When you know someone long enough, you can tell when the person ain’t right. And something was up with Frankie Scinta during the “Vegas Cares” charity show at The Venetian Theatre on Nov. 5.
Typically an unfailingly good-time guy who shouts his hellos, Frankie didn’t seem totally present and departed the theater before the star-laden show even finished.
At one point, I asked the imitable showman simply, “Frankie, how are you?” Somewhat absently, he answered, “I’m just grateful to be here.”
As the days unfolded the reason for Scinta’s preoccupation became clear. His brother, Joey Scinta, had suffered a stroke the night before. The following Monday, as he recovered at MountainView Hospital’s intensive-care unit, Joey suffered another series of smaller strokes that left him nearly unable to communicate. He is still hospitalized. A gofundme page has been established for donations to help offset Joey’s medical bills.
To understand Frankie Scinta’s heavy heart, Joey is not just a brother. He is Frankie’s confidant, sounding board and stage partner for decades.
Frankie has always been at the front of “The Scintas” stage production, especially in its revival at Plaza Showroom, but Joey reminds that it is a family outfit. His devastating send-ups of Neil Diamond and Mick Jagger are comic highlights. His musicianship on the bass, coupled with the adept percussion of drummer Peter O’Donnell (forever the “honorary Scinta”) provide the band its rock-solid rhythm section.
Joey has been in the middle of the mix ever since the Scintas arrived in Las Vegas to headline the old Shimmer Cabaret at Las Vegas Hilton. At 69, he is nine years Frankie’s senior. It is far too early to say whether he’ll ever return to the stage.
“I just want people to pray to God to make this decision for my brother,” Frankie said, nearly in a whisper, on Sunday afternoon. “Either give him back to us, or take him without any suffering. I watched my dad suffer for months. I don’t want to go through that again, and I sure don’t want my brother to go through it.”
For now, Joey is able to communicate by nodding when Frankie asks, “Do you know my name?” When Frankie plays music for his brother over his mobile phone, Joey responds by pretending to conduct with his right hand. That is the extent of their conversations, as Frankie’s community of friends checks in to offer whatever assistance he needs.
But if you believe “The Scintas” are calling it quits as a stage act, no chance. The family unit has survived the departure of popular original member Chrissi, Frankie and Joey’s sister who stepped away from the show in 2013 because of vocal concerns. Janien Valentine, a wonderfully talented singer who has the sharp sense of humor needed to banter with Frankie and Joey, has been a permanent member ever since. The show just goes on.
Over the weekend, the Scintas twice filled the Plaza Showroom. Saturday’s performance was standing room only, an astonishing box-office performance in the face of skepticism that any traditional Vegas production could sell a ticket downtown. The crew is back Friday and Saturday nights, doing what they do, happy or sad, through good and bad, no matter what.
“We haven’t missed one night,” Frankie says. “Saturday was amazing. The stage, the audience, is what keeps me strong.”
Father of Bruno
A rare chance to catch some of the original rock ‘n’ roll tunes was unfurled at Myron’s Cabaret Jazz on Friday and Saturday with the “Doo-Wopp Hall of Fame” show. Those in the lineup included Bruno Mars’ father, Pete Hernandez of the Love Notes. Hernandez has performed in Vegas over the years, but is back in his native Hawaii these days.
“I am Bruno Mars’ father,” Hernandez said by way of announcement in Saturday’s show. “Please keep supporting my son. The more you support him, the more he supports me!” The crowd loved that, as well as the foursome’s run through such classics as “Blue Moon,” “Teenager In Love,” and “In The Still Of The Night.”
Bolstering the bill were “The Twist” co-composer Billy Davis, who also tutored Jimi Hendrix on guitar; Ron McPhatter, son of Clyde McPhatter from The Drifters and R&B legend Ruth Brown, and Ernie Valens, cousin of “La Bamba” singer Ritchie Valens.
Burlesque legend Tempest Storm was also on the scene, her first public appearance since fracturing her left hip in a fall in Atlanta. As she was introduced by show promoter Harvey Robbins, Storm stood and gave us a sassy little shoulder shake. Gotta love that Tempest.
By all accounts, Adam Sandler’s debut at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was an artistic and financial success. Sandler’s show is somewhat cloistered, with strict limits on cellphone use and no invites for critics, or those media types who might want to impart Sandler’s groovy-ness.
Sandler was joined onstage by Joseph Vecsey, Norm MacDonald and David Spade, delivering the all-star show he promised when he signed his extended engagement with the Cosmo. Sandler is back Friday and Jan. 27.