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Famed restaurateur Elaine Kaufman of Elaine''s dies at 81\
Elaine Kaufman, the brassy, legendary Upper East Side saloon-keeper whose eponymous watering hole became an eclectic meeting place for top New York authors, journalists, cops and celebrities, died today. She was 81.
The proprietress of Elaine's, who had been in failing health, died at 12:20 p.m. at Lenox Hill Hospital, said Cindy Carway, a spokeswoman for the Second Avenue restaurant.
"Writers have never come to my place to talk about literature," Elaine told Vanity Fair magazine last year in an article about her and her bar, which became memorialized in print and in Billy Joel's hit "Big Shot."
"They come to escape writing."
Over the past five years, Kaufman rallied against chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and pulmonary hypertension.
%E2%80%9CElaine was greatly loved by me and her entire staff. It was an honor and a privilege to have worked with her -- one of New York City%E2%80%99s greatest personalities -- for 26 years. Most of all, it was a lot of fun,%E2%80%9D said Diane Becker, who worked as the manager at Elaine%E2%80%99s restaurant.
%E2%80%9CElaine%E2%80%99s was the big love of her life and the restaurant will continue to be open for business at 1703 Second Avenue with her staff fully intact.%E2%80%9D
Born on February 10, 1929, she spent her childhood in Times Square, hung out backstage at theatres on- and off-Broadway and devoured the city's daily newspapers, including The Post.
"When I was a child, living in Queens ... The New York Post used to print a series of reproductions of famous paintings," Kaufman said once. "For a few dollars, you could buy good reproductions. And that's what my sisters brought into the house. They were on all the walls."
She opened Elaine%E2%80%99s on East 88th Street in 1963 and it instantly became the place where writers loved to down beers.
Kaufman took care of a group of writers and reporters who would come to define their generation -- including Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Gay Talese, Nora Ephron and David Halberstam -- serving them dinner and listening to their stories during all-night poker games.
Kaufman, an avid art collector, also appeared as herself in a number of films and Elaine%E2%80%99s was featured in the opening scene of Woody Allen%E2%80%99s classic film, %E2%80%9CManhattan.%E2%80%9D Most recently, she made a cameo appearance in %E2%80%9CMorning Glory,%E2%80%9D starring Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams.
Until she was hospitalized last month, Kaufman worked every day of the week, greeting patrons at the door and leaving at closing time in the wee hours of the morning.
"I live at the restaurant, I entertain at the restaurant," Kaufman told The Post in a 2009 interview. "I come [home] just for myself. This is where I unwind, where I read and watch my favorite Western movies on TV."
Kaufman was named a New York %E2%80%9CLiving Landmark%E2%80%9D by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2003. Her life was chronicled in the 2004 book, %E2%80%9CEverybody Comes to Elaine%E2%80%99s."
- She was a fucking cunt and everybody knew it. She was one of those people whose abrasiveness was considered part of their "charm," but there was no warmth beneath the surface. Yeah, "cunt" is the only word that fits.
- I''d heard from many that she was a nasty piece of work. Fawned over the celebrities who came to her place, but everybody else was to be treated like shit.
- R1, she was in an industry and location where she couldn''t possibly survive if she wasn''t one.
- R1 summed it up.
- Shitty woman. Even shittier food and service.
- She was nice to women writers but treated the male writers'' wives and girlfriends as people who would be gone soon.\
When I was a kid and first heard of her place, I wondered if NYC writers were such big babies, they needed some restaurant lady to cluck over them. When I''d grown and read a description of Norman Mailer in a food stained tuxedo in a phone booth calling everyone to find a dinner companion for there, I decided a lot of them were big babies, especially him.\
Still, some people need a hang out and she gave it to them. Here in LA, when writers want to get out, they may go out to eat as well -- just not to any hang out place. Well maybe Charles Bukowski, but he went more to hang out instead of needing to hang out in some place where everyone knew he was a writer.\
So we have no idea who our writers are.
- Is the place even still open?
- read the article, dumbshit.
