The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Elaine Kaufman and Lord Valentine the Misplaced.

Elaine Kaufman, the famous restaurateur, and owner of the eponymous Elaine's in New York's Upper East Side, has died at the age of 81. Now, those who don't know my life well, will wonder why on Earth I am blog posting about her. Well, there is a reason: I met her, several times.

I met Elaine Kaufman under quite bizarre circumstances. This was many years ago, in the mid nineties. At the time, I was engaged on my Lord Valentine the Misplaced project. He was an 18th century dandy, at liberty in the modern world. Indeed, he was at liberty in Manhattan, when I first met Elaine. I had been advised, to pop over to Elaine's when I visited New York. So, I duly did so. However, I did so in a way which was rather unusual: I did not go as myself, but as Lord Valentine the Misplaced.

I didn't know this at the time, but Elaine could be rather selective about whom she let in her restaurant. Fortunately, the first time I visited was with a well connected friend, by the name of Katherine. I would share her surname, but she never let me know it. Anyway, I was let in, with expressions of surprise all round...but no barring of the way.

I visited Elaine's several times and found the clientele typically well established, in whatever field they inhabited. It was a strange mix. One evening, I remember dining with a screenwriter, the head of the NFL, a New York theatrical producer and a British theatre director, Michael Rudman...I suppose football is just another branch of showbiz, so I suppose the mix wasn't so strange after all. Just to add some spice, there was, apparently, a famous cop in attendance, too...a real life, famous cop.

Elaine often sat at my table. She came across as smart, but could, I sensed, be strongly opinionated - perhaps that is what people liked about her: that she had a forceful character.

Her staff were loyal and seemed to stay with her for many years. My most memorable evening there was when I arrived, as Lord Valentine, fully attired as an 18th century gentleman - and the pianist struck up a tune that prompted me to pause mid-step: "My funny Valentine...", he began to sing. I was touched in a way I had never been before. Never in my life, had anyone acknowledged my entrance to a restaurant by playing a song just for me. Yet, there I was, as if I had stepped out onto a stage of my very own.

It was a moment that will probably never happen again, in my life. I do not ever expect to be acknowledged in such a direct and personal way, again. At the time, I realized acutely what it meant: that I had made an impression on these worldly wise New Yorkers - an impression large enough for them to feel they should acknowledge me, in that way.

It was an apt and witty song, he chose and it underlined my entrance to the restaurant in a most theatrical manner. I strode over and sat at my friends' table, aware that the song had the aural equivalent of a spotlight effect. I had, most pointedly, been introduced to everyone - at least, to those who knew my name, and would spot the joke.

I can't recall the pianist's name (possibly because I never knew it)...but I would like to thank him, for his kindness in playing a song just for me. It makes for a characterful memory. Thank you.

As for Elaine: I am sorry to hear of her passing, but she shall long be remembered, in NYC: for she turned herself into an icon, almost as famous as the showbiz stars and literary names, who frequented her restaurant. Tales will be told of her and her establishment for many years to come.

R.I.P, Elaine.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 7 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:50 AM 


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