Thirty-four years after Abe Vigoda died, Abe Vigoda died.
Greg Galcik got a half-dozen emails within the first minute.
Friends were saying it was for real this time.
“Oh my dear lord. It’s going by too fast to see,” Galcik said, looking at his website’s numbers while talking to The Daily Beast. “We’re looking at 50 hits per second.”
Galcik owns AbeVigoda.com, which has been alerting people of Abe Vigoda’s to-the-second mortality since May 2001. This may come as a surprise, but the website was not Galcik’s full-time job. He’s a Chicago-based web developer, and he bought the domain 15 years ago off “some guy for about 200 bucks.”
Vigoda starred in The Godfather and Barney Miller, but he may be best known for having been declared dead more times by high-profile people and news organizations of any actor ever.
He was dead in 1982, when People magazine declared him absent from the Barney Miller wrap party on account of his unfortunate passing.
He was dead again in 1987, when a local news reporter did the same thing.
He was dead all throughout the next four decades on David Letterman’s show, where the late-night host consistently referred to Vigoda’s ghost or had him on just to prove he was alive. (“So Abe, you’re anything but dead,” Letterman once said. “Well, thank you,” Vigoda replied.)
He was frequently dead in Conan O’Brien’s monologue and in guest appearances on sketches, at Drew Carey’s Friar’s Club Roast (he was in the audience, alive), and on his regularly vandalized Wikipedia page all throughout the 2000s.
Abe Vigoda was dead in four decades, and Abe Vigoda was very much in on the joke.
But he was never dead on AbeVigoda.com. So on Tuesday, when Vigoda died at 94, it was hard for many on social media to trust TMZ, The New York Times, or the AP until the news was posted on Galcik’s one-off joke website.
“It’s true: The site’s had more a consistent record of accuracy than anyone else has,” he said. Lil Wayne was near death in TMZ’s world three years ago, after all, and that’s the same news organization that broke the news of Vigoda’s death.
Vigoda died of old age shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday. Galcik, who was on deadline for his real job, was suddenly in a race against time.
A few minutes in, he was feeling the heat. Politico’s Albany bureau chief said AbeVigoda.com “had one job…and you blew it.”
Really, Galcik was scrambling to remember a login for a website he doesn’t use every day. Another shock: AbeVigoda.com was not the algorithmically generated insta-obituary that crawled the world’s best news sources to confirm his death. The to-the-second clock on the site was a joke.
Just like the time a hoax almost got Galcik a few years ago (he caught it just in time), on Tuesday he had to find a username and password for his site, then rifle through some code to change it all manually.
Remember, this joke is almost as old as the Internet. Indeed, Galcik and, by extension, Abe Vigoda, helped popularize a brand new style of single-service website, like IsGlennHealyFiredYet.com (he’s a hockey commentator, and the answer is no) and IsThatcherDeadYet.co.uk (that’s about Margaret, and it’s yes).
Still, even without the fancy algorithm, about 25 minutes after the first reports, Galcik updated the most important part of AbeVigoda.com for the first and last time. He says he’ll leave it just like this for as long as he can pay the bill on the domain.
Abe Vigoda Is Dead.
And it’s a credit to the actor that he allowed the site—and the joke—to keep going all along.
Galcik had been through a Web-based legal battle before Abe Vigoda entered his life, when he had a website called Dysfunctional Family Circus. The site applied truly funny (if often racy) captions to otherwise bland “Family Circus” cartoons. The comic’s creator, Bill Keane, was not amused.
Things were different with Vigoda. No one associated with Vigoda ever reached out to Galcik to take down the site. Galcik never ran ads on AbeVigoda.com as a goodwill gesture.
While the actor was a ghost on Letterman and a dead guest on Conan, AbeVigoda.com was there to remind people he was alive all along.
“It’s a shame to see him go,” said Galcik. “I don’t really know what celebrities are really like, but he had to have a sense of humor about himself. You saw it with this.”