Actor Abe Vigoda dies at age 94

The Jewish actor portrayed Sal in The Godfather and Detective Sgt. Phil Fish on TV sitcoms.

Gil Ronen ,

Abe Vigoda
Abe Vigoda

Actor Abe Vigoda died in his sleep at in Woodland Park, New Jersey on Tuesday. He was 94.

Vigoda is best known for playing the role of Sal Tessio in the classic 1972 Francis Ford Coppola film The Godfather, for the film Joe Versus the Volcano, and for his portrayal of Detective Sgt. Phil Fish on the 1970s television sitcom series Barney Miller, and its spinoff show, Fish.

Vigoda was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrants from Russia. He began acting while in his teens, working with the American Theatre Wing. His career as a professional actor began in 1947. Vigoda was married to Beatrice Schy from February 25, 1968, until her death on April 30, 1992. The couple had one daughter, Carol.

In 1982 People magazine mistakenly referred to Vigoda as dead. He responded humorously, posing for a photograph in Variety in which he was sitting up in a coffin, holding the issue of People that had "killed" him.

The same mistake was made in 1987 when a reporter for television Channel 9 in Secaucus, New Jersey, mistakenly referred to him as "the late Abe Vigoda". As a result, he has been the subject of many running gags pertaining to the mistaken reports of his death. A Late Night with David Letterman skit showed Letterman trying to summon Vigoda's ghost, with Vigoda walking in and announcing, "I'm not dead yet, you pinhead!"

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."

However, on Friday, Vigoda's nephew, Jesse Vigoda Kurland, reported that Abe Vigoda was indeed dying and had been committed into a hospice.