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Remembering Elaine Kaufman

Remembering Elaine Kaufman


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News of Elaine Kaufman's death is making the rounds. Celebrity photos are up, and some are discussing the food quality (check out the Elaine's menu). Fact is, even if you've never sat with Elaine but have been to the restaurant, it's likely you have a story you remember. It's just that kind of place. One piece not to be missed is an appreciation written by Times editor, Pete Khoury, who is the reason why a much younger version of this writer had the fun experience of sitting with this New York icon on several occasions about a decade ago.

For the definitive take there's The New York Times obit for Elaine by Enid Nemy, and one in the New York Post. Below are notable quotes from Elaine, and a few facts from A. E. Hotchner's Everyone Comes to Elaine's.

According to Hotchner

Woody Allen said that Rod Steiger once kissed him on the lips at Elaine's.

The night the Rangers finally won the Stanley Cup, the entire hockey team came in at 3 A.M.and drank an incredible amount of beer out of it at Elaine's.

It was also the place that Reggie Jackson went the night after he hit his famed three home runs in the World Series.

Frank Sinatra once supposedly refused to shake Mario Puzo's hand at Elaine's.

Elaine Quotes

“Wherever we are is the best table, baby.” — Vanity Fair

“If hookers were banned from New York restaurants, half of them would close overnight!” — Vanity Fair

“Writers have never come to my place to talk about literature,” Elaine explained. “They come to escape writing.”

“What do they talk about?”

“Money and girls, mostly.” — Vanity Fair

"I live at the restaurant, I entertain at the restaurant. I come [home] just for myself. This is where I unwind, where I read and watch my favorite Western movies on TV." — New York Post

On Willie Nelson: “He kissed all the women at the bar.” — The New York Times

“I’ve lived just about the most perfect life,” Ms. Kaufman said in 1998. “I’ve had the best time. If I wanted to do something, I did it. Designers designed my clothes and did my apartment. I had house seats for the theater. I was invited to screenings and book parties. I’ve had fun. What else can you ask in life?” — The New York Times

Things You May Not Know

Elaine made appearances in at least seven TV shows, documentaries and movies.

Jay McInerney (whose remembrance can be read here) became 50% less unctuous at Elaine's.

In 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg pushed to ban smoking in New York City's restaurants Elaine penned a piece in The Times, "It's New York. It's Elaine's. Let Our Patrons Light Up."

Elaine appeared on Charlie Rose as part of a remembrance of George Plimpton.

From the Archives: Elaine Kaufman Versus Celebrity Photog Ron Galella


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


Elaine Kaufman Remembered

Back in the day when writers were king, Elaine's was the place for book parties. That's how I first came there, to celebrate new publications by George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut. Bunches of us cabbed over from director Robert Altman's memorial service at Radio City Music Hall, to hang out and reminisce with his widow Kathryn, with actors who all cherished the memory of working with him, Lily Tomlin and Marisa Berenson among them. Everybody loves Elaine's (to echo the title of a book about her legendary restaurant) for these memories of a bygone era, now officially marked by Elaine Kaufman's passing.

More recently, Patrick McMullan had a gathering there with all the tables pushed aside and banquettes set up for lounging. The downtown Warholians came uptown to Elaine's. Bobby Zarem entertained clients there and I remember stopping by the table chatting with James Franco at a time when he was offered the script of On the Road, in a previous incarnation, before the project went to Walter Salles to direct. One night I snapped a shot of Elaine with Michele Lee showing off a ring, a gift from Elaine. The place was as important for industry updates, as it was home to Elaine's friends.

On a random night, Elaine would be there, a grand pasha. She loved my pal Roger Friedman who always had his birthday there, and she would send over a special cake, a special bottle of bubbly. Or course she was generous, but most memorable was her rancor. Seeing stragglers work the room, she would caution them against sitting unless dinner was ordered at once. I'm told she could be violent, expelling offenders to Second Avenue, but I never saw her that way.

For me, the bark was worse than the bite. She pegged me with her owl eyes to make sure I knew the score. She cautioned me against toasting with a glass of water. That's bad luck, she instructed. The glass had to contain something intoxicating, some brew. And one night I made the mistake of asking her what was good. The veal chop she said without missing a beat -- insisting upon the most expensive item on that night's menu, one that would ensure its place around a person's heart when eaten before bedtime. Insulting her, I ordered "Dani's salad" an antipasto salad I named for a French journalist who used to ask it: fresh arugula, cheese and salami, a meal that I thought would be less heavy for 'round midnight. Winking, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted. I wish I had ordered the veal chop. Even as she scolded me, there was always a friendly edge. While the food could be merely okay, the nourishment was always great.


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