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The Roosevelt Hotel
Like Don Draper at the end of season three, The Roosevelt Hotel is loosing its edge. Worn carpets in the lobby set off a central oversized—and extremely ugly—floral arrangement. The Roosevelt's modern-day charms are limited despite its historic and ornately decorated interior. In contrast to The Plaza, the staff at The Roosevelt is distracted. Tourists and their broods of grubby-fingered children wander aimlessly around the main floor. Aimee is with me and decides she will not be using the last of her money for a drink at the historic Madison Club Lounge (setting of the real-life season three premier viewing party) in the lobby.
The bar is the site of many character-developing scenes in the first two seasons of Mad Men: Salvatore carries on a flirtation with the Belle Jolie lipstick rep at the bar, which ends with a proposition over dinner; when Don gets the boot from Betty, he stays in one of The Roosevelt's diminutive rooms. Don's own well-polished children come to stay with him one night and the broken family eats room service while a secretly pregnant Betty has sex with a stranger in a bar down the street.
If I wanted revenge, I might bring someone to The Oyster Bar at Grand Central. Like the world's most expensive diner, the lighting feels off and the place gives me a strange feeling of anxiety. I know it's a landmark and I'm supposed to like it but the atmosphere is nothing like the close, dim glow that surrounded Don and Roger Sterling when they came here for a martini-soaked lunch the day after Roger came on to Don's wife.
After downing drink upon drink and two oyster platters each, the super-suave duo returns to Sterling-Cooper to find that the elevator is out of service. Don easily passes Roger, clutching his faulty heart on the staircase, and goes into the office to their meeting; Sterling arrives soon after, slick and oyster-colored, abruptly vomiting at the shoes of his clients. Thankfully, this does not happen to me.
P.J. Clarke's is packed at happy hour and is so full of men in sports coats that I don't even notice my friend Todd for the first fifteen minutes I'm there. The bar's stained glass and wooden decor makes it feel warm. It's the only place so far that hasn't been full of tourists. I order a beer for five dollars and 50 cents ("fife-fity, sweethaart") from a bartender with floppy hair and a bow tie. Behind me, a chef in a straw fedora arranges seafood plates like an artist. Oysters rest on beds of ice as bargoers dip gigantic shrimp into bowls of cocktail sauce. It is vibrant in here and I like it.
In my favorite episode of the entire series, Peggy Olson and Pete Campbell have sex on his office couch early in the morning. In the afternoon, Peggy gets her first copywriting assignment. Everyone at Sterling-Cooper leaves work early and goes out to celebrate at P.J. Clarke's. They gather in the back of the bar and someone puts Chubby Checker singing "The Twist" on the jukebox (which still rests against the one of the back walls) making all of the girls squeal in excitement. Peggy, who is obviously having one of the best days of her life, twists seductively toward Pete Campbell, who sits stoically against the wall. When she reaches him, he looks at her and says coldly, "I don't like you like this." Peggy turns away, tears collecting in her eyes.