Phillip “Flip” Bracchi was a one and only, a special edition who came to represent everything about Amsterdam’s lower South Side neighborhood that gives that area both its charm and its edge.
If you had never met Flip and walked into Herks with him behind the bar, your first impression could be anything from amazement to disbelief depending upon the topics of conversation swirling around you. When he was working he didn’t tend bar, he was more like performing on a stage, dishing out more derogatory nicknames, personal insults and inappropriate personal questions than the great Don Rickles ever did in a Las Vegas lounge. Mr. Bracchi knew how to work an audience. He was an unabashed and uncensored sage on any topic, person or place one could imagine. Some of his proclamations, beliefs and conclusions were so bluntly stated it was not uncommon for the person listening to respond “There is something seriously wrong with you!”
I loved when Flip told a story. He was like a human jukebox filled with them and regulars sitting at the bar would actually make requests to have their favorite one retold. “Flip, tell him about the time you went with Vinnie and Chickie to have coffee!” One of the things that popped in my head when I learned Flip had passed was “I hope someone has a video of Flip telling a story.”
As hard and tough as he seemed on the outside, those who knew Flip best knew he had a heart of gold. I was not a Herk’s regular but I got there enough times for him to get to know me and me him. The last time I saw him was a couple months ago. His daughter had brought him to the bar after a doctor’s visit and it was sadly clear that the relentless cancer was taking its toll. But as bad as he looked and as sick as he must have felt, he spent the next hour or so making us double over with laughter. Only Flip could turn having a deadly disease into a laughing matter. Before I left, I went over to him to say goodbye and as we shook hands he said to me “I loved your new book. Buddy you can write.” I certainly wasn’t expecting Flip to pay me such a nice compliment and it turned out to be the last thing he ever said to me. My deepest and most sincere condolences to Flip’s son, daughter, grandchildren and his army of regular customers. There will never ever be another like him!