I have recently become infatuated with Dorothy Parker. It started with this interview with her in the Paris Review and the next thing I knew, I had ordered a biography of her called What Fresh Hell Is This? and a collection of her work from Amazon in the middle of the night.
I’m about halfway through the biography now, and it is pretty clear to me that my friends and I are Fort Wayne’s contemporary answer to the Algonquin Round Table.
You’ll have to ignore the notion that the comparison casts me as Dorothy Parker since in this particular group, back when just four or five of us used to watch Mad Men on Sunday nights, I was the only female. I do not flatter myself here. Well, I don’t flatter only myself in that I do not feel that I am really anything like Dorothy Parker. My comparison doesn’t fit like a glove over each finger of the Algonquin Round Table hand. No one is Dorothy Parker anymore than anyone is Robert Benchley or Alexander Woollcott or any of the others.
My particular friend group originally, or perhaps just most famously, arranged itself not around a hotel restaurant but a TV show. That is why we are known as Mad Men Club. Just like the Algonquin Round Table didn’t have to be at the Algonquin Hotel in order to carry out its aesthetic, Mad Men Club needn’t be watching Mad Men in order to do its thing. For example, if we indeed gather to watch Aaron Sorkin’s new show, Newsroom, we will still be known as Men Men Club.
Sometimes the members of the Algonquin Round Table went to plays together, but Mad Men Club doesn’t go out very often. Sometimes we appear in public in smaller groups. Once, some of us went to the Philharmonic together, and last weekend, three of us went to the airport in the middle of the night.
Like the Round Table, Mad Men Club sort of sprang up accidentally—or “organically,” as member Alex Brown might say. I don’t know where the name came from, but it definitely came from us, while the Algonquin Round Table was likely labeled such by outsiders. That’s a difference between 2012 and 1920, I guess.
In March, we started gathering at the one house amongst us that has cable. I think it was me who initially invited myself to somebody else’s house, which isn’t my usual style but I was desperate for Mad Men. After that first episode of season five, we knew we had something.
They tell me it was a rousing good time.
Here’s how I know I’m not Dorothy Parker: She never drank gin.
Perhaps because Mad Men is such a good show or perhaps because we are such fun people, Mad Men Club quickly became my favorite thing. My friends are all creative types and sometimes they are harsh judgers of others’ creativity. Mad Men exists outside of that. It is the one thing we can all agree is exceptional. I’d like to harness that feeling and figure out how to apply it to each other. The thing that separates Mad Men Club from the Round Table is that Dorothy Parker and her friends supported each other creatively. They collaborated with each other and published each other’s work in all the fledging literary magazines they were always starting. Right now, we are only supporting Mad Men’s creative potential and triumphs and frankly it doesn’t need us.
I have a tendency to take things too far, to love things past their moment. I might be doing that with Mad Men Club as I fantasize about what it could be. What it is is enough, of course. If we started applying expectations to it, it might lose its organic quality.
It’s just that my friends are the smartest, funniest, most clever people I know and I can’t help but think of all the stuff we could do together. On most Mad Men Club nights, after the show is over, we linger because we really do enjoy each other’s company. (It isn’t about the show, are you getting that?) On such nights, the conversation sometimes turns to projects we could do together. Some favorites of mine are a comedy troupe modeled after the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, a convoy to Indianapolis to play some kind of mini-bowling game that I forget the name of, and ultimate Frisbee. (That last one is especially amusing because we are not exactly an athletic bunch.) So our ideas aren’t exactly “projects” so much as things we could do together in various public spaces, including the internet.
For the first fifty pages of the Dorothy Parker biography, the Round Table is made up of people who are struggling creatively and professionally. Eventually, these people achieve a degree of fame, due in no small part to each other’s influence. I don’t know that Mad Men Club has the potential to produce any Dorothy Parkers, but what if we could pretend it did?
The author of What Fresh Hell Is This? emphasizes over and over the fact that in the early days of the Round Table, its members were constantly in each other’s company. They ate lunch together, worked together, saw plays together, had dinner together, vacationed together, and of course drank together. Mad Men Club doesn’t have this, and really, I don’t think it should. What it does have, though, is that thing that happens at the end of the night, when some of the auxiliary attendees who trickle in and out have left and there are just five or six of us, sitting in the dining room while Danee makes tortilla chips (yeah, at Mad Men Club we have homemade chips) and we’re talking about music or Sam’s Club or a whole list of things I can’t remember because, hey, it was the end of the night. The point is that we don’t want to leave.
So cheers to Mad Men Club. You’re the people I’d want to go through Prohibition with.