Abe Vigoda

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For the band, see Abe Vigoda (band).
Abe Vigoda
Abe Vigoda Fish Barney Miller 1977.JPG
1977
Born Abraham Charles Vigoda
(1921-02-24)February 24, 1921
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died January 26, 2016(2016-01-26) (aged 94)
Woodland Park, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1949–2014
Spouse(s) Sonja Gohlke (marriage dissolved)
Beatrice Schy (m. 1968; her death 1992)
Children 1

Abraham Charles "Abe" Vigoda[1] (/vˈɡdə/; 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 Francis Ford Coppola film The Godfather and Detective Sgt. Phil Fish on the ABC sitcom Barney Miller from 1975 to 1977 and its spinoff show Fish from 1977 to 1978.

Early life[edit]

Vigoda was born in Brooklyn, New York,[2] the son of Lena (née Moses) and Samuel Vigoda, Jewish immigrants from Russia.[3][4] 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.[5]

Career[edit]

Vigoda as Phil Fish on Barney Miller, 1975

Vigoda began acting while in his teens, working with the American Theatre Wing.[6] His career as a professional actor began in 1947.[7]

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).[2][6] 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.[8]

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 did not have agents could come in for an audition.[9] He gained further fame playing Detective Sgt. Phil Fish on Barney Miller, a character known for his world-weary demeanor and persistent hemorrhoids.[10] 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?"
"Go."
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?"[11]

— Abe Vigoda, quoted in Louis Zorich's What Have You Done?: The Inside Stories of Auditioning—from the Ridiculous to the Sublime (2009)

Vigoda starred in a brief spinoff of Barney Miller that centered on his character, eponymously called Fish,[2] until it was canceled in June 1978.[12]

Mistaken reports of his death[edit]

June 2007

In 1982 People magazine mistakenly referred to Vigoda as dead. At the time, Vigoda, age 60, was performing in a stage play in Calgary.[13] 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.[14] The edited (erroneous) version was what went to print.[14]

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".[15] She realized and corrected her mistake the next day.[15]

Vigoda had 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 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."[16] 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!"[17]

At a New York Friars Club roast of Rob Reiner which Vigoda attended, comedian Billy Crystal wise-cracked, "I have nothing to say about Abe. I was always taught to speak well of the dead."[1]

In May 2001, a website was mounted with only one purpose: to report whether Vigoda was dead or alive.[18][19][20] In 2005, a "tongue-in-cheek" Firefox extension was released with the sole purpose of telling the browser user Vigoda's status.[15][21]

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. At the 1998 New York Friars Club roast of Drew Carey, with Vigoda in the audience, comedian 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?"[22] 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.[citation needed]

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 plot 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.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Vigoda and his first wife, Sonja Gohlke, had one daughter, Carol.[16] The marriage ended in divorce.[24] His second marriage, to Beatrice Schy, lasted from 1968[25] until her death in 1992.[16]

Vigoda enjoyed playing handball,[13] and stated in an interview that he was "almost" a champion at the game in his youth.[11]

Death[edit]

Survived by his daughter, three grandchildren and a great-grandson, Vigoda died in his sleep on January 26, 2016, at his daughter Carol Fuchs's home in Woodland Park, New Jersey.[6][26] [16]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lavietes, Stuart (January 26, 2016). "Abe Vigoda, of 'Godfather' and 'Barney Miller,' dies at 94". New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c 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. 
  3. ^ U.S. Census, April 1, 1930, State of New York, County of Kings, Borough of Brooklyn, enumeration district 566, p. 14-A, family 10.
  4. ^ "Abe Vigoda Biography, FilmReference.com; retrieved January 4, 2013.
  5. ^ "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. 
  6. ^ a b c "Abe Vigoda Biography". A+E Networks. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  7. ^ Marguiles, Lee (April 18, 1976). "Fame Comes Late to "Sad-faced" Vigoda". Youngstown Vindicator. Associated Press. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  8. ^ Schumacher, Michael (1999). Francis Ford Coppola: a filmmaker's life. New York, NY: Crown. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-517-70445-5. 
  9. ^ The Godfather: Widescreen Collection (DVD). Paramount Pictures. 2004. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ a b 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. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ a b Leopold, Todd (September 23, 2008). "Abe Vigoda is still alive, thank you very much". CNN Entertainment. Retrieved September 2, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b 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. 
  15. ^ a b c 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. 
  16. ^ a b c d Italie, Hillel (January 26, 2016). "Abe Vigoda, sunken-eyed character actor, dead at 94". Associated Press. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  17. ^ Rumours of his death are premature The Hollywood Scandal Almanac Page 125 6 February 2016
  18. ^ "Whois Record For AbeVigOda.com". DomainTools. Retrieved September 2, 2011. 
  19. ^ Ceilán, Cynthia (2007). Thinning the Herd: Tales of the Weirdly Departed. Globe Pequot. p. 210. ISBN 1-59921-219-6. 
  20. ^ "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. 
  21. ^ "Abe Vigoda Status". Maximum PC: 33. Spring 2006. 
  22. ^ Ross, Jeffrey (2009). I Only Roast the Ones I Love: Busting Balls Without Burning Bridges. Simon and Schuster. pp. 163–64. ISBN 9781439101407. 
  23. ^ Othmer, James P. (February 8, 2010). "Super Bowl Ads Play It Safe". The Daily Beast. Retrieved September 2, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Famous Hookups". Retrieved February 6, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Abe Vigoda Dead". January 27, 2016. Retrieved February 6, 2016. 
  26. ^ "Abe Vigoda, sunken-eyed 'Godfather', 'Barney Miller' actor, dies at 94". The Washington Post. January 26, 2016. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  27. ^ 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. 

Secondary Sources[edit]

  • "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. 

External links[edit]