ink-stained wretches

Elaine Kaufman Death Scare at the ‘Post’ — All Col’s Fault?

Col Allan Elaine Kaufman

Sure, you’re all smiles now.Photo: Patrick McMullan

Last Thursday, the New York Post was awash with upsetting news. City editor Michelle Gotthelf ran from reporter to reporter over on Sixth Avenue, crying out: “Elaine Kaufman’s dead! Call every famous journalist you know!” Posties dutifully began calling everyone they could think of who ate at Elaine’s, like Pete Hamill, Gay Talese, and even Kaufman’s maître d’ of 30 years. What a terrible loss! Quotes (and sometimes tears) began flowing in from some of the city’s best-known ink-stained types, who became truly wretched at the news. Then, the city desk got a call from a reporter in the shack, the Post’s police bureau. “Has anybody actually
bothered to check if indeed Kaufman is dead?” the writer asked. “Because I’m getting calls from a number of people saying she’s alive and well.” Gotthelf hadn’t — because her infallible source was Post editor-in-chief Col Allan, who practically lives at Kaufman’s Upper East Side boîte. But the reporter was right — Elaine was quite alive, and preparing to celebrate her 45th anniversary as a restaurateur. Turns out Allan’s wife had tearfully called and said, “Elaine died!” The stricken editor assumed she was talking about his dear comrade, Kaufman. She was not. Instead, a family friend in Australia had passed. “Never before have I been so delighted to be wrong,” he told us, through a rep. When we asked why he hadn’t phoned to check the story, he astutely pointed out: “Dead people generally don’t take calls.”

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Elaine Kaufman Death Scare at the ‘Post’ — All Col’s Fault?