Over ten years ago, I was in NYC from Los Angeles on my birthday weekend. Friends of mine had been out of town and when they returned they decided to take me to Elaine's for a celebratory birthday dinner.
Being a Sunday in August, Elaine's was a ghost town. The literati and glitterati set were all out of the city or out of the country. My friends and I had dinner and in the end, there were only two other tables left.
One held Ahmet Ertegun, and a very pretty young companion.
The other held Elaine.
When dessert arrived with birthday candles blazing, my friends started to sing; Elaine and Ahmet Ertegun joined in.
Two iconic New Yorkers singing Happy Birthday in one of the most Iconic NY institutions.
I was in Heaven.
So here I was over 10 years later, back at Elaine's. Around the corner from the apartment I was allegedly subletting.
Prior to today I had been excited about living down the street from Gracie Mansion, up the road from Elaine's. I did downtown. I could give a hoot about downtown. Anyway, uptown was going to give me more bang for my buck.
Except the prospective apartment might not be happening.
I needed documents according to my sub-landlord. W2's for the past two years. Bank Statements . Local Personal References. Letter from employer.
FOR A SUBLET? This is a rental building. This isn't a coop sublet. This is insane. OMG NY, you are testing me. I forgot what NY was like. It didn't help that my prospective sub-landlord had a better command of Portuguese than English.
This was supposed to be easy breezy. We had agreed that it would be a two month sublet with the option to sublet one more, and a lease takeover if I decided I wanted the place permanently.
After a two hour travel time from Southampton to the Upper East Side which gave me waaaaay too much time to think about the sublet, I tried my best to be upbeat. when I walked into Elaine's at the appointed time: 9:00 PM, the place was crazy busy. A waiter approached me and told him who I was to meet. No last name necessary, and he said AH! Yes! right this way, and showed me to the front and center table.
Oh, I love Elaine's.
The upperwall while waiting for the loo in the back of Elaine's
Dinner was animated, and later we moved to a bar table -- 11:30 and the place is packed. This ain't LA, that's for sure. Lawyers, stockbrokers, writers, politician types, actors - all co-mingling. Drinking. Yelling. Kissing. Hugging. Having FUN.
My dining companions with Elaine's portrait in the background
A woman fell off her bar stool (and really how she stayed on is beyond me, it was THAT crowded) and hardly a person blinked. She laughed, others joined in propping her back up. A gentleman at my table commented on the fact that she looked like she was having fun. I told him in LA chances are that would not be perceived as fun; it would be looked down upon. "she's a drunk" "pathetic" He looked at me in horror. Absolute horror.
The waiter was called over to discuss Elaine's prognosis. My friend had told me earlier that Elaine had been in the hospital for two weeks with pneumonia; the waiter said it didn't look good. "She's been in ICU for 2 weeks"
My friend was upset. Afterall, she had been coming here for over 30 years. Even after leaving NYC years ago, she returns four times a year, and this is her first stop. This is her home away from home. Elaine was a friend.
Originally my friend was thrilled that my sublet would be so close to her home away from home.
Now, I was having my doubts about the apartment; For a variety of reasons; the sub-landlord was insisting I had to meet with the landlord, and bring all sorts of paperwork. Then, it wasn't the landlord, but the management company. Why was a simple sublet turning into a big to-do? The sub-landord rescheduled the meeting it seemed a thousand times; I wouldn't know until the following Monday if I had the sublet or not. I was confused and frustrated.
Elaine was critically ill.
The next morning my friend called to tell me Elaine had passed away. She was returning that night to Elaine's with loads of other regulars to toast Elaine.
She told me, "That's it, it's the end of an era. No more. A part of NY has just died along with her."