The last conversation I had with Taki was about having “fuck you money.” We were at a party in some New York townhouse. Perhaps it was his.
Taki’s column High Life has been in The Spectator since 1977. In 1984, Taki took time out from all the glam and did penance in Pentonville Prison for possession of cocaine. In 2002, he founded The American Conservative Magazine with Pat Buchanan and Scott McConnell. Yes, he’s controversial, from racial slurs to his own “fuck-you money,” but never, ever boring.
There was always a place for me because she made a special compensation for drunk writers or journalists. She always had a good table for me.
I always had editorial meetings on Sunday nights at Elaine’s. I had a section called Taki’s Top Drawer in the New York Press. So we used to meet, five, six seven of us to make the plans for the week’s issue right there at Elaine’s.
She used to join us and put in her two cents—more than two cents, the whole dollar, mostly. She used to tell us who the good guys were, who the bad guys were . . . It was fun to have editorial meetings there. She used to advertise and never pay us. She never took something off the enormous bill. It was a unique to have the meetings there because people were actually inspired.
I started going there in the 1960s and early 1970s along with Norman Mailer and Nigel Dempster. When Clay Felker brought myself, Anthony Haden-Guest, and Nigel Dempster over from England, the place to meet up was Elaine’s. There was always a good table, especially for me, because unlike the rest of the British hacks, I paid my own way.
I think that the only time that she got angry at me was the time that I came up from the Village. There were these two guys outside just begging for money, and I brought them in for a drink (I was drunk). And she just lost her temper.
“Never do that again.”
One funny incident that I remember: there was a very Romeo and Juliet note that I send to girls so I quickly wrote that thing on Spectator paper, the magazine that I worked for, and sent it to a nearby table of girls and guys. I was sitting with Elaine, by the way, because she used to come and plunk herself down. And after about ten minutes, this wonderful actor who I had never seen before, Joe Pesci, he came up and said, in a very loud voice, “Who’s da poet?”
So we all looked around and said, “What you are talking about?” and tried to dismiss him. Then he whips the note I’d written to the girls.
“Who said this?” he asked.
I said, “I did.”
He said, “Listen, kid. I wouldn’t do this if I were you. Those guys are all gangsters.”
I remember Elaine saying, “Nice going, kid.”
She was always very funny because nothing would ever shock her.
Excerpted with permission from Elaine’s: The Rise of One of New York’s Most Legendary Restaurants From Those Who Were There by Amy Phillips Penn. Copyright 2015, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.