Mad Men has been repeatedly praised for its accurate depiction of the period. It turns out they often shoot in or with real historical buildings or materials, according to a recent interview that the show’s creator Matthew Weiner gave the insightful Preservation magazine. Unfortunately, this doesn’t save the settings from being discarded to allow for newer construction; for instance, Weiner’s favorite shooting location, a restaurant named La Villa Basque in “The Suitcase,” was completely redone and renamed shortly after the filming crew left.
La Villa Basque, in Vernon, CA, was notable for its age (it was built in 1960), ties to the Basque community in Los Angeles, and unique approach to its mixed offerings. The restaurant had a dining room, coffee shop, banquet hall, and a lounge, with each of these components having its own entrance. Owned by Mayor Louis Malburg, the restaurant’s future became uncertain when he was found guilty of voter fraud and conspiracy.
Thus, new owner Doron Dahan, who was responsible for the renovation, told the LA Times that he performed the ultimate act of preservation by saving the restaurant from being destroyed completely. Still, though the interior of the new “La Villa Basque Viveré” retains a hint of the original atmosphere, it’s difficult to call the restaurant well-preserved.
Weiner’s interest in preserving places can be seen within Mad Men through protagonist Don Draper’s interest in design and environment, yet it also extends outside of the show. He has worked frequently with his wife, an architect, and the LA Conservancy in attempting to save buildings in the area of all different styles of architecture. Though he isn’t always successful, let’s hope that Weiner’s efforts at establishing authenticity within Mad Men inspires more people to think critically about history, location, urbanism, and how they all intersect.