A table for four at New York’s storied “Elaine’s” restaurant is available and no reservation is required. However securing that hard to get table and its four chairs from the iconic Upper East Side restaurant will probably cost you several hundred dollars. Tables, chairs and other items from the now-shuttered famed literary and celebrity haunt will be going up for auction on September 20th.
Doyle’s Auction house will host the auction featuring the contents of not only the restaurant, but also personal artwork, books, memorabilia, furniture, decorations, fashion and accessories that the legendary owner, Elaine Kaufman who died in December 2010, collected or was given.
Also part of the 250 lots being auctioned are works from Kaufman’s art collection including a photographic collage by West Coast artist Wallace Berman (est. $30,000-50,000) and other prominent artists including Andy Warhol, Reginald Marsh, George Segal and Helen Frankenthaler.
The auction won’t just feature characteristic items like barware, flatware and napkins. For the sports enthusiasts, Kaufman’s collection also features a baseball signed by 1986 world Series-winning Mets players Keith Hernandez and Gary carter (est.$150-250) and an official 1978 World Series baseball signed by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (est.$250-350).
William Bratton, who resides in New York City and was the city’s Police Commissioner from 1994-96, says there will never be a place like it again and that Elaine was “legendary”.
“She was there every night until it closed,” said Bratton. “The restaurant’s all-night hours were the draw for the local police who could come in at any time – but you had to eat.” he said. “Elaine wouldn’t let you just sit and drink.”
For Bratton the memories are personal, having celebrated his 50th birthday there and hosting a book party. Bratton says his wife plans to bid on “the Styrofoam carousel horse” that the restaurant displayed in the front window and which has a special meaning between him and his wife. His wife loves carousels so before they were married, he had them open the Central Park carousel in the wintertime for her, where he proposed.
The restaurant which was never highly regarded for its cuisine but celebrated in cinema, song and literature served its last meal in May. The uptown eatery was often the destination for the country's power elite from media and politics to entertainment and law enforcement.
While the food was widely regarded to be rather unremarkable, the restaurant found a permanent place in pop culture with it inclusion in scenes from Woody Allen's 'Manhattan' and the recent film 'Morning Glory,' as well as a notable mention in Billy Joel's 'Big Shot': "They were all impressed with your Halston dress / And the people that you knew at Elaine's."
For non big shots, however, Elaine's – and Elaine herself, could be some what inhospitable, relegating non-celebrities (if they could gain admittance at all) to an area nicknamed "Siberia" – far away from the glittery "line," along which was seated more her illustrious clientele. Of this practice, longtime restaurant newsletter writer and "Lutece" author Seymour Britchky wrote, "Elaine's (the restaurant) is famous for Elaine's (the proprietress's) icy, or at best cool reception of any customer she does not know. On her own territory Elaine was the boss, and she wanted everyone to realize it."
"For this endearing trait, (and it appears this alone) the literati made Elaine's their restaurant and Elaine their Buddha."
Owner Elaine Kaufman who died in December 2010 at the age of 81 from complications of emphysema was just as famous, holding court since 1963. Kaufman hosted over a star-studded scene that in its heyday, boasted writing royalty like George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, Gay Talese and Hunter Thompson as well as silver screen stars including Kirk Douglas, Michael Caine and Billy Dee Williams.
After Elaine Kaufman passed away she bequeathed her eponymously named restaurant and the two buildings it occupied, to her longtime manager Diane Becker.
“Elaine lived a long, happy and prosperous life” said Becker in a statement. “She lined the walls of her restaurant and home with artwork, books, photographs and memorabilia, some of which was given to her by the wonderful people she met night after night at her restaurant. I feel this is the best- and frankly only- way I know to share Elaine and those she cared about most- her Elaine’s family”.