Abe Vigoda always had a sense of humor about his mortality. In 1982 People magazine incorrectly listed him as dead, and in response he posed for a photo where he held the magazine while sitting in a coffin. In 1988 David Letterman had Vigoda breathe into a mirror just to prove he was still alive.
It became a running gag that the actor happily played along with. As recently as 2010 he appeared in a Super Bowl ad with Betty White, where the two had a laugh at their advanced years.
There was even a website called “Is Abe Vigoda Dead?”—its single page always displaying the same message, until it was changed, earlier this afternoon.
Vigoda died this morning in Woodland Park, New Jersey, at the age of 94. His daughter Carol Vigoda Fuchs, told the Associated Press that he died in his sleep at her home.
He was one of the nation’s greatest character actors, best known for playing Sal Tessio in the Godfather and Detective Phil Fish on Barney Miller. The latter was a role so popular it would be spun off into its own series: Fish.
Goodbye, Abe. Thanks for sharing your talent. Thanks for having a sense of humor. Thanks for sticking around as long as you could. We wish there was a way to let him off the hook just once more, for old time’s sake.
Photo via ABC Television (eBay front back)/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)