- I live in the neighborhood and I have eaten there many, many times over the past 30 years and agree that the food was really just fair but I liked the pubby atmosphere, cheap prices and familiar staff. In all those visits I never saw anyone who would be considered a celebrity (well former Mayor Dinkins once) and never experienced Elaine''s reputed rudeness. I liked her and will miss her.
- The hope they bury her near the rear entrance of the cemetery!
- Despised by everyone - even those who kissed her ass.
- I don''t care enough to click on the link R8 and read the whole story; I care just enough to post the question.
- She was an ugly homophobic cunt. My parents used to hang out there in the 60s (before they got married) and they basically said as much. \
Elaine loved my moms sense of style in the beginning but once she noticed the male regulars giving her too much attention she got really hostile towards her.\
It culminated in a fight when my mom reserved a huge table for her birthday. When she and her guests (a lot of whom were gay men) arrived, Elaine said she had no idea what they were talking about and that they should all go somewhere else. She then made a comment about the "women" she was with. \
My mom - according to family legend - got enraged, knocked over a bowl of mints and told her to go fuck herself. Then her gay friends kicked Elaine''s garbage cans on to 2nd avenue. \
Apparently both my mom and dad were banned from there for life.
- I was shocked to find Elaine''s in my neighborhood when I moved there in 1988. I was like., "THIS is Elaine''s? In THIS neighborhood?"%0D\
It was a really gritty neighborhood at that time.
- Elaine was a obese and a heavy smoker. Too bad it took so long for the emphysema to kill her.
- Whenever I hear of this woman, I think of "Big Business".
- In a city full of celebrity restauranteurs, many of them assholes, others not, Elaine won''t be missed. Or even remembered within 6 months.
- i''m surprised the food didn''t kill her.
- We are supposed to be...impressed???
- [quote] We are supposed to be...impressed???\
It''s ok flyover queen. We know you''ve never heard of the place because it''s not a chain like Olive Garden or TGIFridays.
- they were all impressed by her halston dress!
- 20th Anniversary article in New York Magazine
http://books.google.com/books?id=7LIBAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA34&dq=frank conroy halberstam&pg=PA34#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Vanity Fair June 2009
- She was a one big canola cunt
- Buh bye, Fatass.
- [quote]Elaine won''t be missed. Or even remembered within 6 months.%0D\
Exactly. That shit hole of an eatery will be closed in a year or less.%0D
- [quote] Exactly. That shit hole of an eatery will be closed in a year or less.\
Says the queen typing through Cheeto dust from Mom''s basement in Kalamazoo.
- Actually I live in LA.
- From Steven Aronson''s profile of her in 1983:\
[quote]It''s a mostly male club, as a glance at the photographs of clubmembers on the walls will tell us. And a mostly macho male club. "Elaine discouraged the gay set by the simple expedient of refusing to seat two tables of men side by side," New York magazine reported in the pre-Stonewall Sixties. "They''re a thankless lot," says Elaine in the post-Stonewall Eighties.\
Aronson then goes on to quote - at length - Mimi Sheraton''s blistering takedown of the place in The New York Times.
- And a contrary story from Page Six about five years ago:
[quote]NOBODY'S ever accused Second Avenue restaurateur Elaine Kaufman of being prejudiced - but there was a time when her famed watering hole ejected homosexuals, including flamboyantly gay writer Truman Capote, a new book claims. Back in the 1960s, when Kaufman opened Elaine's on the Upper East Side, her partner was a "Village bar owner with expansion fantasies," according to William Stadiem and Mara Gibbs, authors of "Everybody Eats There," which chronicles the histories of some of New York's most celebrity-oriented restaurants. But that expansion did not extend to a clientele that included gays. "A few years into Elaine's success, she and her bartender-partner got into a fight when he wouldn't let Capote in. 'We don't serve fags,' was his excuse," the authors write. It was an attitude that Kaufman refused to accept: "Elaine turned around and bought him out, and soon such illuminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Tennessee Williams and Andy Warhol were joining Capote in what was more a salon, a party, than a conventional restaurant."
So it sounds like if you were FAMOUS and gay, you were cool with Elaine.
