Elaine Kaufman, the owner of the famous literary salon, Elaine’s restaurant on New York’s Upper East Side, died on Friday after suffering from chronic heart disease for the last five years. She was not only an incredibly important person in New York’s publishing world, but she was also an important person in my life.
Elaine Kaufman was a huge supporter of writers of all kinds and of those of us who worked with them. I remember well being taken to Elaine’s by my father, Oscar Dystel, then head of Bantam Books, when I was a young girl and he was one of her regular patrons. And, I remember, when I finally followed him into the publishing biz, spending considerable time there.
We had our DGLM holiday dinners there; I took many authors there for dinner over the years, and I held my own family celebrations there—the last one being a high school graduation party for my son Zachary last June, which Elaine helped me to plan.
Elaine was larger than life in every way. She was generous (everyone knew that she would pay for the dinners of writers who were down on their luck); she brought people together (she introduced me to Jerry Brown, California’s new and former governor and to Scott Rudin, the award winning film and theatrical producer); and she was constantly opining on one thing or another. Yes, she was enormously generous in every way—several years ago she gave my husband and son tickets to opening day at Yankees Stadium—and, I believe, an important icon in our community.
Elaine Kaufman will be missed by all who knew her, me included. One obituary said on Sunday, “New York will never be the same.” So true.