CARL PRIMAVERA remembers walking through City Hall with his uncle, Enrico "Kigkey" Tiberini, and being appalled at the way Kigkey would just barge into someone's office.
Not just someone - a judge, City Council member, lawyer, or any official, high or low, even if a meeting was in progress.
While Carl, then a youngster, cringed with embarrassment, he was barely reassured when the object of his uncle's intrusion would jump up and throw his arms around Kigkey like a long-lost relative.
"Don't worry, kid," Kigkey would say. "I don't need an appointment." And he didn't. Kigkey knew everybody and everybody knew and loved Kigkey.
He was the quintessential glad-hander and fixer.
You needed somebody to do a certain job for you, Kigkey would find you the best.
Ward leaders would be feuding. Kigkey would bring them together and help resolve the conflict.
You wanted to run for office, Kigkey would introduce you to the people you needed to know.
You wanted to buy something, Kigkey would find where you could get it and at the best price. He was a Democrat, but he was an equal-opportunity friend.
He would drive a campaign truck or stand on a street corner with a bullhorn, exhorting passers-by to vote for a candidate he favored.
Kigkey Tiberini, onetime singing waiter, bail bondsman, maitre d', vaudeville performer and City Hall legend, died Friday.
He was 96 and lived in South Philadelphia.
His nephew, who grew up to be a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and Bar Association chancellor, said of his uncle, "He was one of a kind. He was a neighborhood guy but he knew everybody, from ward leaders, to mayors, to senators, all on a first-name basis.
"He was always involved in what was happening in Philadelphia. He had developed a network of contacts and resources. If somebody asked, 'Who can fix this problem?' The first thought was Kigkey."
Kigkey was maitre d' at Palumbo's legendary South Philly restaurant for some 20 years before his retirement in the early '70s.
In its heyday, Palumbo's was like an annex of City Hall. Politicans of every stripe hung out there, and nearly everybody who worked in the restaurant had City Hall jobs. That was where Kigkey cultivated many of his contacts and got to know the city's movers and shakers.
He was close to the late Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo, and used to take him Italian bread. He also delivered bread to the late Pennsylvania Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix, and was always close to the Nix family.
He worked as a bail bondsman in the days when everyone held for court needed a bondsman to get out. Nobody was released on his own recognizance back then.
"He was eccentric and opinionated," his nephew said, "but he was an expert on the real world."
Kigkey's longtime friend, Common Pleas Judge Matthew D. Carafiello, said, "When I became a lawyer, Kigkey was in City Hall every day. He walked the hallways, greeting lawyers and judges.
"He loved being around lawyers. He loved City Hall. He was like the maitre d' of City Hall."
For years, Kigkey was in charge of arrangements for the annual Christmas party for lawyers and judges, held originally at the Variety Club and later at St. George's Greek Orthodox Cathedral, at 8th and Locust streets.
"He would handle all the invitations," the judge said, "and he'd be there as our maitre d'. He planned the party and made sure the food was excellent. He took it upon himself to get the shrimp because it had to be extra-jumbo shrimp.
"He was hard to describe. There are a lot of questions about his life. He would never pose for a picture."
Retired Family Court Judge Jerome A. Zaleski, also a longtime friend, said Kigkey did "hundreds of favors for people and he never took any money. He said if you took money it's no longer a favor.
"He was a non-stop talker with a staccato voice. He was the last Damon Runyon character in City Hall."
"He loved everybody and everybody loved him," said popular local orchestra leader Carmen Dee, another old friend. "He knew all the old stars in vaudeville. He was very bright. He could whip through a crossword puzzle in minutes."
Retired Daily News court reporter Dave Racher said Kigkey was "the nicest guy you would want to meet. He always seemed to be happy, big smile on his face. He'd always give you a big hug."
Not much is known about Kigkey's early life.
He didn't get past the fourth grade in school. His mother, Adelgesia Tiberini, was an opera singer and community leader in South Philadelphia.
It was said Kigkey was married for a time years ago, but nobody seems to know anything about that relationship or how it ended.
He was born in Atlantic City and worked as a singing waiter at a nightclub there before coming to Philadelphia and working at Palumbo's.
In vaudeville, he performed around the country and would tell friends about the celebrities he knew, including Frank Sinatra, Gypsy Rose Lee and others.
He played the old Metropolitan Opera House, built by Oscar Hammerstein, on North Broad Street.
"He knew who he was," Carl Primavera concluded.
"He was a guy who couldn't do enough for people."
Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Monica's Church, 17th and Ritner streets. Friends may call at 7 tonight at the Monti Funeral Home, 2523 S. Broad St.