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Actor Abe Vigoda Dead at 94

'Barney Miller' and 'Fish' Star Also Remembered for His Role in 'The Godfather'

Rumors of his demise flooded the media on two different occasions in the 1980s. But actor Abe Vigoda, who is remembered for playing over-the-hill detective Phil Fish on ABC 1970s sitcom “Barney Miller” and spin-off “Fish” has officially passed away. Vigoda died Tuesday morning in his sleep at his daughter Carol Vigoda Fuch’s home in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

Born on Feb. 24, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York, Vigoda gained early notoriety in the 1960s on Broadway, including productions of “Marat/Sade,” “The Man in the Glass Booth” and “Tough to Get Help.” Prior to “Barney Miller,” Vigoda was known for playing elderly mobster Salvatore Tessio in 1972 theatrical “The Godfather.” He also appeared briefly in “The Godfather Part II” in a flashback sequence at the end of the film.

Guest appearances over the course of Vigoda’s career included TV series “Dark Shadows,” “Mannix,” “The Rookies,” the original “Hawaii Five-O,” “The Rockford Files,” “Eight is Enough,” “Santa Barbara” and “Wings.” His film roles included “Cannonball Run II,” ”Look Who’s Talking,” ”Joe Versus the Volcano” and “North.”

Vigoda was married twice, most recently to Beatrice Schy, who died in 1992. He had his daughter with his first wife, Sonja Gohlke, who has also passed away. Vigoda is survived by his daughter, grandchildren Jamie, Paul and Steven, and a great-grandson.

Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of weekly column “Mr. Television” for Campaign US (www.campaignlive.com). Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

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  1. One of those actors who when you hear about his demise, you can’t imagine him being dead, and you can’t believe he was still alive.

    I mean, he always looked to be on the brink of death when he was on Barney Miller, which I watched as a kid. He somehow clung to life for another 40 years or so. Great actor, great career.

    • The whole concept of that show was wrong. I’m amazed it lasted as long as it did. Fish was a great ensemble character; not a headliner.

        • I did not know that that is why Fish was canceled. And those other three series you mention are absolutely good examples.
          Funny though, Three’s Company was based on Man About the House, a British series. They also spun off their version of the Ropers and it was, if I remember correctly, more successful than the main series.