The problem with Mad Men for Pop Pilgrims is that most of the show’s most memorable scenes have been shot on a set in downtown Los Angeles. The production doesn’t do a ton of location work, and when it has, it hasn’t been for iconic scenes. We thought for some time about where we’d go for Mad Men, and consulted a couple online guides, but nothing grabbed us.
Until the season finale of season six. Again, the season finale of season six, so come back to this episode when you’re caught up on Mad Men if you don’t want anything spoiled.
The whorehouse where Don grew up appeared several times over the course of the season via flashback—what our Todd VanDerWerff called “Lil’ Don in Whorehouse Follies”—but in the season finale, Don takes his kids to the house, showing them for the first time who he really is. The powerful final shot ranks as one of the most striking in the history of a show that has its share of memorable scenes.
It didn’t take long for fans to find the house after the finale aired on June 23. It may not have been all that difficult to find, because no other block in Los Angeles resembles that stretch of Carroll Avenue, about 10 minutes from downtown. As the historical markers note, the area has the highest concentration of Victorian houses in Los Angeles—and not just any Victorian houses. Turns out Mad Men was just the most recent production to visit the street, as a person who lives in Don’s home wearily told us. Directly next to the Mad Men house is the house from “Thriller,” and down the street is the house from Charmed. It’s a famous block, and it doesn’t look like anywhere else in Los Angeles.
Viewers wouldn’t be able to see the “Thriller” house in Mad Men because it was covered by a CGI housing project. Our guest for this episode, Emmy-winning Mad Men writer Erin Levy, told us they used a green screen to get the reverse shots of Don and the kids’ faces as they looked at the house. In the episode, there’s a parking lot or something behind them, but in real life, it’s another nice Victorian house—not quite the same effect of late-’60s squalor.
The people who live in and own the house haven’t been especially excited to find it thrust into the spotlight. One of them told us people come up on the porch and take photos and generally walk around like it’s a park, not private property. Other people who own famous houses experience the same problem, as we’ve seen in Pop Pilgrims. The guy who owned the house from Vertigo didn’t mind people coming by, but the people who own Kurt Cobain’s old house have everything fenced, gated, and monitored by video cameras. The Let It Be house was reasonably accessible, but the housing project that’s the birthplace of hip-hop was a lot trickier.
While we were in Los Angeles, we went by the house that served as the exterior for the Draper residence during the show’s first couple seasons. It’s located in Pasadena, not far from Doc Brown’s house in Back To The Future. It didn’t seem to get a lot of traffic, at least while we were there, so maybe the people in the would-be whorehouse can take some solace in that—unless something else happens there next season. Then it may just be out of their hands.