|Abraham Charles "Abe" VigodaFebruary 24, 1921 – January 26, 2016|
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Abe Vigoda... no really
While living in Los Angeles, I'd jog three to five miles a day. One morning jogging, my agent calls about a new series called Barney Miller, saying, "Go there at once." — Abe Vigoda
Abe Vigoda died today at the age of 94.
Vigoda was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1921, a son of Samuel and Lena (Moses) Vigoda, Jewishimmigrants from Russia. His father was a tailor who had three sons: Abe, Hy and Bill —a comic book artist who drew for the Archie comics franchise and others in the 1940s. The name "Vigoda" in Russian ("выгода") means benefit/advantage/profit/gain.
Vigoda began acting while in his teens, working with the American Theatre Wing. His career as a professional actor began in 1947.
Vigoda gained acting notability in the 1960s with his work in Broadway productions, including Marat/Sade (1967) playing "Mad Animal", The Man in the Glass Booth (1968) playing "Landau", Inquest (1970), and Tough to Get Help (1972). His best-known film role is that of elder mobster Salvatore Tessio in The Godfather (1972). He also appeared briefly in The Godfather Part II in a flashback sequence at the end of the film.According to director Francis Ford Coppola's commentary on the DVD's widescreen edition, Vigoda landed the role of Tessio in an "open call," in which actors who don't have agents can come in for an audition.
Vigoda starred alongside Florence Stanley and Todd Bridges (before Diff'rent Strokes fame) in a brief spinoff of Barney Miller that centered on his character, eponymously called Fish, until it was canceled in June 1978. According to Bridges, just 12 during the show's second season, Fish was scrubbed after Vigoda demanded more money for a third season than the producers were willing to pay.
In 1982 People magazine mistakenly referred to Vigoda as dead. At the time, Vigoda was performing in a stage play in Calgary. He took the mistake with good humor, posing for a photograph published in Variety in which he was sitting up in a coffin, holding the erroneous issue of People. Jeff Jarvis, a People employee at the time, said that the magazine's editors were known for "messing up" stories, and one of them repeatedly inserted the phrase "the late" in reference to Vigoda, even after a researcher correctly removed it. The edited (erroneous) version was what went to print.
The same mistake was made in 1987 when a reporter for television station WWOR, Channel 9 in Secaucus, New Jersey, mistakenly referred to him as "the late Abe Vigoda". She realized and corrected her mistake the next day.
Vigoda has been the subject of many running gags pertaining to the mistaken reports of his death. In 1997, Vigoda appeared in the film Good Burger as the character Otis, a restaurant's French fry man. Several jokes were made about his advanced age, including Otis saying "I should've died years ago." A Late Night with David Letterman skit showed Letterman trying to summon Vigoda's ghost, but Vigoda walked in and declared, "I'm not dead yet, you pinhead!"
Firefox extension was released with the sole purpose of telling the browser user Vigoda's status.
Continuing with the gag, Vigoda appeared frequently to make fun of his status on the television show Late Night with Conan O'Brien, including a guest appearance on the show's final episode.
On January 23, 2009, Vigoda appeared live on The Today Show. He said he was doing well, joked about previous reports of his death and announced he had just completed a voice-over for an H&R Block commercial to air during the Super Bowl.
In the 1998 New York Friars' Club roast of Drew Carey, with Vigoda in the audience, comedian Jeffrey Ross joked, "my one regret is that Abe Vigoda isn't alive to see this". He followed that with "Drew, you're a big gambler, what's the over-under on Abe Vigoda?"
“When I was a young man, I was told success had to come in my youth. I found this to be a myth. My experiences have taught me that if you deeply believe in what you are doing, success can come at any age.” — Abe Vigoda