Celebrities and bold names and the publishing elite made Elaine Kaufman's restaurant famous. But you didn't have to be a star to pass her personal test and join the inner circle of regulars.
Elaine Kaufman, the colorful restaurateur whose East Side establishment, Elaine's, became a haven for show business and literary notables, died Friday at the age of 81.
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?