On a recent evening in the West Village of Manhattan, Dorothy Wiggins, a petite 98-year-old woman wearing a dark coat and a pink scarf, left her townhouse to check out Little Ruby’s Cafe, a chic new restaurant in her neighborhood. Inside, she approached the hostess.
“I remember this place when it was the other place, the Riviera,” Mrs. Wiggins said. “It was so tacky next to this. You really jazzed up the space.”
“It’s an Australian restaurant,” the hostess said.
“Australian?” Mrs. Wiggins replied.
As she processed this information, the hostess asked if she had a reservation.
“I just live in the neighborhood, and my husband painted this place once,” Mrs. Wiggins said. “I was just curious.”
She took her leave and walked back to her brownstone. She wasn’t alone. Trailing her was Michael Astor, a freelance journalist who was discreetly filming her outing with a pocket-size gimbal camera.
The scene he had just recorded would soon be posted to the TikTok and Instagram accounts he manages, both called @dorothylovesnewyork, which have made Mrs. Wiggins an unlikely social media celebrity.
Tens of thousands of people follow the accounts, which chronicle Mrs. Wiggins’s late 90s as she navigates life in New York and the Hamptons equipped with a wooden walking staff, vintage hats and a bone-dry sense of humor.
In one video, she becomes frustrated when a server at a Midtown jazz club can’t get her drink order quite right (a shot of Dewar’s in an ice-filled highball, with a water back). In another, she complains about “awful Montauk oysters” to the operator of an East Hampton seafood shack. The most popular clip, with more than nine million views on Instagram, shows her hitting a serve on a tennis court in Amagansett.
“Chrissie Evert commented on my serve,” Mrs. Wiggins said in the living room of her brownstone, where she and Mr. Astor, 59, were seated next to a crackling fire. “She said it looks like her serve.”
Part of the accounts’ charm lies in her indifference to social media.
“I’m a funny one to become popular, because I scorn it all,” she said. “I hate walking down streets and seeing people clutch their phones like they’re clutching their heart.”
“TikTok feels stupid to me,” she continued. “You need more than a momentary thing. I watched ‘Casablanca’ the other night. Now that’s the perfect length for a…