Two years ago today, on January 26th, 2016, the world was saddened by the loss of beloved character actor Abe Vigoda at the ripe age of 94. Vigoda is perhaps best remembered for his roles as Sal Tessio in The Godfather films or Detective Fish in 70’s police sitcom Barney Miller (and his own Fish spinoff series). However, fans of the Phish (that’s “ph”-Phish) will surely remember his pivotal role in the group’s 2013 Halloween show in Atlantic City, NJ.
Breaking from their musical costume tradition, Phish opted to debut an album’s worth of new material during the second set on Halloween night. Tentatively-titled Wingsuit (and later renamed Fuego), easily one of the favorites from the set was the funky jam tune, “Wombat”, which name-checks Vigoda and his past work (“It’s kinda like the theme from the Fish TV show, you know, with Abe Vigoda”).
During the funky tune, dancers came out onstage escorting a seemingly frail, delicate wombat (or, more accurately, “person in a wombat suit”). However, when he got to center stage, the wombat shot up straight and busted into an intricately choreographed dance routine before hunching back over and hobbling back offstage. At the end of the song, the band “unmasked” the mysterious wombat to reveal…that it was the real Abe Vigoda inside the suit all along!
Of course, the then-92-year-old actor wasn’t actually the one performing the athletic dance routine, but the sneaky switch-up did provide one of the more amusing moments of the evening. You can watch Abe Vigoda’s appearance at Phish’s 2013 Halloween show below:
“Wombat” featuring Abe Vigoda & The Abe Vigoda Dancers – 10/31/13
…And here’s the “theme from the Fish TV show,” which “Wombat” is, indeed, “kinda like”:
Then, during the following set break, the band aired a short film they had made with Vigoda which parodies one of his most famous Godfather scenes, with Mike Gordon playing the role of “Don Gordleone.” You can watch that short below via Phish’s YouTube page:
Rest easy, Abe.
[Cover photo via Phish YouTube]