Abe Vigoda, the character actor who played detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series "Barney Miller" and Mafioso Tessio in "The Godfather" died Tuesday at age 94.
"This man was never sick," Vigoda's daughter, Carol Vigoda Fuchs, told The Associated Press
, noting that he died in his sleep of old age.
According to the AP, "His death brought to an end years of questions on whether he was still alive — sparked by a false report of his death more than three decades ago. Though Vigoda took it in stride, the question of whether he was dead or alive became something of a running joke: There was even a website devoted to answering the much-Googled question, 'Is Abe Vigoda dead?' (On Tuesday, it had been updated with 'Yes')."
"I have nothing to say about Abe," Billy Crystal said at a roast of Rob Reiner. "I was always taught to speak well of the dead."
USA Today wrote
that "Even when he was relatively young, Abe Vigoda seemed old," and described him as "Tall, lanky, comically grim, with a perpetual hangdog expression on his face and a moan in his voice."
Vigoda was a long-time stage actor on Broadway when he was hired to play Vito' Corleone's confidante Salvatore Tessio in the 1972 classic "The Godfather" at the age of 50, The New York Times reported
"I’m really not a Mafia person," Vigoda, of Russian-Jewish descent, said in 2009. "I’m an actor who spent his life in the theater. But Francis said, 'I want to look at the Mafia not as thugs and gangsters but like royalty in Rome.' And he saw something in me that fit Tessio as one would look at the classics in Rome."
Vigoda said he "practically lived in Little Italy during the shoot" in order to get the role just right.
Vigoda went on to play Detective Fish in on the "Barney Miller" show, and got his own spinoff show, "Fish." He earned three Emmy nominations as part of the "Barney Miller" cast for best supporting actor.
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