When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of gas.
The months leading up to the Emmy Awards are rife with FYC and promotional events. But save the occasional deal for green juice, none have spoken directly to one of my favorite all-American past times: getting into a line — and risking late-90s “Tickle Me Elmo”-shoppers-on-Black-Friday levels of bodily harm — for a good deal.
So, with a schedule in hand, a working knowledge of (and stamina for) L.A. traffic and the chutzpah of Midge Maisel herself, I headed into Maisel Day. The plan was to score as many deals as humanly and traffic-ly possible, although if I nabbed three, I would consider it a success. Here’s how it went.
Time: 6:30 a.m.
Deal: $2 for a “Mrs. Maisel”-inspired look at Drybar
Wait Time: 30 minutes
My first stop is at a Drybar location in tony Brentwood. I join a handful of twentysomethings — mostly UCLA students — who have been in line since 6 a.m. Nobody has an appointment because we assume they’re taking “walk-ins only” per the website (and later confirmed by a paper map given to us by a Maisel Clone — more on them later). This is, apparently, outdated info; appointments had to be “booked in advance.” When doors open at 7 a.m., we are summarily turned away. An inauspicious start to the day, both for me, and for my sad, now non-Maisel-inspired hair.
Time: 7:30 a.m.
Deal: $2.50 for a full-face makeover at Blushington
Wait Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
I head next door to Blushington for a makeover, a service that typically costs $60. But before I can do that, I spend half-an-hour driving around a four-block radius trying to find better parking. Street cleaning in the immediate area is on Thursday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00, so I have to grapple with the ultimate parking pickle: either park far away on a non-street-cleaning block and get in line late, or find meter parking that I can only stay at for one-hour because parking is a sport at which you will always always lose. I go for the first option.
I get in line with the same ladies who were turned away with me at Drybar. Maybe Maisel Day is really about all the friends you make along the way. The vibe is pleasant and cordial. There are moms with their young daughters and more than a few designer bags in tow, which reminds me of a proverb my mom used to say to me: “Rich people love free sh–.” Or something like that. After over an hour of waiting, I sit down to my makeover, which takes about 20 minutes.
Time: 9:15 a.m.
Deal: $0.30 per gallon gas up to 20 gallons at Chevron in Santa Monica
Wait Time: Still waiting
By this time, Variety intern Anna has joined me. Our next stop is what, for many, would be the raison d’etre of Maisel Day: super discounted gas. The station’s location — right off the exit of a major freeway — made it possibly one of the worst places on that side of town to hold a promotion, so I have no expectations of getting any gas.
And we don’t. Police have blocked off streets and traffic would become so gnarled on the 10 West Freeway, the promotion would be shut down early.
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Deal: $0.30 malted milkshakes at Cafe 50’s
Wait Time: 30 minutes
Cafe 50’s is exactly what it sounds like: A kitschy diner with floor-to-ceiling Americana from the era. There isn’t much of a line when we place our orders for one strawberry and one vanilla milkshake. At this point, I think I need to explain who I lovingly refer to as the “Maisel Clones.” They’re the exceptionally photogenic promotional models in bright pink t-shirts and A-line dresses handing out maps and plastic mini-toilet plungers at every stop. Throughout the day, I’ll hear them explain to huffy customers that they “don’t actually work for [fill in the blank place],” and they’re just hired for the day. One asks me to tag her on Instagram (I don’t). End explanation of Maisel Clones.
We wait half-an-hour for shakes, long enough to see a young woman in glasses and hiking sandals complain about waiting too long for her order; an older Caucasian man in a Hawaiian shirt and boasting the most epic dreadlock (singular) I’ve ever seen puts in his for a vanilla one. Say what you want, there is more diversity on Maisel Day than there is on the actual show, and I AM HERE FOR IT.
Time: 11:09 a.m.
