Elaine Kaufman, the proprietor of the famous New York watering hole, Elaine’s, passed away yesterday. The restaurant was famous for keeping rows of tables open for regulars – like Woody Allen, who featured it prominently in Manhattan. Elaine didn’t like having to explain why those tables were kept open, and it was rumored that she once punched a patron for asking. In its heyday it was such a star studded locale, filled with actors and literary figures, that when someone asked for directions to the restroom Elaine once replied “take a left at Michael Caine.” I’m going to let Jay McInenry’s quote, which ran in the New York Post, take it from here:
For an aspiring writer arriving in New York in 1979, Elaine’s eponymous restaurant on the Upper East Side was Mecca. It was the watering hole for the city’s literary lions, the guys that I’d grown up reading. And when I say guys, I’m being scrupulously accurate here.I mean, you might see Nora Ephron or Lillian Hellman there, but Elaine made it clear that she was running a boy’s club, a kind of literary frathouse. And admittance was strictly by invitation. The front tables were strictly reserved for the regulars, many if not all of them writers. George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, Gay Talese, Robert Stone, Willie Morris, Peter Maas and Hunter Thompson were often in attendance. Directors were also welcome — Robert Altman and Woody being among the charter members.
And now that chapter is closed, and there are only young bum kids at Tom and Jerry’s and the Ace Hotel. Rest in peace, Elaine Kaufman, the city will never see another place quite like yours.