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Elaine Romagnoli, Longtime Fixture of Lesbian Nightlife, Dies at 79

Ms. Romagnoli painted the venue lavender, installed a big video screen and a pool table, and put a bar on each floor. There was dancing upstairs. The online bar guide Club Planet described Crazy Nanny’s as “a lesbian fun park.”

She sold Crazy Nanny’s in 2004 and retired soon after, but her impact on New York’s gay nightlife remains. Another lesbian bar, Henrietta Hudson, took over the old Cubby Hole location in 1991 and is still in business today. Three years later, a new bar called Cubbyhole opened on West 12th Street with Ms. Romagnoli’s blessing. (Cubbyhole and Henrietta Hudson are two of New York’s last three remaining lesbian bars. Ginger’s, in Brooklyn, is the third.)

Elaine Ellen Romagnoli was born on April 22, 1942, in Englewood, N.J., and grew up in Palisades Park. Her mother, Claire (Fiorina) Romagnoli, was a homemaker; her father, August, ran a gas station.

Ms. Romagnoli’s survivors include her sister, Nancy Berkowitz, and her brother, David Romagnoli.

She had a tumultuous family life and decided to move to New York City in the 1960s. She worked in various New York bars, restaurants and cabarets, including the now-gone Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Times Square.

Ms. Romagnoli often hired friends and even customers to work her bars. “One day I was going on about my job and probably having a drink in the middle of the afternoon and she said, ‘Come work for me,’” said Barbara Hughes, a friend and former employee. “And I said, ‘OK.’ I don’t know why, but she had this thing about her.”

Some of Ms. Romagnoli’s former employees remembered her as an enigmatic and tough boss, but many also recalled her as a magnetic friend and the life of countless parties.

“The best thing about her was how she would crack herself up,” Ms. Benzacar said. “She had these set pieces that she would tell, and every time she would break herself up, laughing to the point of tears and choking.”

“She was the person that everybody gravitated toward because you just wanted to be around her and hear her stories,” she continued. “She just had this force field of warmth and generosity and incredible funniness.”

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