Famed Restaurateur, Host to Countless A-List Celebs, Elaine Kaufman Dead at 81 NY Daily News

Elaine Kaufman, who gained fame in her own right while playing host to countless literary and entertainment figures during her long tenure as owner of the New York eatery Elaine’s, has died, the New York Daily News reports.

Kaufman, whose longtime customers included Jackie Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Jack Nicholson, Woody Allen, George Steinbrenner and Lauren Bacall, died Friday afternoon at a New York hospital due to pulmonary problems, the story reports. She had been in poor health for five years.

Kaufman’s Upper East Side restaurant was a gathering place for the literary elite, including Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Gay Talese and Hunter S. Thompson, the story reports.

Countless stories of offbeat celebrity moments are set at Elaine’s, including Jackie Gleason unexpectedly slipping behind the bar to do his Joe the Bartender bit and Steinbrenner, a regular at the restaurant, being turned away at the door the night his Yankees beat the Mets in the Subway Series.

The opening to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” was shot in the establishment, and Baryshnikov and Nureyev once performed an impromptu dance number there, the story says.

Kaufman befriended many of her celebrity customers, and once traveled through France with Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollock, the article reports.

Plans for a memorial in the new year are pending.