Saturday, June 7, 2014

Abraham, Father of Nations...Abe Vigoda, Father of Patience

Abe Vigoda continues to astonish with his longevity—especially those who thought he died long ago. (The extremely veteran actor has been reported as deceased on at least three occasions over the last thirty years.) Born Abraham Vigoda in February 1921 to Russian-Jewish immigrants, he remains the highest-ranking Jew in the history of the Italian Mafia, enjoying the status of caporegime in the Corleone crime family until his forced “retirement.”

Now 93 years old—and having looked ancient for many decades; he was a mere 51 in The Godfather yet appeared easily to be in his sixties—I’m wondering if Vigoda can hold on to become the oldest Abraham in history. Vigoda passed Abraham Lincoln only two months into the run of his spinoff series, Fish, in 1977, and moved into the No. 2 spot in 1986, when he eclipsed Abraham Zapruder, who had proved not up to the challenge by dying, years before, at age 65. Since then, only the biblical Abraham has stood in Vigoda’s way.*

* We can endlessly debate where Abraham Simpson belongs on this list, but the fact is that his birth year has never been revealed. And with the timeline of his life continually in flux, a determination of his true age would be specious at best. Grampa Simpson is a World War II veteran, yet he also claimed to have fought in the First World War, as well as participated in the 1936 Olympic Games. His service in World War II is undoubtedly true—at least, he was certainly old enough to have served—but given Grampa Simpson’s penchant for meandering tall tales and his suspect memory, much of his background cannot be taken as gospel, even though we know he was of an advanced age when he fathered Homer in the mid-1950s. Yes, through flashbacks and glimpses of Simpsons future, we see Grampa and other Springfield residents at different ages, but because of strictly maintained canon, they never actually age—their age at the time of the series’ “birth” is the age that they have remained throughout the canonical run of the series. Therefore, Grampa, an 80-something when The Simpsons premiered in 1989, remains an 80-something today regardless of the fact that nearly a quarter-century has elapsed. So, even though Abraham Simpson once was likely much older than Abe Vigoda, Vigoda has long since reclaimed second place.

Of course, according to Genesis, Abraham lived to the ripe, old age of 175. Now whether you take the Bible at its literal word or dismiss the ages of its many incredulously long-lived characters as gross exaggerations, 175 remains the sole “official” age of record—and a target still so far away that the nonagenarian Vigoda is little more than halfway there.

Still, I believe Abe Vigoda can do it. The key to Vigoda’s long life thus far has been his languid, almost reptilian, movement. Whether shuffling gingerly through the Corleone compound or planted in fatigued misery behind his 12th Precinct desk, Vigoda’s patient, unhurried manner emulates the slow heart rate and conserved body motion of such long-living animals as the elephant, the whale, and the tortoise. Let’s face it: Vigoda even shares the same facial expressions as a tortoise…

Certainly, none of us will be around to see it, but I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if, early in the year 2096, a shriveled-yet-still-filled-with-vim Abe Vigoda quietly becomes the longest-living Abraham in human history.

After all, a 90-something who can take this hit isn’t going any time soon…

Besides, breaking the record is the smart move...and Tessio was always smartuh.

(Image from Barney Miller copyright ABC; image from The Godfather copyright Paramount Pictures; animated GIF of Snickers ad copyright Mars, Incorporated.)

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