at 10:16 AM, lurkerbee said:

Merriam-Webster says its first known use was in 1951 and may have come from a creature in the 1950 Dr. Seuss book If I Ran a Zoo.

This website says its use as a term for an uncool, unhip person began in Detroit in 1951 and spread from there.

But then there's little use until 1980s. See the Google NGram app that searches for usage in books: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=nerd&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cnerd%3B%2Cc0

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Thanks for that link showing the scarcity of nerd mentions at that time period, @jocelyn314. I'm willing—for this season—to fan wank that the hip characters of TMMM were keeping words like nerd alive, but I hope Amy Sherman-Palladino and hubby hire an anachronism editor for next season.

Edited by shapeshifter
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Thanks for that link showing the scarcity of nerd mentions at that time period, @jocelyn314. I'm willing—for this season—to fan wank that the hip characters of TMMM were keeping words like nerd alive, but I hope Amy Sherman-Palladino and hubby hire an anachronism editor for next season.

But if the word is in use at the time, it's not an anachronism for the characters to use the term.  Just for reference, Wikipedia cites a source saying the term was in widespread use across the United States by the early 1960s, so it doesn't seem anachronistic to think it was in use in New York City during the late 50s.   

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Maybe my anachronism radar was set off by the phrase "nerd alert" rather than just the word "nerd."

What's the origin of the saying?  I just remember with Mad Men, people regularly would post about how they didn't remember a certain word or phrase being used growing up, so the show must have screwed up by having someone say it.  Then someone else would point out that the word or phrase had been in use a lot longer than what was being presumed.     

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My enjoyment of wallowing in  mid-century modern helps me *almost* overlook supposed anachronisms such as panty-hose and "nerd alert." The first time I heard "nerd" was when my aunt called my father a nerd c. 1969 or so. I'm interested to see that the word dated to the early-to-mid '50s.  And pantyhose may have just been invented in the late '50s, but they took a while to become generally available. I remember "graduating" from 6th grade in 1966 and wearing stockings in honor of the occasion. I had a teen-version of a girdle with garters to hold up the stockings. I think there may have been resistance to pantyhose because they may have seemed more extravagant than stockings---if one stocking got a run, it was just one replacement, but the entire pantyhose would have to be tossed if a run occurred.

I'm truly loving the apartment interiors in the show---unlike a mid-century modern museum type look that you get in shelter magazines, this shows the modern furniture integrated with family pieces and lamps and knick-knacks that are more traditional. And how about a shout out for Miriam's gorgeous wardrobe?

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On ‎2‎/‎6‎/‎2018 at 2:10 PM, Katalina said:

And how about a shout out for Miriam's gorgeous wardrobe?

I love her clothes, but then I think about the longline bra and girdle making it all possible. 

Personally, I'm entranced by the soundtrack.  All those fantastic Broadway shows and pop songs that perfectly set the mood.  How many times have you sat through the end-credits of a show just to listen to a song?  I do that for every episode of TMMM.

Edited by Quilt Fairy
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On 1/14/2018 at 12:45 PM, jocelyn314 said:

You're so right. AND besides 'nerd alert' ---- jeez, they did NOT have the term "off the grid" until the 80s. That set my teeth on edge.

 

On 1/13/2018 at 6:43 PM, Joanie said:

As a lifelong Upper Westsider (born in 1953), who lives 2 blocks from the Maisel apartment building, I can’t help finding flaws, even though I love the show!  

Going in front of the co-op board?  In 1958?  No way!  Buildings on Riverside Drive did not go co-op until many years later!  

Benches in Riverside Park with metal railings?  No!  Only wood and concrete!

”nerd alert”?  A line spoken by Suzy.  Nerd was not a word in the ‘50’s. Perhaps she should have said, “that

guy is so square”!   

Ok...had to get that off my chest before watching another episode!  

I'm your neighbor in age and neighborhood.  You are correct. There were Park ave and Fifth ave coops earlier but the west side was cooped in the early 80s for the most part. I think they would have been renting. 

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My husband and I took chemistry classes in that math classroom!  It's a real Columbia classroom that's been used in countless shows and movies. Nice to see it still looks the same so it stands in for the period. Back in our day the blackboards were black, not green, though

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Those pink curlers were called spoolies. My grandmother used them every night.

I remember pantyhose by 1968. There was a horrid fad for a couple of years where they were a deep orangey-tan, and my pale-skinned mother stuck to her stockings and garters until realistic pantyhose shades arrived on the scene in the 70s.

I bought my first blusher around 1967 or 1968. The dime store sold a three-pan palette that had a pinkish blush, a peachy blush, and a dark tan blush.

Edited by pasdetrois
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On 12/2/2017 at 7:20 PM, DianeDobbler said:

Well, I just love looking at the Manhattan stuff. The look and vibe of the Mrs. Maisel NYC stuck around for a long time but started vanishing after 2000 - NYC's corporate/generic transformation has accelerated since then.

