Don those skinny ties and freshen up, it is Mad Men season. The highly anticipated season six of Mad Men is sure to break new ground, but since we have yet to know the year the show will be based in, let’s start where we left off. To throw a great Mad Men season premiere party you need a couple of things: friends, atmosphere and food. Let’s just assume you have the friends part covered and start with atmosphere, shall we?
To throw the ultimate Mad Men season six premiere party, there are a nine essentials to nail down, as follows:
- Music: Since music was one of the biggest reflections of 1960s culture it comes first on our list. If you are a fan of the show you may already have a record player, but if not, ask a friend to bring one over. Next you want some great music to play. If you need records too, there are always local record shops happy to sell you some 45s (vintage singles). After all, it would not be very Mad Men of you to have a iPod playing the songs. However, if that is all you can find, it will do. Look for some of the billboard top 40 songs from the mid-1960s. If you are able to get a record player it is not a bad idea to pick up a copy of Jessica Pare singing Zou Bisou, Bisou on vinyl to really set the scene.
- Items from the set: What? How can I buy items from the show? You cannot. You can, however, find show-related items at local vintage or antique stores. In a recent excursion this weekend I went to four vintage shops and found a glass bottle of Patio, a lucky strike ad, a tie bar, a matchbook from a vintage Hilton Hotel, some skinny ties and a chip bowl made out of a 1960s Rolling Stones record. To throw a great Mad Men party you have to get creative, like Draper. Sometimes that means rummaging through someone’s old stuff. And yes, it is always worth it.
- Dress code: Set one. It is not only fun for a change but it keeps the atmosphere in check. If you do not want to buy clothes chances are you have something you can pull out of your closet that will fit the bill. Just watch the show for five minutes and you will get tons of ideas from Janie Bryant’s creative costume designs. Speaking of Bryant, if you do not have anything in your closet, you can either go back to the vintage shops or pick up something from Janie’s new Banana Republic Mad Men collection. If all else fails, no jeans.
- Taste of the times: No pizza tonight folks. The food should reflect the era as well. That is not to say you must have a pot roast and baked Alaska. Just make sure that food ideas come from things that were popular or at least available in the 1960s. Assuming you are from a non-smoking household, grab a couple of packs of candy cigarettes. Remember, this party is themed to stand out from a normal party at your house. Put a bowl of nuts out, unless you can find of bag of Utz potato chips. As a fan of Mad Men you may very well know, ‘Utz are better than nuts.’
- Remove the screens. Your TV is fine, of course, but leave smartphones and computers out of sight. You may actually remember how to interact with people without all of the modern distractions. Having a vintage phone in the kitchen would complete the look. This may be easier to find than you realize. I was able to find a mustard yellow rotary dial phone in my parent’s basement just a few weeks ago.
- Glimpse of the past. Achieve a glimpse into life in the 1960s by placing out a few vintage magazines on the ottoman. If nothing else, you and your friends will have a good laugh at all of the new and improved items that were all the rage back then. In my same excursion over the weekend I picked up 1966 editions of Life, Motor Trend, and Better Homes and Gardens magazines.
- Set the DVR. Two reasons here. The first is because if you miss any part of the episode while hosting the party you will probably want to catch up later. As an example, I think my wife and I watched a total of 10 minutes of the Super Bowl this year between the two of us. A second reason to set the DVR is to have some television on in the background. You can either play episodes of Mad Men season five from early morning reruns on AMC or 1960s programs that are currently on TV such as Dick Van Dyke, The Donna Reed Show, Andy Griffith, Bonanza, or Bewitched.
- Keep the party going. Cards were a popular way for adults to pass the time is years gone by. If you do not know how to play bridge, or you think it is just an efficient way to get over a body of water, charades was another popular game. You can also wander down to the art department and get some colored pencils for a lively game of Pictionary. Finally, as in Season 2 episode “The Jet Set,” you could play a game where one person names an international city and the next person has to use the last letter to name the next city, and so forth.
- Bar in your living room. I saved the best for last. You have secretly always wanted to do this and now you can; put a bar in your living room. Stock it heavily and get some tasty recipes from yesteryear. Start with the Mad Men cocktail guide or just do a little Google search for some of the classic drinks. Heineken beer could also be on hand to pay homage to Betty’s around the world dinner party from the Season 2 Episode “A Night to Remember.”
The key is to have a different party-going experience. Try not to get wrapped up in the same party ideas, but please leave the John Deere riding lawnmower in the garage. For more tips, see the Mad Men Party Planner or watch any of the last five seasons of Mad Men for inspiration. And remember, no talking about the baby and Don gets the big steak.