Charles "Charlie" Bracewell was a former ventriloquist on Alec Gilroy's books who Alec turned to when he needed a barman at the Rovers Return in January 1989. Charlie was taken on with reduced wages in exchange for accommodation at the Rovers, until he found other digs.
Described by Alec as the "wreckage of a once very fine artiste", Charlie was an older man with a nervous disposition. He'd given up show business after fourteen years when he lost his partner in the act - his Pedigree collie and best pal Queenie, who had developed a wheezing and so Charlie's wife had her put down. On his decision to employ Charlie, Alec remarked that he was big in his day and so he was doing him a favour - and more importantly, he was cheap.
Arriving at the Rovers, Charlie's appearance came as a surprise to Bet Gilroy and his fellow bar staff Jack Duckworth, Betty Turpin and Sandra Stubbs, as none of them expected an older man. Although he was kind and chivalrous, kissing Bet's hand and describing his arrival at the Rovers as like coming home, his shy and snivelling manner made them unsure what to make of him.
Charlie's Rovers career got off to a bad start when he upset Percy Sugden. After correctly identifying him as an old soldier, Charlie talked about his National Service days, which ended when, after one year and two months, he was invalided out of the army when a cookhouse sergeant had him and half the depot rolling in agony. Taking pride in his work with the Catering Corp in World War II, Percy took a dislike to Charlie and ignored him on subsequent visits to the Rovers. When Bet pointed this out to Alec, he didn't see a problem and remarked that he'd have to ask Charlie how he managed it!
Although a capable barman, Charlie had a grim manner and kept relating to staff and customers tales of death, illness and divorce, such as the time he died twice, operated on by a surgeon who dropped dead two weeks later. With his stories making the customers cry, Jack Duckworth branded him a secret agent whose job was to seek out people who were finding life too much and push them over the edge. Bet soon realised that Charlie wouldn't work out but with Alec defending him against any criticism, Bet asked if he'd won him in a raffle!
Charlie soon cast his eye over Betty, who he called a "fine figure of a woman". Grilling Jack for information about Betty, he was pleased to hear that she was a widow woman, and began lavishing attention on her. Betty was initially flattered but his behaviour and incessant questioning started to creep her out. When he pinched her bottom, causing her to drop a handful of plates, Betty decided she'd had enough and told Bet that either Charlie went or she did. Charlie tried to apologise, putting it down to his impulsive behaviour and lack of experience, telling her that her feelings would change when she got to know him. However, Bet too wanted rid of him, and with Alec refusing to hear of him being sacked, began concocting a plan to encourage him to move on. When Sandra made a remark that perhaps his talents would be more appreciated somewhere else (Bet suggested Madame Tussaud's), Bet got an idea. Luring her friend Stella Rigby, landlady of the White Swan, to the Rovers with the promise of dinner on the house, Bet told Charlie that she was a very sweet person who was married to a swine and to make her feel special. Charlie followed these instructions to the letter, being polite, chivalrous, attentive, and making Stella laugh. When Bet left the room, Stella gave Charlie her card and asked him to look round if he was passing. Charlie wasted no time in paying a visit to the White Swan and was immediately taken on as a live-in barman. He made one final visit to the Rovers to tell Alec he was leaving, with his apologies.