Hang in there, Abe

September 24, 2008

I confess to being one of the ones surprised to find out he isn’t dead:

Abe Vigoda found out he was dead in 1982. He was doing a play in Calgary, Alberta, while a People magazine writer visited the “Barney Miller” wrap party in Los Angeles, California.

“Somehow it mentioned in the article that ‘the late Abe Vigoda’ was not [there],” Vigoda recalls.

The error was corrected, but the damage had been done. Vigoda’s “Barney Miller” character — the decrepit, downcast Det. Phil Fish — didn’t help the image. Never mind that the real Vigoda was a vigorous man just turning 60 at the time; the question of whether he’s shuffled off this mortal coil has followed him around ever since. There’s even a Web site devoted to his life-or-death status.

But Vigoda takes the attention with good humor (and occasional appearances on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien“). Now 87, he can look back on a successful career with at least two immortal characters: Fish and the “Godfather” lieutenant, Sal Tessio.

I liked “Barney Miller” a lot. It took its humor seriously and didn’t often have “very special episodes,” if you know what I mean. It’s not on Fancast yet, but maybe soon.

Speaking of “The Godfather,” CBS News had one of its “ask the candidates” segments last night, and Barack Obama listed it as his favorite movie. He also mentioned “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Casablanca.” John McCain named “Viva Zapata!” Let’s see, that’s two movies about war, one about a revolution and one about an organized-crime family. Interesting, huh?

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