- Do mostly film people go there now, or just 60s writers who now are old?
- Anyone here eat in Elaine''s restaurant?%0D\
If so, how was the food compared to other Italian restaurants in NYC?
- Went twice in the 90''s. Yeah, the food was mediocre. Nothing you couldn''t get at a neighborhood Italian restaurant. Weird coincidence that I did sit next to film director Sidney Lumet one time, since I had just come from seeing one of his pictures over at the Baronet Theater a few blocks away.
- Morgan DeMarco, hired thanks to EEO quotas at WNBC-4 referred to Elaine as a "restauranteer."
- [quote]"They''re a thankless lot," says Elaine \
LOL, She has a point.
- Poor Elaine, she waddled when she walked.
- Elaine Stritch used to tend bar there. Putting an alcoholic in charge of the bar is not very smart.
- R30 where can I find that profile? Did a Google search but turned up nothing. If you have a link, please post. Thanks!
- From the 1981 Mimi Sheraton review...this line had me cracking up!%0D\
"It is hard to understand how chicken Parmigiana could become as poor as the version served here, inedible under a cheese topping that tasted downright soapy."
- r39 - I transcribed it from Aronson''s out-of-print book, [italic]Hype[/italic] -- a great time capsule of ''80s culture.
- She looks pretty much as I expected her to look. Her insecurities must have nearly eaten her alive.
- Let me guess - most of the disparaging comments towards this woman come from diseased gay men. No surprise there.
- Elaine treated celebrities well because she was a desperate wanna be who hoped some of the reflected glory would rub off on her. Everyone else she treated like shit. A true story:%0D\
Michael Braun who was a producer attached to the musical Titanic lost his credit on the show when David Bloom a con man who had been in jail never came through with a promised investment. When he couldn''t afford to pay for his dinner, Elaine berated him so harshly that he left the place in tears, a beaten man. He killed himself that night. Elaine was a swine, without the class of a pig.
Groped by Bobby Z
- R44 I''m not really defending Elaine''s reputation, because by most accounts she did seem pretty vile...but why don''t you do a little fact checking before posting your "true story"?
- I''m sorry, just because Elaine Kaufman had a little restaurant that a lot of artsy literary types hung out in doesn''t make her "famed".\
Yeah, she was pretty famous here in New York, but she was basically unknown to the world, like Patti LuPone or Elaine Stritch.\
I''m a New Yorker myself but even I realize New Yorkers tend to think everything and everyone here is naturally known all over the world. They aren''t.\
Anyway, RIP Elaine.
- Most regular people first heard of her when Woody Allen didn''t come fetch his Annie Hall Oscar at the Academy Awards because he was at Elaine''s instead.
- I don''t have to. I paid his check that night. Another true story. Bobby Zarem, her almost as fat closeted publicist used to invite male models for dinner which was comped but because drinks weren''t the boys had to pay for their own. Zarem never paid, nor got laid. You never saw anyone young or hip within a mile of the place.
- What city''s newspaper did you think you were reading r46?
- [quote] I transcribed it from Aronson''s out-of-print book, Hype -- a great time capsule of ''80s culture.%0D\
Damn, but you''re exactly right. I love that book. Whatever happened to Aronson?
- You realize that most of the "I hate Elaine" posts are only by 2 people? You also realize that they are suspect and silly? %0D\
She was in the restaurant business--and customers would not have returned as often as they did if she was what the couple of drama queens claim here. She provided an "atmosphere" and who cared if the food was mediocre (which by the way is a synonym for "average" and not "bad"). Her place was like Sardi''s, a rendevous for people who liked the fact they could relax and be themselves.%0D\
Ignore the hysterical queens here. One more thing.%0D\
Who cares about the Times restaurant reviews? Lol. What a silly occupation, writing about food.
- She may well have been a bitch, but she got this part right:\
"They come to escape writing."
- r 43: Nope, r 43! I''m in great health (and HIV neg). And yeah, Elaine was a crusty shitstain. %0D\
And now, she''s dead.
