Saturday, April 20, 2024

Five Years Later, We’re Still Waiting for Elaine to Come Back


This is what people who used to go to Elaine’s say to each other on the occasion of an accidental meeting: “Where do you go now?”

It’s as if there’s a secret, and it must be shared.

Elaine Kaufman died five years ago on December 3rd. You’re asking, why did I wait to mention it until now? I just couldn’t do it. I thought about it, but it seemed like I needed more than a minute to think about Elaine, whom we miss so much.

A bunch of people did get together at Neary’s on December 3rd, organized by Peter Khoury of the New York Times. Neary’s is way east on 57th St. I was all the way downtown and west at some event. It was too hard to get there. So already you know what’s changed. Because back in the day, no matter where I was at 11pm, Second Avenue and East 88th St. was just a cab ride away.

Five months after Elaine died, the restaurant closed. The regulars know why it all happened, we discuss it regularly. There is a lot of anger. One day maybe the story will be told, how Elaine came to her demise. And then the restaurant, too. But truth be told, those months after her death were really weird. You’d sit there and kind of wait for her to come back through the doors.

And little by little, things started to disappear: the flat bread on the tables, the waiters. We were being sent a message.

But I digress.

Where do we go now? Nowhere. There is no way to recapture what Elaine gave us. She gave us home. And on New Year’s Eve, when dates didn’t work out and nothing you planned elsewhere clicked, you gravitated back to Elaine’s. The place was jazzed up with ornaments and lights and balloons. There was a golden cast over the mundane tables, and live music. People you saw all year were dressed up.

And there she was, Elaine in her tent dress, sparkling, holding out hope for the new year. “We’ve been waiting for you,” she’d say. “What took you so long?”

Happy New Year, Elaine.

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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