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Vigoda in Manhattan, New York on 72nd St near 2nd Ave in June 2007
|Born||Abraham Charles Vigoda
February 24, 1921
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||January 26, 2016
Woodland Park, New Jersey, U.S.
|Cause of death||Natural causes|
|Residence||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Spouse(s)||Sonja Gohlke (divorced)
Beatrice Schy (m. 1968; d. 1992)
Abraham Charles "Abe" Vigoda (//; February 24, 1921 – January 26, 2016) was an American actor. He was known for a number of roles, especially his portrayals of Salvatore Tessio in The Godfather and Phil Fish in Barney Miller from 1975 to 1977 and Fish from 1977 to 1978.
Vigoda was born Abraham Charles Vigoda in Brooklyn, New York on February 24, 1921, the son of Samuel and Lena Vigoda (née Moses), Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was a tailor who had two other sons: Hy and Bill. The latter was a comic book artist who drew for the Archie Comics franchise and others in the 1940s.
He 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 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 did not have agents could come in for an audition. He gained further fame as Phil Fish on Barney Miller, a character known for his world-weary demeanor and persistent hemorrhoids. Vigoda landed the role after an unusual audition, in which he unwittingly displayed that he was a perfect fit for the role:
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."
Well, I was tired and exhausted ... I must have run five miles that morning. I said. "I have to go home and take a shower."
"No, no, no. Go right now to Studio City, you're very right for it, they know you from The Godfather, they want to see you."
"With my shorts?"
Danny Arnold and Ted Flicker, the producers, look at me, I look at them, they look at me again. "You look tired."
"Of course I'm tired, I jogged five miles this morning, I'm exhausted."
"Yeah, yeah, tell me, you look like you have hemorrhoids."
"What are you, a doctor or a producer?"— Abe Vigoda, quoted in Louis Zorich's What Have You Done?: The Inside Stories of Auditioning—from the Ridiculous to the Sublime (2009)
Mistaken reports of his death
In 1982, People magazine mistakenly referred to Vigoda as dead. At the time, Vigoda, aged 60, 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.
In 1987, the same mistake was made when a reporter for 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.
He had been the subject of many running gags pertaining to the mistaken reports of his death. In 1997, Vigoda appeared in Good Burger as the character Otis, a restaurant's French fry man. Several jokes were made about his advanced age, including his character Otis saying "I should've died years ago." That same year, he was shopping at Bloomingdale's in Manhattan when the salesman remarked, "You look like Abe Vigoda. But you can't be Abe Vigoda because he's dead." 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!"
In May 2001, a website was mounted with only one purpose: To report whether Vigoda was alive or dead. In 2005, a "tongue-in-cheek" 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 Late Night with Conan O'Brien, including a guest appearance on the show's final episode. At the 1998 New York Friars Club roast of Drew Carey, with Vigoda in the audience, Jeff Ross joked, "my one regret is that Abe Vigoda isn't alive to see this". He followed that with "Drew, you go to Vegas; what's the over–under on Abe Vigoda?" 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.
Vigoda and Betty White, both 88 years old at the time, appeared in "Game," a Snickers commercial that debuted during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010. The synopsis made fun of the advanced age of the actors. The Super Bowl Ad Meter poll respondents rated the ad the highest of any shown during the game.
Vigoda and his first wife Sonja Gohlke had one daughter named Carol (born January 18, 1945). The marriage ended in divorce. His second marriage to Beatrice Schy lasted from 1968 until her death in 1992.
On January 26, 2016, Vigoda died in his sleep at his daughter Carol Fuchs' home in Woodland Park, New Jersey of natural causes at age 94. He is survived by his daughter, three grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Vigoda's funeral was held on January 31, 2016.
Oscars In Memoriam snub
Many of Vigoda's fans were outraged that he did not appear in the In Memoriam sequence of the 2016 Academy Awards show. Abe's daughter Carol Vigoda Fuchs was incensed, saying: "Abe's family feels disappointed and cheated by the Academy. Abe gave his life and heart to acting, and a simple tribute in recognition of his devotion was overlooked." She also wondered why the Academy didn't include her father, but did include Alex Rocco in the same segment, who played Moe Greene in The Godfather alongside Abe. Carol went on to say in an interview with The New York Times, "I have to say it was very disappointing, and I feel that we were all cheated and I don't understand why. I am assuming it was a mistake. This is the final curtain, this is the big one, and wow, why no tribute?" In response to a question, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences emailed this statement: "Abe Vigoda is among the many worthy artists and filmmakers we were unfortunately unable to feature in the In Memoriam segment of this year's Oscars show. Vigoda is, however, included in our In Memoriam gallery on Oscar.com."
