One of Manhattan’s most legendary bar-tenders has retired. A big story? A lot of celebrities and journalists thought so. They turned out in force to say goodbye to Thomas Carney who has presided over the bar at Elaine’s, a favourite watering hole and journalistic hang-out on New York’s East Side for almost 30 years.
Carney, a Liverpudlian who started work at l4 as a galley hand aboard Cunard liners, working his way up to the old Queen Mary before emigrating to America. After being hired by Elaine Kaufman, who owns the famous saloon, his customers ranged from Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger, Michael Caine, such literary types as Norman Mailer and journalists such as Pete Hamill, James Brady, Gay Talese and Steve Dunleavy, the Aussie-born columnist on the New York Post.
Dunleavy like many of the other regulars on Carney’s fiinal night behind the bar, lamented his retirement. As he wrote in The Post, which put out a special dummy front page with the headline ‘Last Call. Drinkers Weep as Tommy Leaves Elaine’s”, “A good bartender has only one job – to get me drunk and then make sure I make it out of the door”.
That didn’t always happen. One cold winter night Dunleavy, who had the reputation of often being one of the last customers to leave stumbled on a snow bank as he left the establishment, was hit by a passing snow plough, which injured one of his legs. One of Dunleavy’s rival columnists commented snidely “I only hope it wasn’t his writing footâ€¦”
To a New York Times writer Carney, on his final night showed his fingers gnarled from years of slicing and twisting lemons and pouring drinks. And who of all his famous customers was the best tipper, he was asked. No doubt it was Frank Sinatra who at the end of an evening, he recalled, often passed out hundred dollar bills. And the strangest? Mick Jagger, whose money pocket reputedly appeared to be filled with moths.
Now in retirement he wants to read his daily paper and quietly sip red wine – which he will pour from now on for himself