Upper management in organized crime is a tough occupation, but it has its perks. Ask Sam Brocchi, an old-school toughguy who managed to buy a transmission shop in the Cincinnati suburb of Northbrook, Ohio, and convert it into a watering hole with good pizza, better chili, and a back room gambling parlor. Sam, who plays a prominent role in Dave DiGrazie’s upcoming novel “See John Play,” granted a quick interview to Book Review Heaven at a downtown restaurant he haunts in the lull between lunch and dinner.
BRH: Mister Brocchi, thanks for talking with us. Lots of people in the Cincinnati area say your name in hushed tones. But you say you want to be thought of differently.
Sam Brocchi: Hushed tones? Is that right? Look, I operate a restaurant. Pretty damn good food, too! People that think I’m some kind of monster ought to drop by. What the hell, I hardly ever show up there so they got nothin’ to worry about.
BRH: We understand the restaurant is doing well, but that the real profit doesn’t come from food and beverages. Isn’t it true that Dr. Arliss Spencer recently forked over a large sum to bail his son-in-law, aspiring golfer John Kaminski, out of some hot water with you over gambling debts?
SB: Hey, I don’t know anything about that. Yeah, I’m a businessman. It could be that sometimes people owe me. So what.
BRH: Mr. Brocchi, you say you want to improve your public image but the – um… the bare-chested bruiser you’re with. Staring at me? He, um…
SB: Ah, geez. Yeah, you’re right. Hey Nicky. How many times I gotta tell you – go put a shirt on! Yeah, my assistants can be a bit zealous at times. Showin’ off their guns. I mean their muscles, you know.
BRH: Let’s talk about John Kaminski. You and he aren’t strangers. Are you concerned that three times in the past year or so, he’s reached his house credit limit and had to really scramble to make good?
SB: Let me tell you a little something about John. He’s special to me, and to a lot of people. Do you know that we’ve got people calling us all the time asking whether he’ll be there tonight, because they’ll come to my bar just to hear him tell his stories? And sheesh! I don’t really follow golf, but guys who play, you should hear ‘em talk about how this guy can smash that little white ball. I want him to do good – he’s on the PGA Tour, you know! We do have a business relationship, after all.
BRH: Mr. Brocchi, do you think you could ever find it in yourself to give a guy like John a break when he gets behind in what he owes you?
SB: Give a break? Is that the way Donald Trump got to be where he is today? Giving people breaks? Or Jack Welsh, that guy who ran GE for all those years. Hey, I read, pal! These businessmen that the establishment has rewarded so richly – they’re all ruthless savages! Come on, already. I just do what every successful businessman does – the ones everybody looks up to and admires.
BRH: Still, if you showed a little humanity you could –
SB: Humanity? What are you saying, I’m not human? Time’s up, pal. Nick! Come show this guy to the door. Although – hmm. You just gave me an idea. Cut John a break. Hmm. Yeah, I got an idea. Hey, thanks pal. Nick, show this fella out of here.
BRH Note: Nick, now wearing a yellow button-down dress shirt with no T-shirt beneath, got me out of my chair with a simple, yet powerful movement of his eyes. As I made my way to the front of the restaurant, I heard Sam Brocchi musing about a plan to cut John some sort of deal regarding the latest mess he’d gotten into. The last thing I understood from Sam’s mouth was “could be an interesting summer.” Look for Dave DiGrazie’s novel, “See John Play” to read about how the summer unfolds.