I got to meet Abe Vigoda on the rehearsal sets for both Barney Miller and Fish. The first time I caught him on the set of Fish, I wasn’t aware that the show had spun off. I just thought that he was doing a special episode of Barney Miller that featured more of his home life. At least until I heard different theme music come up for it. The character of Fish that Abe played seemed to always be upset and exhausted, kind of fed up with life. In real life, during the many times I got to speak with him, Abe Vigoda was very much full of life and laughter. Between both sets, we saw each other a lot. Again, I treated the encounters just like they were, a working relationship, pleasant on most occasions.
Secretly I wondered if Abe was really playing out a Johnny Fontaine storyline. Abe played Sal Tessio in the Godfather Trilogy and about a jillion other things….he just can’t seemed to get away from Sal. I liked Abe very much, but wondered whose bed the horsehead wound up in for Sal Tessio to get a spinoff. I just didn’t think the “Fish” character had enough weight to it. I was right, because Fish (the TV show, didn’t last that long.
On the other hand, Abe Vigoda has been a fixture on TV, seen on everything from things like Love Boat and Fantasy Island to recent episodes of Family Guy, Late Night with Conan OBrien, and Saturday Night Live. From his begining on “Studio One” in 1949 all the way up to the upcoming movies “The Driver” and “Mafioso II”, Abe Vigoda has one of the longest list of credits in movies and TV. I was very glad that I got to speak with him all the times that I did, even if to me, he was just another celebrity I’ve met.