Phil Zinkewicz, Actor, Singer, Writer, 40 Year Heights Resident, Dies at 64

I was very saddened to see this item:

The Brooklyn Eagle: Philip Zinkewicz, a 40-year resident of Brooklyn Heights known popularly for his acting and singing, but also a financial journalist, died at his Heights home on May 28. The cause was cancer, said his daughter Julianne Johnson. He would have been 65 on July 11.

Back in the summer of 1986 or ’87, I was at the bar of Clark Street Station, an establishment that occupied the space at 78 Clark now taken by Ozu. CSS had managed to attract the crowd that patronized Capulet’s on Montague before its closure, mainly by hiring its popular bartender, Gerry Bose. Anyway, on this particular evening, I overheard a short, stocky stranger with a jaunty moustache, sitting two stools away, say to Gerry, “I’m going to a convention in Chicago next week.” “So am I,” I interjected, “what are you going to?” “The National Association of Insurance Commissioners”, he answered. I almost fell off my stool. “Me, too.” He didn’t look the sort to be going to an NAIC meeting, but rather something more offbeat and creative. “My name’s Phil,” he said; “I write for the Journal of Commerce.” At the time, I was an in-house lawyer for an insurance company in downtown Manhattan, and had moved to the Heights just a few years before.

We were on the same flight to Chicago a few days later, and got together for beers while there. I told him I liked to write, and he said he would try to get me some assignments. Over the years, I did write for him a few times. Once, I recall, I almost missed a deadline because of pressures at work, and had to finish something while on vacation in Vermont, faxing it to him from a Kinko’s in Burlington. In recent years, I would run into him on Montague occasionally, and we would stop and chat. It seems about a month ago that I last saw him; we passed on the sidewalk, but he was looking away from me. I almost said hello, but I was in a hurry.

I never knew about his stage career. Goodbye, Phil; you’ll be missed.

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  • Julie

    Mr. Scales, your post meant a great deal to me, Phil’s daughter. It seems my dad was known by many people and at this difficult time, it’s so helpful to hear cherished stories about him. Thank you again for taking the time to post.

  • Mona Bregman

    Julie and MaryAnn,
    I am very sad to hear about the death of Phil. I have warm memories of his performance as Billy Bigalow in the Heights Players production of Carousel years ago. Many of us in the cast would sit backstage and listen as he sang and were often moved to tears at the beauty of his song.
    I remember seeing him on Montague Street, walking his dog. I remember his hanging out at the Heights Cafe. He always had a hello for me.
    Julieann, I know that he was so proud of you and how you grew up to be a wonderful and caring woman. May his memory comfort you at this sad time.

  • Russ Banham

    I am sitting here just numb at the thought that Phil is gone. A dozen years of my life–some of my fondest memories– were spent in his company. He was the most giving, helpful, kindest person I’ve ever known. We met during rehearsals for The Merchant on Broadway, starring Zero Mostel, who later died after our first public performance of the play in Philadelphia. The show closed on Broadway after only a few performances, but we had forged a bond that did not loosen until I moved away from NYC in 1989. In between he taught me the ropes–of business journalism, family, friendship and life. He basked when Julianne sang and dance for his dinner guests. He was a terrific dart player. And a truly fine actor and song and dance man. I produced a play called Kith and Kin at the White Barn Theatre in Conn., and he was terrific in it. Few who knew him would disagree that he was a great raconteur, with a storehouse of amazing stories. When he smiled it lit up a room. He treated all people–rich or downtrodden–as equals. My greatest regret is losing him as a friend. My life would have been all the more richer.