Sorry, Mad Men‘s “Broadway Joe On Broadway” Isn’t Real
Mad Men is known for working real history into their plot lines; the characters can have a Zelig-like way of popping up in important historical movements. But sadly, the all-American musical extravaganza “Broadway Joe on Broadway” described in this week’s episode is not one of those moments. This particular television special starring football star Joe Namath never actually happened.
In the recent episode “To Have And To Hold,” accounts man Ken Cosgrove fumes over his father-in-law’s PR problems as an executive at Dow Chemical (Ken blurts that the company should just stop dropping napalm on people). In response, the ambitious media executive Harry Crane brainstorms a feel-good TV special sponsored by Dow, and starring none other than the Jets’ quarterback and sex icon Namath.
The concept is grounded in some historical fact. Dow was the target of numerous protests in the 60′s for manufacturing chemicals like napalm and Agent Orange. And Joe Namath was a media celebrity outside of football, and pursued a career in acting, but later than 1968, when this episode was set.
“Broadway Joe” actually appeared on Broadway only once, as a cast replacement for a starring role in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (not a musical). His nickname was supposedly given to him by Jets teammate Sherman Plunkett, and had to do with a photo of Namath on Broadway in Manhattan (and perhaps his flashy style).
Namath also acted in regional theaters, including in musicals like Damn Yankees. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Namath co-starred in Sugar, a stage musical adaptation of the film Some Like It Hot, with Mad Men‘s Robert Morse.
I bet a lot of audiences would have tuned in just to see if Broadway Joe could wear a dress and sing.