I was thinking the same thing. I stayed with relatives in the city in the seventies and eighties and lived there in the nineties and the city really changed starting with the turn of the century. No more Flower District, the Fashion District got chopped, Harlem, and the lower East Side got gentrified. And real estate agents tried to change the name of Hell's Kitchen to Clinton. (And don't get me started on bodegas being replaced by banks.)

One thing I like about this show is that they really get the geography right. One of the best laughs I had was when Suzy was trying to argue that 23rd St. was Midtown. (It's not.)

ETA. Because this is about the Jewish experience in America.

(Check out the last name if you don't recognize them.)

Edited by xaxat
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How often did the women wash their hair in this era? Odd question probably, but we see them set it and put on cold creme and not wash it. Which I think is great.  Maybe the daily hair washing thing came later. (Which I don't do...every few days for me)  

I'm so fascinated by the apartments.  They are so beautiful.  

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I was born in 1950. Growing up, my hair was washed once a week. Can't imagine it now. After 2 days it's too greasy to go out in public. But then I don't put it up in curlers every night as I did as a teen.

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3 hours ago, Cherry Cola said:

How often did the women wash their hair in this era? Odd question probably, but we see them set it and put on cold creme and not wash it. Which I think is great.  Maybe the daily hair washing thing came later. (Which I don't do...every few days for me)  

I'm so fascinated by the apartments.  They are so beautiful.  

Speaking of hair, don't Orthodox Jewish women wear wigs?

Oh wait. I guess by the looks of the men, they aren't Orthodox.

I think I just answered my own question. 🙄

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9 hours ago, Cherry Cola said:

How often did the women wash their hair in this era? Odd question probably, but we see them set it and put on cold creme and not wash it. Which I think is great.  Maybe the daily hair washing thing came later. (Which I don't do...every few days for me

Once a week was the norm. 

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On 12/17/2018 at 6:54 AM, shapeshifter said:

Once a week was the norm. 

Was it common to go to the “beauty shop” once a week for a wash and set? I wasn’t born until 1964 but growing up all of the older ladies I knew, my mother included did that. I assumed it was a habit they had started decades before.

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34 minutes ago, Cara said:

Was it common to go to the “beauty shop” once a week for a wash and set? I wasn’t born until 1964 but growing up all of the older ladies I knew, my mother included did that. I assumed it was a habit they had started decades before.

Yes, my mother (born in 1928) started doing the weekly salon thing around the 60s. Briefly in the 80s she wore a perm that she washed every night and "picked" to a fluff, with trips to the beauty shop just for trims every 6 weeks, but otherwise, up until a few weeks ago, she did the weekly wash at the salon.

Perhaps if there had been more disposable income earlier, she would have done the weekly salon in the 50s too, but I recall both my mom and my aunt wearing ponytails and then buns in the 50s. They were of the same local and background as Midge and her Mom, but a little lower income. I think my other aunts--who married doctors--may have started going to salons in the 50s.

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I thought this was an interesting article.

https://pagesix.com/2018/12/28/marvelous-mrs-maisel-costume-designers-created-a-new-bra-for-characters/

<snip>

“I do feel that color signals things to people and you know I don’t take it for granted,” Zakowska [the clothes designer] said. “I love doing it and I put a lot of effort into really working with the palette and working with the colors. It started with that pink coat, but that became sort of a characteristic of who Midge was when I first started.”

But  {later} her character puts on different, darker colors. “I basically did this with most of the characters and it’s a little bit natural in a way because I do think that there is this emotional response that is inherent in color,” Zakowska said.<snip>

 

 

rps20181228_201559.jpg

rps20181228_201131.jpg

Edited by ChiCricket · Reason: didn't want to spoil anyone.
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I would recommend this You-tube Channel for anyone interested in the culture of the ‘50’s and the 60’s. What’s My Line was broadcast live from NY at 10:30 on Sunday nights. You get a contemporaneous feel for what was actually going on in the country and society on any given weekend in 1950 -something or 1960- something that goes beyond the game itself.

https://www.youtube.com/user/WhatsMyLineCBS

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I just stumbled upon this four-part interview with Dick Gautier about working clubs at the time of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, in which he name drops more stand-ups and other entertainers than I can count, including in Part 2: conversing with Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers stealing his (Gautier's) material (like Joel did with Bob Newhart), booking Johnny Mathis (mentions his sexuality), and, in Part 3, seeing two comediennes who could have inspired Midge and Suzie:
"Betty and Jane Kean were pretty funny. They were the first sort of vulgar ladies. She'd take out a cigar and light it and then the other would say, 'What is that - a substitute?' That kind of shit."
The interview is from 2014, so I'm not sure if Gautier's use of F bombs and other expletives in his reminiscences accurately reflected the language used in the late 50s and early 60s that he was recalling.

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Nobody is saying that individual advertisers were in some big conspiracy to do this but it was a given “you’re taking a job from a man” idea that lasted through the 70s. I’d suggest watching “on the basis of sex” if you don’t believe me.

 

i really don’t think a man in advertising is entitled to lecture women on post war notes and advertising’s part in it.

