Friday, May 24, 2024

Elaine Kaufman Gets an A List Memorial


I was AWOL yesterday for most of the day, producing a memorial celebration for our late friend Elaine Kaufman with veteran TV producer Fred Rappoport. And what an afternoon! The erudite long time Elaine’s patron Dick Cavett handled hosting duties, and Elaine Stritch, Liz Smith, Gay Talese, Sports Illustrated’s Terry McDonell, and James Lipton were among the illustrious speakers. Their backdrop at Merkin Concert Hall was an incredible reproduction of the Elaine’s bar that was conceived and constructed by Fred Gallo of PRG Productions–he does all the big Broadway shows. Michele Lee and Lucie Arnaz each sang, with Ron Abel and his band backing them up.

The show went on for a pretty fast moving three hours–Stritch, coming in at the end, joked that she might have to take an insulin shot on stage. But Stritch also pretty much stole the show with her stories about bartending at Elaine’s early in her career–and serving one man 37 drinks in one night! There were great stories from restaurateur Joe Allen, as well as mystery writer Carol Higgins Clark, famed NY rock deejay Carol Miller, Bill Bratton and Rikki Klieman, New York Yankess president Randy Levine, New York Times metro editor Pete Khoury, and Father Pete Colapietro. Long time head waiter Gianni Adamo and bartender Alex Gregg got standing ovations. There was a touching photo slide show at the end from Jessica Burstein, set to a medley of Ella Fitzgerald  singing “‘S Wonderful”  and Kenny G playing “Auld Lang Syne.” It was very sweet.

Later, at the after party in PJ Clarke’s downstairs private room at Lincoln Center, Josh Gaspero and Jenine Izzi, two faithfuls, announced the formation of the Elaine Kaufman Foundation for young writers. And what a fun party–Michele, Lucie, “The Sopranos” star Dominic Chianese, and Father Pete serenaded the crowd with a Capella renderings of their favorite songs– Michele sang in Yiddish, Lucie in Hawaiian, and Dominic in Italian. Elaine would have loved it, and of course, demanded that everyone order dinner!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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