New York legend Elaine Kaufman would’ve turned 82 last night, and now there’s word that another legendary tavern keeper and bon vivant, Marie Wuczynski, has died at the age of 88. The Chicago Tribune reports that she succumbed to heart failure on Monday, in her home above Marie’s Riptide, the time capsule and after-hours institution she’s owned since 1961.
As with Elaine’s, it’s impossible to imagine Marie’s without its feisty, big-haired proprietress perched at the bar, kicking back Jäger shots, sucking down Parliaments, and accepting pecks on the cheek from her adoring clientele. “She was everybody's mom,” says a co-worker, and that’s the truth — her absence will be felt by anyone who has ever huddled outside the front door in the freezing cold in order to cram into the bar and drink amongst the Christmas decorations while Sinatra plays on the jukebox. If you’re unfamiliar with Marie’s, Chicago Bar Project payed tribute some time ago. A quote in the Sun-Times obituary goes to show why she was perhaps Chicago’s most beloved hostess: “I’m happy when other people are happy,” she once said.