The other day I came across a 45-year-old issue of New York magazine. I quickly cracked it open and eagerly paged through expecting to find some journalistic gems. New York in 1969 was in the early golden days of its legendary Clay Felker era. Begun as an insert in the Sunday New York Herald Tribune, Felker and illustrator Milton Glaser had launched New York as a standalone magazine in 1968. Over the next decade Felker’s New York would redefine both the city to itself, magazine journalism in general, and launch the careers of the likes of Gloria Steinem, Tom Wolfe, and Jimmy Breslin, not to mention birth Ms. Magazine, which also began as an insert in 1971.
Sure enough the masthead was droolworthy. And the cover story about Charlotte Curtis, the New York Times’ “women’s news editor” — if you think snark was invented on the Internet circa 2005, think again — fascinating to anyone who’s ever felt trolled by the Style Section. (The cover itself being notable simply because with a bit of photoshopping it would not look out of place on today’s newsstands). But the real jawdroppers were the ads. Oh my.
If adverstisements are less a reflection of the way we live now than a sort of guidebook to how we think we should be living, the October 6, 1969 issue of New York magazine suggests alcohol was the yellow brick road to success, respect, and happiness. For men, anyway. And cigarettes as common and acceptable as coffee or soda.
It’s one thing, from our cage-free, grass-fed, artisanal vantage point, to watch Mad Men and know everyone drank like bottomless fishes, it’s another thing to see it advertised so blatantly. One full-page ad, run by the Restaurant Associates Industry, Inc., provides step-by-step instructions on how one might “be a drinking man.” Another reserves Tuesdays as the only day to drink their brand of scotch. Meanwhile, a French cigarette company advises buying their brand if you want to stand out at your local PTA meeting (that is, if they’re not too “rich” for your American tastes).
Unlike Mad Men (and much of today’s liquor ads, for that matter), where both vices are often coupled with sex, with the exception of the cover image there is nary a naked woman to be found in the magazine’s pages. Instead most of the ads seem to be — breathtakingly, unapolegetically—selling class to the aspirational masses. Just a drink, or a cigarette — or in the case of one full-pager for New York, itself, a magazine subscription, which promises to keep you from being mistaken for “country bumpkin” from Kansas (“even if you are”) — is all that’s keeping you from being one of the beautiful people. It’s sort of amazing we survived the Sixties and Seventies at all. Behold.
Before there was Manhattan Storage there was New York: “Look around you, these articles don’t exactly appeal to country bumpkins.”
Gauloises cigarettes: “If you have rich tastes you might even like them.”
Swipe right? With the exception of the Dewar’s bottle this wouldn’t be out of place as a Tinder profile. (This is Sam Waterston’s first wife, btw.)
(“But don’t neglect your drinking.”)