Actor Abe Vigoda, best known for his portrayal of Tessio in The Godfather (with a brief cameo at the conclusion of The Godfather, Part II) and as Lieutenant Fish on Barney Miller as well as a shortlived spin-off Fish, died this morning at the age of 94.
Vigoda earned a bit of unwanted fame in the early 1980’s when People Magazine erroneously reported his death. A few years later, a TV station in New Jersey had told the world he was dead. No doubt there were people hoping that the news was wrong yet again. Not this time.
But after these incidents, Vigoda became something of a cult figure. There was a website solely devoted to informing the world as to whether Abe Vigoda was alive or dead. Needless to say, his status has now changed. But until today, Vigoda was referenced in a Beastie Boys song, could be seen in a Super Bowl commercial (the same one that did one wonders for Betty White’s career) and got to hang out and dance at a Phish concert when they peformed “Wombat” in which he is also referenced (please see the video above). Abe Vigoda was definitely a link to the past to whom younger people could relate warmly.
What is so crazy about Vigoda’s passing is that I was just talking about him this morning. I was talking with a colleague and she brought up Jim Nabors of Gomer Pyle fame. I told her that he is still alive much to her surprise. This then led into Abe Vigoda, the erroneous death stories, the website, the Phish concert. And then a few hours later…Needless to say, when I told her that Vigoda had died an eerie feeling overcame the both of us.
Nevertheless Vigoda lived the fullest of lives and had fun until the very end.