- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Everyone went to Elaine’s _ and now they’ll have nowhere to go.

For regulars still mourning the death of Elaine Kaufman in December, the news that her namesake restaurant in Manhattan was closing on Thursday has been a double blow. They gathered one last time at the place where they ate so-so food while rubbing shoulders with the likes of Michael Caine and Woody Allen. And then they will be cast adrift.

“Half the people in this room are never going to see one another again,” said legendary writer Gay Talese, who added that Elaine’s had created a circle of people, many of whom had nothing in common besides the place itself.

“This is saying goodbye to one another,” Talese said.

“I don’t know what many of us will do,” said TV broadcaster Rikki Klieman, who was introduced to Elaine’s by her husband, Bill Bratton, a former New York City police commissioner and Los Angeles police chief. “I guess we’ll just have to stay home.”

Bratton held court in the packed room at “Jack Maple’s table.” Maple was the architect of CompStat, the system the New York Police Department uses to track crime. He sketched it out on a napkin at the table in 1994, Bratton said.

“You’re going to hear the term bittersweet a lot tonight,” Bratton said. “There will be plenty of stories told at these tables tonight and few more made.”

Elaine’s was synonymous with plugged-in New York for the better part of five decades. “And they were all impressed with your Halston dress and the people that you knew at Elaine’s,” Billy Joel sang. The restaurant inspired books titled “Everyone Comes to Elaine’s” and “Last Call at Elaine’s.”

For the regulars, Elaine’s was more than a scene. It was a family, a club without dues, a dinner party with a glittering guest list.

Ruth Westheimer, better known as sexpert Dr. Ruth, described the night as sitting shiva for the bar. Shiva is a Jewish bereavement custom.

“She went out of her way for people she liked,” Westheimer said of Elaine.

Loren Korevec played the piano at the bar from 1987 to 1999.

“It’s a kind of mourning _ this is never going to happen again anywhere,” he said as he greeted old friends including former longtime bartender Tommy Carney, 71, who had just arrived from New Jersey.

“It was so comfortable for us because we were on the inside,” said Kathryn Altman, who started going to Elaine’s in the 1970s when her late husband, film director Robert Altman, was riding high after “MASH.” “It was like a club.”

The club was not limited to boldface names. Dana Carey, who is director of event sponsorships for a trade publication, started going to Elaine’s as a young woman nearly 30 years ago.

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