Who We Are - Commercial Success & So Much More
If you tuned into 1960s television or radio, then you likely had this snappy jingle stuck in your head more than once: “Schaefer is the one beer to have when you’re having more than one.”
If you’re lucky, you caught Don Scinto rattling off the line as a pitchman for the Schaefer Brewing Company. Don, a resident of Benchmark Senior Living at Split Rock, appeared in several commercials for the brewery.
How did he land commercials for one of America’s most popular beers? It’s a long story.
Don, known as the “Ambassador of Split Rock,” worked in sales and marketing for Schaefer, while also performing in community theater. One day the two worlds collided.
With luck and hard work
Don’s uncle had a connection with the manager of the Fairfield, Connecticut, satellite plant of Schaefer — so a fresh-out-of-college Don landed a good job.
One day, his new boss – who recently transferred from New York to Fairfield – asked Don what people did for entertainment in the area. Don told him, “Well I got the lead in Come Blow Your Horn. Why don’t you come watch us?” For 12 years, Don was a lead actor and general house manager at the Polka Dot Playhouse where he helped put on six or seven shows each season.
After the play, his boss was impressed and called Don to ask if he’d thought about doing commercials.
“I laughed and said, ‘No, I’m waiting to go to Hollywood,’” Don recalled. “I thought he was pulling my leg.”
He wasn’t. Several weeks later Don found himself facing a photogenic screen test, and then starring in several commercials for Schaefer beer.
In one commercial, Don played a store clerk praising the virtues of Schaefer beer. In another, he was paired with a New York Giants football player. They played Schaefer deliverymen.
“Here I am carrying a keg into the store. Of course, it’s empty but I’m struggling with it. Meanwhile, this football player is carrying a six-pack,” he explained. “It got a lot of laughs because I’m like 5’6” and the other guy is 6’6”.”
Despite his success, Don passed up the opportunity to make commercial acting his full-time job, because he and his wife were unwilling to move to New York. They were active in the community and politics of Bridgeport, and he was happy with his job at the brewery and his theater hobby.
The community theater attracted some investors, and it was upgraded to a more glamorous venue where everything was bigger and better for a little while. But eventually it folded.
“It was fun,” he said. “It was a really nice hobby while it lasted.”
Then in 1972, Schaefer moved their operation to a new facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and closed their other satellites, including Fairfield.
But Don and his wife did not want to relocate, so he retired instead.
Don lived on his own for three years after his wife died, but the big, empty eight-room ranch made him lonely.
“Here (at Split Rock assisted living in Shelton, CT) you’re never alone and there’s always something to do,” he said. Plus, the assisted living community is only about 10 minutes away from his daughter (who’s also an actor and a teacher) so she can visit any time.
Don keeps numerous pictures of his wife around his apartment to keep him company, including a photo of the two of them with George H.W. Bush at a campaign cocktail party, which his wife helped organize as Bridgeport’s first female Republican town chairman.
Community was always important to them, and Don continues that legacy at Split Rock.
Don moved to Split Rock four years ago. In that time, he’s managed to bring his many talents to bear and enrich the experience of his neighbors and everyone in the community.
To keep his theater spirit active, he runs a drama club at Split Rock, teaching acting and putting on skits and pageants for the other residents. Don also runs the nightly movie club, which takes place in Split Rock’s bistro area.
Theresa Waldron, Split Rock’s program director, said, “Whenever there’s an event, he’s dancing a shuffle step. He’s entertaining and lively. He loves to talk, and he’s great at promoting our community.”
For Don, it’s simple.
“I’m just living my life,” he said.