- [quote]but I liked the pubby atmosphere, cheap prices and familiar staff\
I can''t stand it when staff are familiar.
UES denizen who wouldn''t be caught dead there
- [quote]Apparently both my mom and dad were banned from there for life.\
Hers, or theirs?
- Why would "producer" Michael Braun go to Elaine''s or any other restaurant for that matter if he didn''t bring money to pay his bill? That makes no sense, and Elaine was right to yell at him. If that''s all it took for him to end his life, clearly he was on borrowed time anyway.
- [quote]Why would "producer" Michael Braun go to Elaine''s or any other restaurant for that matter if he didn''t bring money to pay his bill? \
The "favored" could run up tabs -- that is what she was best known for: allowing poor newbie scribes to charge meals and drinks until they made it big.\
When (If) she denied him this perk, she informed him he wasn''t on her good list.
- [quote] You realize that most of the "I hate Elaine" posts are only by 2 people? \
Oh Mary You poor, pathetic, delusional old wonk.
- Colson Whitehead has some pretty funny tweets about the banality and clubbiness of all those great memories of Elaine''s:\
[quote]"And Louise Lasser goes, ''I''ll have the scampi!'' and we all laughed. Everyone know you don''t get the scampi at Elaine''s!"\
[quote]Handed his menu, Michael Caine realized he had no bifocals. "No matter!" Elaine Stritch said,"order a hamburger!" We all laughed.\
[quote]"Truman took his opening and quipped, ''Just don''t let Polanski babysit!'' That was Elaine''s for you!"
- So Nobody Went To Elaine''s after the 80s?
- Eh, it was no Toots Shorr''s...
- The mourning continues in the New York Press--NY1 keeps talking about her as if she''s a deceased head of state. \
I don''t get it. There''s no shortage of fat, old, loud, overbearing women in New York.
- or on this thread, apparently
- Gay rights are women''s rights.\
Stop the violence against women on DataLounge.
- I agree. It is inappropriate to refer to Elaine Kauffman as a cunt. But it is entirely appropriate to refer to her as a shitstain, as that is gender-neutral.
- Please post more Elaine''s stories! The wackier, the better!
- [quote]Yeah, she was pretty famous here in New York, but she was basically unknown to the world, like Patti LuPone or Elaine Stritch.%0D\
I grew up in the 1980s in a small town in the middle of flyover nowhere and thanks to People magazine I knew who she was. %0D\
But then, gay people tend to pay attention to what''s happening outside our little worlds more than other people.
- Hatred of women is killing you.\
Gay men will not be free if women are not free.\
Stop the violence.
- I mostly hated her because she was a woman. I hate women!
- Queer teens are harassed and murdered and driven to suicide every day because of your contempt for women.\
Stop the violence.
- Re-reading the Aronson book and the chapter on Elaine. (Gore Vidal: "At Elaine''s, the chief emotion is envy. When you enter that room, you can cut the envy with a knife. Luckily, I have a knife.")\
Aronson quotes Esquire ("Elaine is a rare and beautiful gift of nature") and the New York Times ("Elaine is a patroness of the arts") while also calling her "a former 357-pound chalunka from Queens" and recalling the night Elaine made Henry Ford and his wife wait half an hour for a table. Elaine''s classy explanation? "She''s just a MIDDLE-CLASS ITALIAN."
- How long until the place closes for good, the building is torn down and replaced with a highrise?
- It closed less than 6 months after the old cunt died.
Where do tourists go now to gawk at "celebrities"? The Russian Tea Room is gone, too.
- [quote]Elaine made Henry Ford and his wife wait half an hour for a table. Elaine's classy explanation? "She's just a MIDDLE-CLASS ITALIAN."
And Elaine didn't appreciate the story of the Fords and her luck that he with his Italian wife wasn't like the rest.
If his forebears had won, Elaine would have been just a little pile of ash somewhere.
- [quote]"a former 357-pound chalunka from Queens"
Google leads to: [italic]Definition: to urinate in ones mother's mouth while jerking off a rhinosurous. Example: Many african tribes chalanka 5 times a day.[/italic]