Feb. 22, 1948 – Nov. 17, 2017
Musician Joey Scinta, who started his career playing gigs in Buffalo with his brother and sister and eventually became one of the most popular casino performers in Las Vegas, died Friday afternoon in the city that became his second home. He was 69.
Growing up on West Avenue near Auburn on the West Side, Mr. Scinta graduated from Lafayette High School in the 1960s and began playing in local rock bands.
"Everything started in Buffalo," recalled his brother, Tony, who served in the Buffalo Police Department for 31 years before moving to Las Vegas with the rest of the family.
And when Joey died Friday in his adopted city, Las Vegas mourned.
But the show went on.
"We said, 'If anything happens to you or me, you want to do the show,'" Frankie Scinta told The Buffalo News late Saturday. "We would go on, no matter what."
He added: "We just did the show. We were prepared."
Frankie Scinta paid tribute to his older brother during the performance at the Plaza Hotel & Casino, where the Scintas have been performing since 2016.
"I don't ever drink on stage," he told the audience Friday night. "Tonight, I drink for somebody I love."
"My brother and I always discussed, 'If we're ever not here, I want you to go out there and kick a-- with everything you got," Frankie Scinta said. "Tonight, at 5:10 p.m., my brother Joe took the ride to heaven to be with my father."
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) November 18, 2017
He then told the audience, "I had to come here tonight because I knew you people would heal my heart," and he walked to the spot on stage where Joey had spent four decades as a performer.
"He went out and did the show himself," Tony Scinta said of his brother Frankie. "Then, he came back over here to the house and we all cried together."
The Scintas also will play their regularly scheduled performance at North Tonawanda's Riviera Theatre on Dec. 2, Frankie Scinta told The News.
Jonathan Jossel, CEO of the Plaza Hotel, expressed condolences on Twitter and in the Las Vegas Sun.
"We are very sorry for the loss of Joe Scinta," Jossel said. "He was a legendary entertainer whose performances will never be forgotten or replicated."
Family members said Mr. Scinta suffered a series of strokes in recent weeks, resulting from complications from congestive heart failure.
Frankie Scinta said Joey's death could be a cautionary tale for others suffering from the condition, because his brother didn't always take the blood pressure medication prescribed to him. That led to a case of extremely high blood pressure, blood clots and the strokes. Joey Scinta had been admitted to a Las Vegas hospice unit in the days before his death.
Though his "Scintas" show grew to be a major casino attraction for more than 30 years, the family act launched in Buffalo. Tony Scinta recalled former Buffalo Bills punter Paul Maguire was running a bar on Elmwood Avenue in Kenmore called Maguire's Arches, just as his brother was ready to quit the music business and join a friend in Florida installing burglar alarms.
"Just then, he contacted my brother and and said he was looking for somebody for his piano bar," Tony Scinta said, adding his two brothers began "filling the place."
"They played music, ad libbed, talked with the people," he said. "From then on, they got to more and more clubs. And finally Chrissie was old enough to join them. They went around the Midwest – to Detroit, to Cleveland – and finally to Vegas. They've been playing out here ever since."
Chrissie Scinta sang with the group for many years until vocal chord problems led her to retire about five years ago.
Playing with a rock band called Parkside Revival, Top Banana and other local bands, Mr. Scinta opened for Yes, J.Geils, Procol Harum, Sly and the Family Stone, and other internationally known bands.
Mr. Scinta played bass and guitar with the group, and also sang. He is best known for his imitations of comedian Jerry Lewis and rock singers Joe Cocker and Neil Diamond.
— TJ Pignataro 🌎 (@TJPignataro) November 19, 2017
When a Buffalo News reporter covered the Scintas in Las Vegas in June 2002, images of the performers were everywhere – "on the sides of buses, on taxis, and on billboards twice the size of a drive-in movie screen... Huge video images of the Scintas greet visitors inside McCarran International Airport and can be seen on the roofs of some of the city's major casinos. In recent months, they have begun doing radio and TV commercials for Las Vegas businesses."
Joey and Frankie Scinta played as a duo in bars and night clubs in Buffalo, Kenmore, Cheektowaga, Rochester, Alexandria Bay, Syracuse, Cleveland, Detroit; Akron, Ohio; Lakeland, Fla., and countless other cities before making their move to Las Vegas.
In 2002, Mr. Scinta told The News that he and his brother nearly gave up on show business in 1977. But the pair began getting more gigs in Buffalo and decided to keep chasing their dream.
Adding their sister and Buffalo native Pete O'Donnell to the act, they packed shows at bars owned by Paul Maguire, former Sabres defenseman Jim Schoenfeld, the Club in Niagara Falls, and at the old Playboy Club in Cheektowaga. For many years even after their departure for Las Vegas, the family band returned to Buffalo each year for a Christmas show and to perform on the Channel 7 Variety Club Telethon.
After moving to Las Vegas more than 30 years ago, they had long terms as headliners at several casinos, including the Sahara, the Rio, and most recently, the Plaza Hotel and Casino, where Mr. Scinta appeared with them as recently as Nov. 3.
Mr. Scinta is also survived by his wife, Mary; two daughters, Lisa and Nicole; three sons, Joey, Mike and Nick; and his mother, Mary.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete, although Frankie Scinta said family members were planning some type of remembrance for Joey in Buffalo the night before their Dec. 2 performance at the Riviera.