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The Elaine I Knew

By Murray Weiss | December 3, 2010 6:27pm | Updated on December 4, 2010 9:19am
Elaine with a very welcome guest, Murray Weiss' dog Lola.
Elaine with a very welcome guest, Murray Weiss' dog Lola.
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Murray Weiss

By Murray Weiss

DNAinfo Contributing Columnist

So where does someone start to say how sad they are to hear their friend, the beloved Elaine Kaufman, is gone?

A legion of people who knew her will try to come up with a story that sums her up. The late, great comedian Alan King once said on evenings when he was alone, he would head over to Elaine's because he knew he was guaranteed the best possible company of all — Elaine herself.  

How true.  

There will be stories about everyone from Woody Allen to Jackie O to Bill Clinton hanging there.  But here's a tale that gives true insight into what an amazing person she was, and I am not embarrassed to say it involves a dog — more specifically my dog, Lola.   

I mentioned my pet a few times to Elaine. It usually was near closing time when I said I had to get up in a few hours to walk the dog. 

Elaine loved dogs and once had her own. She always urged me to bring Lola around. "Where's Lola?  How's Lola?" she would ask. She said it so often you'd think Lola was a celebrity. So one evening, I decided I would bring her.

There were pictures taken of Lola at the bar on a stool. There were photographs of Lola at the table. There was even a picture of Elaine with Lola. 

During dinner with Elaine and John Sabini, Elaine recalled how Tenneesee Williams used to come to her restaurant all the time with his dog. The genius playwright would place his dog on a chair next to him and tie a cloth napkin around his neck and they sat together dining.

"You can bring Lola here any time," Elaine said.   

It was Lola's only appearance, but certainly not mine. There were so many nights of conversation across nearly 20 years with Elaine and all kinds of interesting people, from the famous to the infamous.

One evening I was chatting about Pirandello with Dominic Chianese from the Soprano's and Elaine asked me to give my new friend a lift home. And another night, I was drinking champagne with a murderous henchmen for the consiglieri of the Gambino Crime Family

But the greatest thrill of my life was having a book party there. A hurricane was blowing outside that night, but the place was packed. Elaine had the the book jacket for "The Man Who Warned America" mounted near the front door.

The cover from an earlier book about Palm Beach did not fare as well. It migrated over the years from a spot in the front room to a place nar the bathrooms. She said she had me coming and going.

That was Elaine too.

When I first started showing up at Elaine's I, like all newcomers, was relegated to the bar. But that was fine with me because the bartender, Tom Carney, was one of those rare New York dispensers of libations and a rabid golfer.

Over time, however, Elaine warmed to me, and I moved out of the doghouse and into her wide circle of friends. She was a blessing for me.