One of the stars of the original Godfather has died at the age of 94. Abe Vigoda passed away on January 26, according to a report from TMZ. The actor was the subject of many death hoaxes throughout his later years.
Vigoda died in a nursing home in upstate New York. On January 22, 2016, his nephew, Jesse Vigoda Kurland, said that Vigoda had been committed to a hospice and had stopped taking his medication.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The First Death Hoax Surrounding Vigoda Was Started by People Magazine in 1982
Death hoaxes about Vigoda go all the way back to 1982. The first appeared in People Magazine when they mistakenly referred to him as deceased. He retorted by posing in a casket for a Variety article. A People employee, Jeff Jarvis, said in the book, Regret the Error, that People’s editorial staff were known to make errors at that time.
Later, in 1987, WWOR in Secaucus, New Jersey, reported that he had died. In 2001, a website was set up with the sole intention of monitoring whether or not Vigoda was alive. During a segment on Late Night with David Letterman, Letterman tried to summon Vigoda’s ghost, the actor appeared on stage and said, “I’m not dead yet, you pinhead.”
2. In 2010, Vigoda’s Super Bowl Commercial Was Voted the Best of That Year’s Ads
He was last seen in public in October 2015 at day two of the Chiller Theater Expo in Parsippany, New Jersey. In 2010, Vigoda appeared with Betty White, who is the same age, in a Super Bowl commercial for Snickers. That ad was voted the best of that year’s Super Bowl commercials.
3. His Most Famous Acting Role Was as Sal Tessio in ‘The Godfather’
His most famous acting role was a Sal Tessio, a respected gangster in the Corleone family in The Godfather. Vigoda’s character is killed in the movie after trying to betray Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). In 2007, Vigoda voiced his character for The Godfather video game.
4. The Death Hoaxes Followed Vigoda Into His Acting Career
Another of his more famous parts was as John Travolta’s eccentric father in Look Who’s Talking. While on TV in the 1980s he played Detective Phil Flash in the sitcom Barney Miller. One of the Vigoda death hoaxes was worked into a storyline of the show. In another of his later roles, in Good Burger, his character, Otis, utters the words, “I should have died years ago.” He was also a regular featured player on Conan O’Brien’s shows.
5. He’s Survived by His Daughter Carol
His wife Beatrice Schy passed away in 1992. The couple were married in 1968. They had one daughter, Carol. Vigoda was a native of Brooklyn, where he was born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. His father was a tailor.