In a back nook of Elaine’s someone had placed a blown-up old cover of Quest magazine featuring the chiseled features of Chuck Pfeiffer. “CHUCK,” the headline read, “MYTHICAL MADMAN WARRIOR.”
“Seventy, it’s an odd age,” Mr. Pfeiffer told The Observer, staring at the younger version of himself, a decoration for his birthday party last Friday night. “But looking at that, it makes it better.”
During his seven decades, Mr. Pfeiffer has donned the hats of West Point running back, gun-wielding soldier, prized beau of big-screen starlets, gruff ad man, inquisitor general for Interview magazine, cocaine rhino on a never-ending Studio 54 bender, liquor-bar owner, liquor-bar fixture, must-cast movie extra (“Needed: actor who exudes panache and loose cash”), amateur twang-guitar troubadour, the face of Winston cigarettes, Charlie Sheen wingman, husband, son.
Yes, Elaine Kaufman’s presence lingered in the clutter of movie posters and between the spokes of mismatched rickety chairs, but the celebration was far from dour.
“The old guys who haven’t been back to Elaine’s since she died are here,” said Bartle Bull, novelist and former publisher of The Village Voice.
“Jackie Kennedy was in the restaurant, and there was a cameraman trying to take her picture,” Mr. Bull said. “Elaine was pissed because she knew Jackie wouldn’t come back if they took her photograph. Elaine went outside, took the lid off a metal trash can and hit the guy’s face, broke his nose and his camera. I used to be a lawyer so I said, ‘Elaine, if you need a witness, I’ll say he attacked you on the street.’ A lot of fun.”
With that, the Elaine stories ended. There were Chuck stories to tell.
“Bad things, with Chuck?” Jay McInerney told The Observer. “Oh man. Just a whole lot of sordid behavior.”
“Hey, Jay, it’s been a while,” the bartender said to the novelist, who was ordering a martini.
“Moved downtown …”
The Observer sat next to Katrina Eugenia, the Playboy playmate who is dating Norman Mailer’s son, John Buffalo Mailer. She’s a recent graduate of the Pratt Institute and her nude pictures appeared in the December 2010 issue.
“Could the help please be quiet!” said a puckish Greek man, stocky like a bowling pin. At the microphone was Taki Theodoracopulos, Mr. Pfeiffer’s perpetual sidekick. He’s been in the trenches with Mr. Pfeifer—well, the all-night coked-up Nell’s-to-Area trenches, if not the actual Green Beret trenches. Mr. Pfeiffer made it clear that his buddy was a war reporter, not a war hero like himself. It’s a profession Mr. Theodoracopulos continues today. He’s the proud proprietor of TakiMag.com.
“Unlike another fat Greek, Arianna,” Mr. Theodoracopulos explained, “we actually pay our writers.”
(Each guest walked out with a pair of TakiMag.com underwear.)
“I once said that if I hadn’t met Chuck, I probably would have been a whore,” Mr. Theodoracopulos said at the end of a heartfelt roast. “And I think it was Norman Mailer who said in response, ‘Isn’t that a shame?’”
The Observer walked over to Gay Talese and his tablemate Hendrik Hertzberg, the pitcher for The New Yorker’s softball team.
“Have you met Katrina?” Mr. Talese asked. The Observer was mid-nod when he called the 23-year-old model from across the room.
“Gay!” Ms. Eugenia exclaimed, embracing him.
“What a beauty,” Mr. Talese said to The Observer. “Have you seen this body?”
Before he could answer, the 78-year-old writer had an idea.
“Hey, Nate, do you have an iPhone? You should really look at her pictures.”
“Her pictures in Playboy?” The Observer asked.
“Pull them up!” Ms. Eugenia said.
The Observer Googled her and found her pictures on the Playboy blog. She was naked apart from some splatters of red, yellow and blue paint. The three of them were leaning in over the screen. Ms. Eugenia giggled.
“Fantastic,” Mr. Talese said.
Soon Mr. Pfeiffer was back on the microphone.
“We’d chase the three Bs …”
“What are the three Bs?” the crowd roared.
“Broads, booze and blow!” Mr. Pfeiffer shouted.
Woooooo! the crowd roared.
“Along came the ’90s,” Mr. Pfeiffer continued, “and Chuck got sober.”
Boooooo! the crowd roared.
He calmed them with a pause and a flat, outstretched hand.
“I’d like to mention my father, who was good friends with Elaine,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “They’re not here, but they’re here in spirit.”