A Real ‘Mad Men’ Episode

Dear Diary:

The new TV season is upon us. While many viewers look forward to new episodes of fictional “Mad Men,” there are many real-life ad agency characters who never make it to the final shooting script. The stand-in for Tony the shoeshine guy is a prime example.

At the New York City ad agency I worked at during the era portrayed in “Mad Men,” Tony showed up every morning, rain or shine, heat wave or cold front. Making his way unobtrusively from floor to floor, he tapped gently on every office door and, in a rich accent, asked, “Shoeshine today?”

One morning, the familiar tap on my door was followed by a voice whose DNA was strictly Big Apple.

I looked up to see a 30-something young man with Tony’s shoeshine box in hand. Surprised, I asked if Tony was O.K.

“Yep,” the young man replied, “I’m just filling in for my dad.” He was not only Tony’s son, but also a New York City schoolteacher on summer break.

“The only way I can get my father to take some time off is to promise I’ll take care of his customers,” he said.

As I said, there’s never a scriptwriter around when you need one.


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