Born: 24 February 1921
Died: 26 January 2016 (Natural causes)
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Best known as: Detective Fish on TV's Barney Miller
With his hangdog face and rumpled suits, actor Abe Vigoda was a hit as Detective Sgt. Phil Fish on the 1970's TV sitcom Barney Miller
. The show featured a ragtag band of New York City cops, with Vigoda as the comically world-weary grouch. Vigoda starred on the show from 1975-77, then left to star in the spinoff show Fish
(1977-78). Abe Vigoda wasn't always a specialist in curmudgeonly comedy -- his best-known film role was that of the treacherous Tessio in Francis Ford Coppola
's film The Godfather
(1972, with Marlon Brando
). His other films included the Neil Simon
comedy The Cheap Detective
(1979), Cannonball Run II
(1984), Joe Versus the Volcano
(1990, with Tom Hanks
) and Chump Change
(2004). Vigoda's fame was renewed when he made frequent guest appearances on Conan O'Brien
's Late Night
show in the 1990s. Abe Vigoda also earned a measure of ironic fame for persistent rumors of his death, sparked by an erroneous People
magazine story from 1982. (Vigoda "took the mistake with good humor, posing for a photograph published in Variety
in which he was sitting up in a coffin, holding the erroneous issue of People
," according to Wikipedia.) The "Abe Vigoda is (not) dead" meme continued until his actual death of natural causes in January of 2016.
Abe Vigoda starred with Betty White in a funny and much-discussed Snickers candy commercial during the 2010 Super Bowl… Abe Vigoda was also the name of a California-based punk rock band active in the early 2000s; they took their name in ironical homage to the actor.
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