Updated November 22, 2021 - 7:03 pm
Billy Hinsche felt like a member of many families, famous or otherwise.
“I have known Billy since we all went to Beverly Hills Catholic School together,” Hinsche’s longtime friend Deana Martin said Monday. “He was like a member of my family, all the way back to our school days. He was also a member of an extended family of entertainers.”
Hinsche, a member of the ‘60s teen-idol act Dino, Desi and Billy, and who toured with the Beach Boys, died Saturday. He was 70. Hinsche, whose primary residence was in Henderson, died at the home of his sister, Annie Hinsche-Wilson-Karges in Santa Monica, Calif. Martin, daughter of entertainment legend Dean Martin, confirmed. Services are pending.
The siblings’ 95-year-old mother, Celia, died in the same house just hours before Billy passed.
“We are devastated,” Martin said. “Billy loved being an entertainer, and telling all of his stories about being an entertainer.”
Lucie Arnaz, a friend of Hinsche’s and daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, first posted on Instagram that Hinsche had died. Arnaz’s brother Desi Arnaz Jr. was a member of Dino, Desi and Billy, with Hinsche joining Dean Martin’s son Dean Paul Martin. Martin said the cause was giant cell carcinoma.
“Only diagnosed a couple weeks ago,” Lucie Arnaz wrote on Instagram. “It ravaged him like an out of control train.”
Born in the Philippines, Hinsche and his family moved to Southern California during his childhood. He knew Arnaz and Martin those days at the Beverly Hills school. The three formed a band that recorded several pop standards, among them “Lady Love” (co-written with Brian Wilson), “If You’re Thinkin’ What I’m Thinkin’” (from the Dean Martin film “Murderers’ Row”) and the hit single “Tell Someone You Love Them.”
The band also appeared on such TV shows as “The Dean Martin Show” until disbanding in 1969.
Hinsche joined the Beach Boys as a session musician (primarily on keyboards) in 1971, and also toured with the band extensively. After a period of six years, he rejoined the lineup for 14 years beginning in 1982.
Further reinforcing his ties to the Beach Boys, Annie married the late Beach Boys co-founder Carl Wilson.
Hinsche moved to the Las Vegas area about 20 years ago. He quickly befriended several entertainers in town. Vocalists and multi-instrumentalists Jeff and Jon Celentano met Hinsche while they were in the band Trip Sitter. The act was inspired in large part by Beach Boys’ classics, and was opening for Al Jardine’s Endless Summer Band at House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.
Jeff Celentano, an avid Beach Boys fan, spotted Hinsche as a member of the Jardine lineup.
“He loved being recognized, and he loved that I recognized him and knew his story,” Celentano, a member of Bee Gees Gold, said Monday. “He created a lot of opportunities for me and many other musicians in Las Vegas. We became Jardin’s Las Vegas band because of Billy.”
Nina DiGregorio, producer of Bella Electric Strings in Las Vegas and also a big Beach Boys fan, was especially close to Hinsche. Hinsche performed with Brian Wilson in Las Vegas, and was there when DiGregorio met the rock legend.
Hinsche, who characteristically sported a white, wide-brimmed hat, held classic showbiz charisma.
“Billy always sent me Beach Boys or Beatles mementos when he thought I would appreciate something. I still wear the Carl Wilson pin he gave me on the collar of my leather jacket,” DiGregorio wrote on Facebook. “He was old school too, I was always surprised by these things in the actual mail.
“Billy was classy, gentlemanly, laid back, and sophisticated. He reminded me of what I imagine Southern California was like in an era gone by, an era I really would have loved it.”
Hinsche also backed Brody Dolyniuk, DiGregorio’s husband and longtime Vegas frontman and headliner, in his Symphonic Rock Shows at The Smith Center. Hinsche was a quick call for such shows, a talented musician and singer who recorded “Live at the Cannery” in 2006, and joined Paul Shaffer & the Shaf-Shifters for a night at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace.
Hinsche seemed to know everyone in the music business, and many other unlikely celebs. Jeff Celentano recalls attending a charity event at The Mirage when Hinsche showed up alongside ex-Olympic figure skater and close friend Tai Babilonia. In a chance meeting with yours truly in backstage at a Barry Manilow show at Westgate Las Vegas, Hinsche arrived with John Lennon’s ex-girlfriend from the early and mid-1970s, May Pang. DiGregorio once had dinner with Hinsche and Chicago co-founder Robert Lamm, one of her musical heroes.
From September 2020 until this past August, Hinsche hosted the regular Facebook Live series “Live From Billy’s Place.” He banked 74 episodes with such guests as Shaffer, Bruce Johnson of the Beach Boys, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, and actor/musician John Stamos. The series is now available on Billy Hinsche Official YouTube channel.
Stamos was a guest on the first of those episodes.
“He was so proud of that show. I was so proud of him,” Stamos posted on Facebook, while encouraging Hinsche’s friends and fans to return to the series. “Hard to think of someone like Billy who was so chock FULL OF LIFE not here anymore. My heart is aching — and not just because he’s gone, but because damn it, he would have LOVED all the accolades he’s getting!! He loved him some accolades.”
A chorus of Hinsche’s friends would agree.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.