While we aren't even one month into 2016, the entertainment industry has already lost several notable icons. Today, Variety reports that beloved character actor Abe Vigoda passed away in his New Jersey home at the age of 94. The news was confirmed by his daughter, Carol Vigoda Fuchs, who revealed he passed from natural causes.
Abe Vigoda was born February 24, 1921 in New York City, to Lena (Moses) and Samuel Vigoda, both Russian Jewish immigrants. His father was a tailor on the Lower East Side. The actor made his first stage appearance at the age of 17 and performed n small theater shows for over 20 years. He had roles in notable off-Broadway productions such as "Richard III" in 1960 and 1961, "The Cherry Orchard" in 1962-63, "A Darker Flower" in 1963 and "The Cat and the Canary" in 1965. The actor made his Broadway debut with a role in a revival of "The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat" in 1967, followed by "The Man in the Glass Booth" in 1968-69 and "Inquest" in 1970. He also appeared in a handful of episodes of Dark Shadows before landing the iconic role of the mobster Tessio in the 1972 Best Picture winner The Godfather, which he reprised in the 1974 sequel The Godfather: Part II.
The actor is also well-known for playing Sgt. Phil Fish on Barney Miller, a character who became so popular he got his own spinoff, the 1977 series Fish, which ran for two seasons. He appeared on Barney Miller for 61 episodes. He also guest-starred on episodes of Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, The Bionic Woman, The Rockford Files and Eight Is Enough.
The actor continued to work regularly throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including roles in Cannonball Run II, Look Who's Talking, Joe Versus the Volcano, Fist of Honor, Jury Duty, Good Burger and A Brooklyn State of Mind. He also lent his voice as the mobster Tessio in the 2006 video game based on The Godfather. Younger fans may recognize the actor from a 2010 Super Bowl commercial he appeared in alongside Betty White.
In more recent years, Abe Vigoda became an unusual pop culture icon due to several false reports of his death, which became a running joke. He frequently appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien throughout the 2000s, and there was even a punk rock band named ever him. The false reports of his death even spawned a website IsAbeVigodaDead.com, which would have one blank page with the word "No." The website was updated today, with "Yes. (February 24, 1921 - January 26, 2016)." The actor is survived by his daughter Carol Vigoda Fuchs. His wife, Beatrice Schy, passed away in 1992.