By: Vickie J. Rubinson
Andy Warhol stopped by for a coffee. So did princes, paupers, playwrights, poets and untold thousands for whom a visit to Vienna was unthinkable without a cup served by the bow-tied little man with the perpetual dancing smile.
In this city of more than 1,900 cafes, Leopold Hawelka was an icon, as much part of Cafe Hawelka as its tables--scarred by burned-out cigarettes, their marble tops worn smooth by the elbows of four generations. He served tourists, the rich and the famous, and the neediest of the needy--the ragged Viennese masses who crowded his establishment over a free glass of water to escape the cold of their bombed-out city after the second world war.
Hawelka's daughter, Herta, said he died in his sleep and "without pain" on Thursday aged 100, leaving behind a legacy as intimately linked with the city as any of its palaces or art collections.
Today--as it was generations ago--tuxedoed waiters flit around tables, precariously balancing countless Viennese coffee varieties and trademark yeast dumpling on silver trays. Even the ashtrays survived Vienna's no-smoking laws, though the staff put them out in recent years only when ordered to do so by Hawelka, keeping a sharp eye on things from a stuffed brocade couch in the back of his establishment.
Though his visits grew increasingly rare as he neared 100, Hawelka left no doubt who was in charge when he did drop by.
"He remains our director-general," said grandson Michael Hawelka earlier this year. "Whenever he is here, he's the boss."