Growing up Scinta meant that entertaining was always to be a family affair. While other households were experiencing sibling rivalry, brothers Joey and Frankie and little sister Chrissi were the epitome of sibling revelry, charming all who saw them with their stage act comprised of singing, impressions, musicianship, and comedy that heralded the fact that the family that “plays” together stays together.
In fact, Frankie first brought Chrissi up on stage to sing “Ma, He’s Making Eyes at Me” when she was just five years old. As time went on, Joey, Frankie, and Chrissi, together with “adopted” Scinta, Pete O’Donnell, became a bonefide act that began in their hometown of Buffalo but soon began touring the country, eventually ending up in Las Vegas with residencies at the Las Vegas Hilton and the Rio with a showroom named after them. Though Chrissi was forced to drop out several years ago because of vocal issues and Joey unexpectedly passed away from a series of strokes in November, Frankie is carrying on entertainment tradition with Pete and singer Janien Valentine and their band. Family ties still run deep as audiences will see on New Year’s Eve when the Scintas return to the Plaza after completing their Christmas tour, which brought out sold-out crowds.
“Joey and I promised each other that if something happened to one of us, the other would carry on with the show,” explains Frankie, who will also be making some personal appearances at the hotel’s NYE events. “So, we are doing just that in tribute to Joey. Since I was a kid, it’s always been ‘the show must go on.’ We have a new contract at the Plaza, where we perform every Friday and Saturday night, at least until April. It’s not a two-wall or a four-wall deal, either – we are very blessed. The president of the hotel, Jonathan Jossel, saw something in us. He has totally metamorphized this iconic property and upgraded the entertainment. We bring in an eclectic crowd with people from teenagers to 90 with disposable income. That’s what entertainment is meant to do. “
Frankie admits that getting through the tragic blows that have hit the family has not been easy. Mourning the death of Joey, he remembers that when Chrissi was sidelined with the problem with her vocal chords, it destroyed him, noting that it was hardest of all for Chrissi. With her being an integral part of the act with her beautiful solo voice and his dueting with her on a couple of powerful songs like “My Prayer,” he knew that he needed to find a replacement for her. That spot was given to singer Janien Valentine whom Frankie describes as “really talented with a gifted voice and really fun to work with.”
“She’s doing a wonderful job,” he expresses. “When I put another female vocalist on stage, I knew that I also wanted to do duets with her. I wanted the act to keep moving forward. Pete is the backbone of the Scintas. He’s been with us for 30 years. When there’s a place for comic interference, he’s there. He has a niche and we rely on him the most of anyone on stage. We offer music, comedy, and heartfelt moments you can’t get in another show. Everything we do comes from the heart. It’s live entertainment with all its mistakes and trip-ups. When Joey was here, audiences even saw real arguments between brothers. A good 40 percent of the show is ad-lib. We play off each other and the crowd, which is different every night.”
Frankie admits that they are not big stars and may never be but that no one does in 90 minutes what the Scintas do collectively on stage. They keep each other on their toes and the act is constantly being renovated, with new things being added and other things taken out. Now 60 years old, Frankie has been doing this for 41 years, since he was 19.
“I’m a little selfish,” he reveals. “Everyone chooses their own music but I like to have the last word. I think I know what works and what doesn’t and what is right for our audiences. It’s not about us, it’s about them. There’s no one in the business today who loves what they do more than I do. I’ll do it to the day they put me in a box.”
Through all the heartbreak and hardships, the Scintas show will go on.