Veteran character actor Abe Vigoda, best known for Barney Miller and ‘The Godfather,’ has died, aged 94.
He died in his sleep on Tuesday morning in New Jersey.
He got his big Hollywood break as Salvatore Tessio in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” before being cast as Detective Fish on Barney Miller, opposite Hal Linden. He stayed with the series for two seasons, earning three Emmy nominations plus his own spinoff, Fish, from 1977 to 1978.
In 1982 People magazine reported that he had died but Vigoda responded by placing an ad in Variety with a photo showing him sitting up in a coffin and holding a copy of the offending issue of the magazine.
His “death” became a running joke. David Letterman and Conan O’Brien invited him onto their late-night shows to prove he was still alive.
Vigoda was also seen in several television movies and on many prime-time series, including Law & Order, Mad About You, Touched by an Angel, As the World Turns and Santa Barbara with film credits including “Cannonball Run II” (1984), “Look Who’s Talking” (1989), “Joe Versus the Volcano” (1990), “Sugar Hill” (1993) and “Underworld” (1996).
“‘The Godfather’ changed my life,” he once told the NY Times.