Fake celebrity deaths are a dime a dozen these days - people spent hours disbelieving that David Bowie had passed because they're so prevalent on the internet - but back in 1982 they were a rarer thing. That's why People Magazine wrongly reporting that Abe Vigoda, star of the classic sitcom Barney Miller and one of the great supporting actors in The Godfather, had died made such a big splash. And it happened again in 1987, when WWOR in New Jersey prematurely buried the actor. The idea of Abe Vigoda as the alive dead guy was permanently ingrained in the mass consciousness when he became a running bit on Letterman, walking out onstage to tell the host "I'm not dead yet, pinhead!"
Abe Vigoda's non-death was such a thing that AbeVigoda.com sprang up in the early 2000s, a site dedicated solely to tracking the status of Abe Vigoda's existence. Today, fifteen years after it went online, AbeVigoda.com finally changed its status to "Abe Vigoda is alive in our hearts."
Vigoda was 94 when he passed away in his sleep, as good a death as any of us could ask for. And he had a pretty great life - he was married to the love of his life for the entirety of her life. He had a daughter. And he had a great career; as Tessio in The Godfather he delivered one of the great supporting performances of the 70s, and as Fish on Barney Miller (and briefly on the spin-off show Fish) he essayed a hangdog character whose deadpan delivery influenced a generation. Fish was one of the great TV characters, and it's sort of a pity that Barney Miller has been lost to the sands of time for an entire generation.
Vigoda had a great sense of humor - not only did he do Letterman and Conan bits all the time, he showed up in a wombat costume at a Phish show in 2013, grooving with the Abe Vigoda Dancers. He was such a cool guy.
Don't cry for Abe Vigoda but rather be happy that we had such a fun, great actor in our midst, one who was so game to lean into the pop culture silliness surrounding him. So long, Abe, and thanks for all the Fish.