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Walter Dellinger, ‘Mad Men’ guru

Walter Dellinger wears many hats: head of the Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Clinic at O’Melveny & Myers’ Washington office, professor at Duke University School of Law, and former acting solicitor general, to name a few. Now, he’s added a new one – a fedora, if you will: he’s the expert online discussion leader for the Wall Street Journal. And the topic of the weekly digital chat? The AMC television show “Mad Men.”

Dellinger got the gig after his reader comment was spotted on an online discussion of the show on Slate Magazine‘s website. Now Dellinger heads up his own discussion each week after the show, which just began its fourth season, each Sunday night.

So what made Dellinger such a big fan? He explains in this week’s introduction:

“For me, the fascination is with the historical period in which it is set,” Dellinger wrote. “The time from 1960 when the first season began and to 1968 was a period of extraordinary transition in gender, race, politics and social culture. ‘Mad Men’ has thus far sought to capture both the literal reality and the ‘feel’ of that time from the vantage point of a group – New York advertising executives – whose very job it was to understand what is happening in the culture. That they so often fail to appreciate what is happening all around them is very much a part of that reality.”

He also noted that many of the show’s themes reflect his own experiences in the New York of the 1960s.

“I spent the summer of ’65 on Madison Avenue as a law clerk at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison,” Dellinger wrote. “I went to Paul, Weiss because I was troubled by the fact that almost all of the major Wall Street firms still refused even to interview Jewish law students. As a poor white kid from North Carolina who had almost never been to a really fancy restaurant, I was astounded by the lavish lunchtime drinking in the world of Manhattan law and business. My new bride, Anne (Maxwell) Dellinger was a technical writer and editor at a life insurance company about two blocks from the Time-Life building. She was one of the few (if any) women at her office who were not secretaries or cleaners. We have marveled at how accurately Mad Men recreates that period’s changing world of women’s roles. The treatment of what it was like to be gay seems to be extremely sensitive, and the shadow of Antisemitism is also deftly handled. It is not yet clear whether the show will have the same sensitivity to issues of race.”

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