A tribute to Mr. Jon Hamm

By Angela Natividad from Paris, France (Mad Men's Jon Hamm) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

After the first episode of the final season of Mad Men last night, we couldn’t be more excited. As you may have read in a previous post, it’s with bittersweet excitement that we encounter these last few episodes of Mad Men. So we wanted to pay tribute to the guy at the center of it all. Not the character of Don Draper, but Mad Men star Jon Hamm, whose on-screen performance not only drives the primary narrative of the series, but serves as the axis of all other characters rotating around him. On screen, the character of Don Draper is a wicked, conflicted soul, but in real life, Hamm is a gentleman and all around interesting fella. Here, we’d like to present a brief Jon Hamm bio that we hope will shed some light on this somewhat elusive celebrity. So mix a strong drink, and get some insight on this awesome guy.

Yes, he was once a kid.

By JonHammShootingTheTown09.jpg: Melinda derivative work: Hutch y2k (JonHammShootingTheTown09.jpg) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

On March 10, 1971 in St. Louis, Missouri, Hamm was born into a blended family which included two step-sisters. His parents divorced when he was very young, and he spent most of his childhood living with his mother and grandmother. In a GQ article, Hamm said, “We were three generations living under one roof, which is difficult in the best of circumstances.”

As he grew up, his interests and activities varied, both in athletics and more creative hobbies. In high school, he was on the football team, and acted in school plays as well. “I went to a high school where you were encouraged to do a lot of different things, so there wasn’t this great divide between the jocks and the theater guys, or the smart kids and the stoners, or whatever. It was like everybody was a little bit of everything, and that was encouraged,” he once said.

This division of interests continued during college. He started out playing football at The University of Texas, but after his father’s death, finished his education while acting in the drama department at The University of Missouri. He played leading roles in a number of plays, including Cliff in Cabaret, and Leon Colgosz in Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical, Assassins.

Going west.

By watchwithkristin (flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hamm moved to Hollywood in 1995 to pursue acting as a career. Although he was a certified teacher who taught acting for several years prior, enough people had encouraged him to become a professional actor that he decided to go for it. He landed his first screen roles in 2000, including a small part in Space Cowboys, and a recurring role on the TV series Providence. He continued to work on the big and small screens for several years, including a role in the feature film, Kissing Jessica Stein, written by and co-starring the soon-to-be-Jon-Hamm’s-girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt.

Jon Hamm & Mad Men

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in Episode 1 - Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC

The big break came in 2007, with the high profile starring role of Don Draper in Mad Men. On landing this iconic role, Hamm once said, “It was amazing. I read the script, and it was for AMC, and I thought, ‘They’ve never done anything that’s remotely like a TV show, so what’s that going to be like?’ I read the script for Mad Men and I loved it. Then, I realized that a guy who wrote for The Sopranos, Matt Weiner, created it, so I thought, ‘Okay, that’s pretty cool.’ But I never thought they’d cast me. I mean, I thought they’d go with one of the five guys who look like me but are movie stars. Obviously, they didn’t. I literally had to go through six or seven auditions. They flew me to New York to meet all the people at AMC. My final audition was at that bar on the roof of the Hotel Gansevoort. When we were riding down on the elevator, the woman in charge of whatever the decision-making process was told me, ‘You got the job’.”

He can still play parts other than Don Draper

By John Bollwitt from Vancouver, Canada (Vancouver 2010: Day 9 - Club Bud Red Carpet) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In the years since Man Men debuted, Hamm has made an eclectic mix of appearances on screen. Everything from Liz Lemon’s quirky neighbor on 30 Rock, to the Allen Ginsberg bio pic, Howl, to multiple hosting gigs on SNL. He and Westfeldt are still a couple, co-producing the film, Friends with Kids, in 2012. There’s no telling what Jon Hamm movies are still to come. The list is growing, and will no doubt bring many surprises along the way. When asked about how he chooses roles, Hamm said, “I certainly go after what I want. But I just have detached amusement about a lot of it. Because it’s silly. This job is ridiculous. There’s a line from 30 Rock that Tracy Morgan says that makes me laugh out loud: ‘I remember that movie-I got paid one million teacher salaries’. It is what it is.”

