More Than Memories to Keep Spirit of Elaine’s Alive

Not all of the memorabilia from Elaine’s, the Upper East Side restaurant that closed a couple of months ago, will be up for sale at an auction planned for September: The restaurant’s yellow-and-black sign and one of the tables that celebrities and celebrity-watchers prized the most are being donated to the New-York Historical Society, according to Diane Becker, the restaurant’s longtime manager.

“The Elaine’s sign hung over Second Avenue for nearly 50 years as a beacon welcoming anyone and everyone who wanted to have fun, if only for a night,” Ms. Becker said. “I want New Yorkers to remember the siren song of Elaine’s and all that Elaine and Elaine’s gave the city.”

Ms. Becker inherited the restaurant and the two buildings it occupies on Second Avenue after Elaine’s longtime owner, Elaine Kaufman, died at 81 on Dec. 3 of complications from emphysema. She said the two buildings remain on the market, as does Ms. Kaufman’s nearby apartment, which Ms. Becker also inherited.

Ms. Becker said the money would make a dent in the taxes on Ms. Kaufman’s estate.

The auction is scheduled for Sept. 20 at Doyle New York. The sale includes another table from the restaurant, Table 1, and posters and artwork from Ms. Kaufman’s apartment.

Ms. Becker said she had the sign taken down last week because the awning over the front window was vandalized. “Somebody got up there one night with a razor blade or something and cut out the ‘Elaine’s’ facing Second Avenue,” she said.

“Everybody pulled out a camera” when the sign was being removed, she said. “They all said, ‘It’s the end of an era.’ To anybody and everybody, I said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to the New-York Historical Society.”

Table 4, Ms. Becker said, was the “writers’ table.”

“People would come in alone,” she said, “and Elaine would put them there,” at what became a kind of constantly changing communal table.

So, at one time or another, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller and Bruce Jay Friedman — to name only four mentioned by Ms. Becker — were seated at Table 4. But Ms. Kaufman also put there a few people who were famous, but not as writers, like the director Michael Rudman.

“One year he came in to do Shakespeare in the Park,” Ms. Becker said. “He came in every night during the run, and he’d sit at 4 because that way, he’d never be alone.”

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