- Three Rooms in Manhattan (1965)
- The Godfather (1972)
- The Don Is Dead (1973)
- The Devil's Daughter (1973)
- Newman's Law (1974)
- The Godfather Part II (1974)
- The Story of Pretty Boy Floyd (1974)
- Having Babies (1976)
- The Cheap Detective (1978)
- How to Pick Up Girls! (1978)
- Death Car on the Freeway (1979)
- Gridlock (1980)
- The Big Stuffed Dog (1981)
- Cannonball Run II (1984)
- The Stuff (1985) (cameo)
- Vasectomy: A Delicate Matter (1986)
- Keaton's Cop (1988)
- Plain Clothes (1988)
- Look Who's Talking (1989)
- Prancer (1989)
- Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)
- Fist of Honor (1993)
- Me and the Kid (1993)
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) (voice)
- Home of Angels (1994)
- Sugar Hill (1994)
- North (1994)
- The Misery Brothers (1995)
- Jury Duty (1995)
- Love Is All There Is (1996)
- Underworld (1996)
- Me and the Gods (1997)
- A Brooklyn State of Mind (1997)
- Good Burger (1997)
- Witness to the Mob (1998)
- Just the Ticket (1999)
- Tea Cake or Cannoli (2000)
- Crime Spree (2003)
- Chump Change (2004)
- Farce of the Penguins (2007) (voice)
- Frankie the Squirrel (2007)
- The Unknown Trilogy (2008)
- Studio One (1949)
- Dark Shadows (cast member in 1969)
- Toma (1973)
- Mannix (1973)
- The Rockford Files (1978)
- Hawaii Five-O (1974)
- Barney Miller (cast member from 1975–1977)
- The Bionic Woman (1976)
- Fish (1977–1978)
- The Comedy Company (1978)
- The Littlest Hobo (1979)
- B. J. and the Bear (1980)
- As the World Turns (cast member in 1985)
- Tales from the Darkside – "A Choice of Dreams" (1986)
- Superboy (Season 1, Episode 3 "Back to Oblivion" – 1988)
- Santa Barbara (cast member in 1989)
- MacGyver (ep. 7 season 6)
- Monsters (TV series) (ep. "The Gift" – 1990)
- Lucky Luke (1993)
- Law & Order – "Remand" (1996)
- Wings – "All about Christmas Eve" (1996)
- The Norm Show – "Norm, Crusading Social Worker" (1999)
- Late Night with Conan O'Brien (recurring, as himself)
- High School USA! (ep. 12, 2014)
- Lavietes, Stuart (January 26, 2016). "Abe Vigoda, of 'Godfather' and 'Barney Miller,' dies at 94". New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Hamrick, Craig; Jamison, R. J. (2012). Barnabas & Company: The Cast of the TV Classic Dark Shadows. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse. p. 445. ISBN 978-1-4759-1034-6.
- U.S. Census, April 1, 1930, State of New York, County of Kings, Borough of Brooklyn, enumeration district 566, p. 14-A, family 10.
- "Abe Vigoda Biography, FilmReference.com; retrieved January 4, 2013.
- "Gil Kane, Interviewed by Gary Groth, Excerpted from The Comics Journal #186". The Comics Journal. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
- "Abe Vigoda Biography". A+E Networks. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- Marguiles, Lee (April 18, 1976). "Fame Comes Late to "Sad-faced" Vigoda". Youngstown Vindicator. Associated Press. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- Schumacher, Michael (1999). Francis Ford Coppola: a filmmaker's life. New York, NY: Crown. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-517-70445-5.
- The Godfather: Widescreen Collection (DVD). Paramount Pictures. 2004.
- Sharbutt, Jay (May 26, 1977). "Abe Vigoda Likes the Recognition He's Earned as TV's "Fish"". The Evening News. Newburgh, NY. Associated Press. p. 6C.
- Zorich, Louis (2009). What Have You Done?: The Inside Stories of Auditioning—from the Ridiculous to the Sublime. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-87910-365-1.
- Bridges, Todd (2010). Killing Willis: From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-4391-5589-9.
- Leopold, Todd (September 23, 2008). "Abe Vigoda is still alive, thank you very much". CNN Entertainment. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- Silverman, Craig; Jarvis, Jeff (2009). Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech. Sterling. pp. 174–75. ISBN 1-4027-6564-9.
- Brioux, Bill (2007). Truth and rumors: the reality behind TV's most famous myths. The Praeger television collection. Greenwood. pp. 114–15. ISBN 0-275-99247-0.
- Italie, Hillel (January 26, 2016). "Abe Vigoda, sunken-eyed character actor, dead at 94". Associated Press. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- Rumours of his death are premature The Hollywood Scandal Almanac Page 125 6 February 2016
- "Whois Record For AbeVigOda.com". DomainTools. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- Ceilán, Cynthia (2007). Thinning the Herd: Tales of the Weirdly Departed. Globe Pequot. p. 210. ISBN 1-59921-219-6.
- "Vigoda's non-death (he is now 88) is a pop culture meme to this day. Abevigoda.com, for example, does only one thing: indicate whether Abe is alive or dead.". New York. New York Magazine. 43: 239. 2010.
- "Abe Vigoda Status". Maximum PC: 33. Spring 2006.
- Ross, Jeffrey (2009). I Only Roast the Ones I Love: Busting Balls Without Burning Bridges. Simon and Schuster. pp. 163–64. ISBN 9781439101407.
- Othmer, James P. (February 8, 2010). "Super Bowl Ads Play It Safe". The Daily Beast. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- "Famous Hookups". Retrieved February 6, 2016.
- "Abe Vigoda Dead". January 27, 2016. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
- "Abe Vigoda, sunken-eyed 'Godfather', 'Barney Miller' actor, dies at 94". The Washington Post. January 26, 2016. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- Oscars 2016: In Memoriam montage excludes Abe Vigoda
- Daughter of Abe Vigoda angry that Oscars ignored actor.
- Daughter of Abe Vigoda Is Upset About Oscars ‘Memoriam’ Snub
- E.g., Chavez, Danette (January 27, 2016). "Conan pays tribute to Abe Vigoda's many Late Night appearances". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- General citations
- "Abe Vigoda the sunken Godfather". The Washington Post. January 26, 2016. ISSN 0190-8286.
- Obituaries (January 28, 2016). "Abe Vigoda". The Daily Telegraph.
- Lavietes, Stuart (January 26, 2016). "Abe Vigoda, of 'Godfather' and 'Barney Miller,' dies at 94". New York Times.
- Marguiles, Lee (April 18, 1976). "Fame Comes Late to "Sad-faced" Vigoda"". Youngstown Vindicator. Associated Press.
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