Deal: $0.99 “Maisel” pastrami sandwich at Canter’s Deli
Wait Time: 25 minutes
This is probably my favorite stop of the day, not only because I love Canter’s but also because the waitstaff seem to have this down to a science. The line for dine-in service moves quickly. We overhear a gentleman who looks not unlike Ronnie from “Jersey Shore” talk excitedly about how he will be getting “a pastrami and, like, three beers.” Another young woman attempts to explain to her male companion the significance of the deli in the show “because the family is Jewish, and she goes to the deli a lot.” He seems to have trouble understanding, so, exasperated, she just stops. The table behind us asks if there’s a vegetarian option (there isn’t). L.A., never change.
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Deal: $0.59 hotdogs at Pink’s
Wait Time: n/a
We do a quick detour to Pink’s to check out the line, which looks like… Pink’s on any other day, minus the Maisel Clones. Moving on.
Time: 1:15 p.m.
Deal: $0.50 for a croissant at Dominique Ansel Bakery and $0.25 macarons from Laduree, both at the Grove
Wait Time: 3 minutes*
People love to hate the Grove, an outdoor shopping center The New York Times once described as a place where “only your money is not pretend.” These people are wrong. Not only is there a trolley system that can take you, like, 100-feet from one end of the mall to the other, there is a Nordstrom with an exceptionally clean(ish) bathroom, a pretty nice Wetzel’s Pretzels and one of the last Barnes & Nobles in existence. Sadly, by the time we get there, what’s not in existence are the deals we’re looking for: The bakery has sold out of discounted croissants, and there are no more 25-cent macarons at Laduree. Bummer. An elderly woman berates a bakery employee for “wasting her time because the flyer said it would be on until 7 p.m.” I can only audibly sigh and head to the Starbucks on the third floor of Barnes & Noble to buy a bottle of water because we’re going through a heat wave, and I’m pretty sure my lightheadedness is from a combination of dehydration, milkshakes and pastrami.
*How long the wait was at Barnes & Noble
Time: 2:20 p.m.
Deal: $1 tickets at the Hollywood Improv
Wait Time: 0 minutes
We breezily walk up to the box office at the Hollywood Improv and nab two $1 tickets to a show later that evening. The woman who issues our tickets explains that even though they only cost a buck each, we will be obligated to the two-drink minimum once we get in, fine print that seems so fine, I can’t even find it on the website. Maybe my eyesight is bad.
Time: 2:45 p.m.
Deal: $40 for a one-night stay at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Wait Time: n/a
We approach two Maisel Clones standing in front of the hotel entrance who promptly offer us maps. When I was in line at Blushington earlier in the day, I met two ladies I’ll call Marine Biologist No. 1 and Marine Biologist No. 2. Marine Biologist No. 1 ended up bailing on the Blushington line to try to get a room at the hotel before they sold out, only to later call Marine Biologist No. 2 to say the line was wrapped around the block, and that she couldn’t find parking and was heading to work. The promo models inform us that the rooms have been sold out since 9:30 and that they were re-directing everyone to Canter’s and Pink’s because those places still had, uh, inventory. A hotel source later tells me that people had started camping out at 3:00 a.m.
Time: 4 p.m.
Deal: $2 manicures at Bellacures
Wait Time: 4 hours (but also n/a)
Because of labor laws and such, I drop our intern off at the office and snake my way back across town. The goal is to top off my “marvelous” (?) day with a $2 manicure. Only, I don’t because a receptionist tells me that the wait is between three and four hours long, I can’t get on the list, and there have been people waiting almost all day. One of those people is Diana, a hardcore “Maisel” (but mostly Zachary Levi) fan who took the day off to trek from Studio City to West Hollywood and, finally, to Santa Monica for deals. She’s been waiting for four hours to get a manicure, and the cluster of women also waiting, some with small children, have been doing the same. No one I talk to has plans of leaving; they’re in it to win it. And I tip my proverbial pillbox hat to them. I start to think about what all this says about inequality in America, about who benefits from consumer-driven promos like Maisel Day, about how, as one colleague puts it, it all costs “1/1000th of a Bezos.” I start to spiral until I realize that I’m. Also. Just. Tired. A “marvelous” day it is not, but a mostly OK one, it is.