Monday, December 6, 2010

Jill Krementz Remembers Elaine Kaufman

Elaine Kaufman with George Plimpton at a Paris Review party hosted by Mr. Plimpton at his
east side apartment.
Remembering Elaine Kaufman
1929-2010

Elaine Kaufman,
owner of the renowned Manhattan saloon appropriately called Elaine's, died last week at the age of 81. Her obit appeared on the front pages of The New York Times and The New York Post because by the end of her life the woman who started out as a waitress from the Bronx was a famous as most of her clientele.

I photographed Elaine over the years starting in 1967 at a party hosted by George Plimpton in his apartment overlooking the East River. A year later George would have his wedding reception in the back room at Elaine's. There were many book parties over the years — the most memorable was in 1968 celebrating Frank Conroy's first novel, Stop Time. In 1978 I spent a few days with her, this time taking pictures for a feature in People Magazine. The last time I photographed Elaine Kaufman was November 18th, 2003 at a reception hosted by Sarah Plimpton, following George's memorial service.
Frank Conroy, Fred Seidel, Elaine Kaufman, Bill Styron, and Irwin Shaw at bar of Elaine's. The occasion was a book party celebrating the publication of Conroy's novel, Stop Time.
Elaine Kaufman with novelist Bill Styron.
When George Plimpton married Freddy they had their wedding dinner at Elaine's. Also pictured, actor Peter Fonda and a Paris Review editor, Peter Arder.
Elaine Kaufman with Terry Southern.
Elaine outside her restaurant under the famous yellow awning.
Elaine sitting at table with trademark red-checkered tablecloth.
Lunch time: Elaine sitting at a table in the back room (Siberia to the people who were seated there in the evening) and chatting with China Machado.
Generally up until 6 a.m. with her night-crawling clientele, Kaufman lounges in her bed till noon, then calls her fishmonger. Her Persian cat is named Baby.
Elaine works alongside her chef, Gianni Ciano.
Elaine adding a personal touch to her cuisine.
Elaine in the kitchen with her staff (l. to r.): Rogacino, Jose, Ronin, Franco, and chef Gianni Ciano.
Elaine in the kitchen. Her restaurant was better known for its clientele than its cuisine. The caption under this photograph in People Magazine read: She prefers the restaurant's food to her own cooking, but Elaine jokes that her chef has "off days when it could kill you."
A very svelte Elaine in 1980.
My last photograph of Elaine taken at her restaurant on November 18th, 2003. Sarah Plimpton, George's second wife and widow, had a reception there following a memorial service at St. John the Divine.
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz
all rights reserved.