Abe Vigoda, Famous for Not Being Dead, Is Dead

The character actor was best known for his role on "The Godfather," but he achieved fame later for being the subject of numerous rumors about his death.

Abe Vigoda (right) on Barney Miller. Photo via Wikipedia

Abraham "Abe" Vigoda, the American character actor best known for his roles in Barney Miller and The Godfather, has died at the age of 94. His daughter told the Associated Press he died in his sleep.

According to his New York Times obituary, Vigoda was a relatively unknown stage actor until he landed the role of Salvatore Tessio inThe Godfather when he was 50. From there he landed one of his most notable roles as Sergeant Philip K. Fish opposite Hal Linden on Barney Miller, a gig that turned into his own spinoff show.

Those under 30, however, most likely knew him as being the centerpiece of a running joke: In 1982, People magazine reported that he had died, but he hadn't, and ran a full-page Variety ad making light of the error. That led to gags like "Abe Vigoda's Dead," a spoof of the Bauhaus song "Bela Lugosi's Dead," and appearances on late-night shows to prove that he was still alive. At least two websites kept watch over him, isabevigodadead.com and abevigoda.com—you could visit either and see if Vigoda had given up the ghost, though they were a few minutes late to update upon his death on Tuesday.

Shon Taylor, the proprietor of isabevigoda.com, is also the manager of Bottle Rocket Manufacturing, a software developer who built the site about ten years ago. Part of running the site included setting up a google alert for Abe Vigoda's name, along with coding an "internal monitor" for the site that would alert him to Abe Vigoda news.

"I of course feel bad for his family," Taylor told VICE from Bottle Rocket in Salt Lake City. "He deserved to be more than just an internet joke. I will watch The Godfather tonight with a cocktail."