(Kiley Armstrong, AP; Huffington Post) Elaine Kaufman was a 34-year-old waitress and restaurant manager from the Bronx when she opened her restaurant in 1963, serving unremarkable Italian food in a prosaic space on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. With the help of a public relations pal, a fondness for interesting people and a weakness for struggling writers, she turned the humble eatery into a celebrity hangout that attracted the biggest names in film and literature and left New Yorkers wondering: how do I get a table at Elaine’s?
Woody Allen opened his movie “Manhattan” with a scene set there. Billy Joel immortalized it in the song “Big Shot.” Stuart Woods, author of dozens of popular mysteries, begins almost every book with his hero having dinner at Elaine’s.
Kaufman died Friday at age 81 in Manhattan. As recently as a month ago, she had been working seven days a week until 2 a.m., a schedule she had kept for decades, hosting famous faces for dinner, drinks and poker games.
Although she counted many celebrities as friends, Kaufman had a soft spot for writers who were trying to make it big and often let them eat for free.
That crowd over the years included Woods, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Gay Talese, and they eventually paid her back. Read more.