Mad Men party ideas from the experts.

Cast of Mad Men

Cast of Mad Men

With the Mad Men final season upon us, we can’t decide whether to mourn or celebrate. On one hand, what some consider the best series of the last decade is ending, leaving an empty spot in the cerebral cable drama landscape. On the other hand, it’s one final chance to pull out all the stops, so there’s sure to be an endless stream of TV excitement. As the season premiere gets closer, we want to offer some guidance on how to throw an exciting Mad Men cocktail party. Since the series takes place over many years of Don Draper’s life, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by dozens of Mad Men episodes to look toward for inspiration, but we’ve extracted these cool party ideas to make your soiree a success.

Atmosphere

Dinner Party on Mad Men
Creating a swinging 60s atmosphere can be tricky. People today are so serious, and have a hard time tapping into their inner free spirit. Create mood lighting with low wattage and colored bulbs. You don’t need to buy new lamps, just swap out red, yellow, and orange party bulbs to give the space a warm, incandescent glow. Consider renting a fog machine to re-create a smoky haze. Next, find things around your house that have geometric shapes, and use them to decorate your party zone. Square flower pots, modern art prints, and even fish bowls can give your party space the sleek lines and retro feel of a scene from Mad Men. Finally, you’ve got to have great carpet. Place a colorful rug in the middle of your party space, or better yet, the biggest piece of shag carpeting you can find. With a few small adjustments, you can make any room feel like mid-century America.

Music

Megan Draper sings in Mad Men

Not everyone has Megan Draper available to sing live, so most parties will make use of a hi-fi stereo and a groovy playlist. There are so many classic songs from the 60s, but Mad Men definitely has a few favorites. Look for iconic tunes from The Beatles, Jan & Dean, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Ella Fitzgerald. Create a playlist that includes rock and roll hits, as well as sultry jazz standards. Try to combine well known favorites with lesser known B-sides to keep things interesting.

Food

 Appetizer Wine Plates
The food menu can be a challenge at any party, but this time, you’ve got it easy. Dinner parties of the 1960s were all about appetizers and finger foods. Some classics included deviled eggs, pimento cheese sandwiches, and olive platters. Look up recipes for things wrapped in bacon. Bacon-wrapped-everything was a staple of the 60s dinner party. For something sweet, go for wafer cookies, or pastries purchased from the grocery store freezer section. Sara Lee pound cake was one of the most popular desserts of the era, so slice one up for a no-hassle party treat.

Drinks

Dublin Triangular Crystal Decanter
You can’t have a Mad Men party without Mad Men drinks. It’s best to have a full selection of liquors, including gin, vodka, bourbon, scotch & brandy. Don’t forget bubbly drink mixers and fruit juices to add variety. A wide assortment of garnish is also important, so slice up plenty of citrus fruit and drain a jar of cherries to add flavor and color to dozens of classic cocktails. Be sure and stock lots of ice, and have several drink shakers on hand. Keep a bowl of salted nuts on the bar for an added 60s vibe. Create a menu with the recipes for a few classic cocktails for your guests to create throughout the night. Bonus: Everyone knows that Don’s go-to libation is the Old Fashioned, and here’s how you make one:

Ingredients:Personalized Rocks Glasses, set of 4

2 oz bourbon whiskey

Dash or two of bitters

Splash or two of water

1 pinch sugar

Maraschino cherry

Orange wedge

Mix bitters, sugar, and water in a double old fashioned glass, then add the cherry and orange wedge. Muddle together. Stir in the whiskey, and add ice.

Mad Men photo courtesy AMC Networks

These ideas will make your watch party the envy of everyone in the suburbs. Get out the ice bucket and turn down the lights. The Mad Men final season will be gone before we know it, so we better live it up while we can.