If you notice a tragically underemployed Sterling Cooper art director strolling through AmericasMart downtown this weekend, you’re not seeing things.
Yes, that really is “Mad Men” actor Bryan Batt, who plays Sal Romano on the hit AMC drama. Batt and his partner Tom Cianfichi are in town to browse the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market for Hazelnut, their New Orleans gift and home furnishings shop.
In between all the drama at his Kennedy assassination-era, fictional New York ad agency and running a business, Batt has found time to write a funny, poignant tribute to his mother, Gayle Batt: “She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother” (Harmony, $24).
Batt will read from and sign copies of “Heavy” tonight at Outwrite Books in Midtown at 7:30 p.m.
In his “momoir,” Batt’s outrageous mother springs to life as a Scarlett O’Hara-spouting steel magnolia raising a family in New Orleans and fond of calling Batt “doodlebug.”
“Women and Southern women in particular have a way of conjuring up strength that men don’t possess,” Batt concedes laughing. “There’s a reason women are the ones who give birth. Since the book’s been out, my mother is playing the reluctant queen. She tells some people, ‘I can’t believe Bryan wrote about that.’ Then she tells others that she loves it. She’s playing both ends!”
Before Batt wrote word one, however, Gayle got full approval over any story that would be published, including a very “Mad Men”-esque, Don and Betty Draper-tinged chapter, titled “Infidelity Jewelry.”
After Batt’s mother learns of his father’s cheating, she, her mother Moozie and sister Vilma down a round of Bloody Marys and head for Adler’s jewelry store on Canal Street. Teaching Kobe Bryant a trick or two, Gayle picks out a pair of pair-shaped diamond earrings and a set of pearls and has the order billed to her husband’s family business.
When her husband John inquires about the jewelry store bag, Gayle replies: “Just a few baubles to ease my pain.”
When he asks how he’s going to explain the exorbitant bill to his dad, Batt’s mama replies: “I honestly don’t know or really care, but I somehow have a feeling he’ll understand, Johnny. Have you taken a good look at your mother’s brooch collection?”
Batt says he and his brother were outside riding bikes at the time. His mother recounted the private family story for him later.
“For many years, she wouldn’t talk about it and told me, ‘That’s in the past,'” Batt recalls. “It was very Don and Betty Draper though. And just like on ‘Mad Men,’ everyone was doing it but nobody discussed it.”
Speaking of the hit show set to premiere its fourth season July 25 at 10 p.m. on AMC, Batt doesn’t know what the future holds for Sal, his deeply closeted, married ad man character. Last season, Sal was fired from Sterling Cooper, setting off a flurry of angry blog posts from “Mad Men” fans.
“I have no idea what might be in store for Sal,” Batt says. “All I know is [creator] Matt Weiner has told me that Sal is not dead. But they’re shooting the fourth season now and I haven’t as yet seen a script. I’ve been amazed and thrilled by the [audience] reaction to Sal though. It’s been quite empowering and enlightening to portray such a great character.”