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Marketers took, and still take, women extremely seriously. Especially in that era, women are the usual deciders of what brands to buy for most everything in the home and thus held tremendous power. It’s one of the reasons why some products for women cost more than their counterparts for men: Women tend to think a LOT more about where the money is going and why, then to remain brand loyal if they find what they like. Far more money goes into marketing and R&D goes into products aimed at women, and that’s reflected in the price. 

Yeah, I feel like if I was taken seriously there would be less pink and less poison and more products that worked. I do think women put a lot of thought into what they buy but there's still an essential powerlessness in controlling what comes to market. And there's no denying that advertising and marketing thrives on women's insecurities; creating them and then exploiting them.

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17 hours ago, LadyKenobi said:

On the Basis of Sex is largely a hagiography designed to make Ruth Bader Ginsberg look like SuperFeministIcon (a family member wrote it and gave her full control over the script and how she was portrayed), so I wouldn’t take it seriously as an historical document, even though it is true that men far outnumbered women in several professions. Readig her opinions and arguments are a better place to learn about who she is.

 I will, however, believe my profs and mentors, both male and female, who were alive in that era and involved in advertising, as well as my case studies. A person’s genitalia does not disqualify him or her from sharing evidence or views or work of any kind. I’d sure hate to be pulled off a urology medication campaign because I lack a penis. 

”You’re taking a job from a man” was an attitude held by some, but certainly not all. It wasn't embraced by all employers or nearly all women. This diminishes the work of both male hirers and women who were in the workplace, particularly in the lower classes, and there were plenty (my mother was earning the tuition for her Masters degree by working on an assembly line at the time this show was set.)

 Many women were indeed in the workplace at this time—less than now, of course, and in not nearly the variety of careers we enjoy today, but, for example, the soldering and other work for the computers controlling the first satellites and spacecrafts in the US was done by women who continued their technical work after the war. Should we hear more about them? Sure. But US women cowering under the control of all men everywhere is a dangerous and historically inaccurate stereotype. It’s a lot more complex than shown in this show or a 90 minute movie. 

Sorry that was shorthand. 

I will actually believe my MOTHER and my aunt who were alive in that period.

at no time except in advertising and on later representations in television and movies did women wear heels and pearls to do housework. That was a fantasy, one created by men who largely ran advertising.

 

and while people can hold views regardless of sex mansplaining is a thing, and I trust my mother more than a marketer. It’s just a fact for example that a lot of men who shaped the narrative of the last election have had to step down after being revealed to be harassers: Matt lauer, Charlie rose. Misogyny and misrepresentation are real.

my mother was one of four women at Cornell hotel school- at the same time as Ruth Bader fwiw- and she too is very clear that there were always women doctors, lawyers, biz execs.

i have found people who are sure this or that is anachronistic are usually people who’ve learned about “the 50s” from movies. When “Mona Lisa smile” came out Wellesley grads were incensed saying they never went to class in pearls but pajamas and were not there for their MRS degrees. I believe them.

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Sorry, I do think that identity matters. As a white woman I am not qualified to discuss the experience of a black man.

And I don't think a man is qualified to discuss the experience of a woman.

We can speculate but that's all. Identity is not the ONLY thing that matters. But, it matters.

That is a response to your TL,DR which is basically saying a male marketer's opinion is as useful as a woman who lived through it.

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Advertising works on men's insecurities as well, but in different ways-- men do respond to "buy this lifestyle" as well, in some ways even more than women, and while they tend to buy less personal care paraphernalia than most women, research shows that men are actually more susceptible to ads than women (particularly online), which is why companies pour SO much money into marketing to women. We're tough to get!

This is getting to be a digression from the topic of the show but... men are SOLD less personal care paraphernalia. That has changed as more grooming products have started to be sold to non-straight men and as the beauty/body standards for men have evolved. Of course I sympathize with the men who face similar issues that women do but get back to me when the rates of eating disorders, anxiety disorders, etc. are as high among men as they are among women. Get back to me when the culture narrative around women is almost entirely about having it all and whether they have rights over their own bodies. 

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I really encourage you to read Before Oprah, which is about Ruth Lyons, a Midwest talk show host in the 50s who in essence could control an enormous swath of the market with a two-minute endorsement. I admire this great lady so much! She pretty much invented the daytime talk show format, in fact, and was so powerful that companies would test products with her first before even bothering to bring it to market. One of the reasons she was so incredibly effective was that she talked one-on-one with her audience rather than reading from an antisceptic script. She was very specific about how the product helped her. She tied products into current events and let her viewers know how it might make their lives better-- a tiny, personal way to tell potential buyers how they could solve problems and share in what they were aspiring to.

I'll pass. It's great for the individual women but I don't believe that the exceptionalism of one woman pushing herself to success through mass consumerism really does much for the feminist cause. Especially when what's being sold is a way to conform to life under the patriarchy (beauty products, cleaning products, appliances, etc.). This is an oversimplification as I don't have time to really get into it.

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