“Godfather” actor, magician Tony Giorgio dies, 88

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Joseph Anthony "Tony" Giorgio

Joseph Anthony "Tony" Giorgio

Actor and magician Joseph Anthony “Tony” Giorgio, who portrayed Bruno Tattaglia in the classic 1972 movie The Godfather, died February 1 in Van Nuys, California of cardiopulmonary failure. The Sherman Oaks, California resident was 88.

Giorgio provided the voice of the Butcher in the 1982 half-hour special Ziggy’s Gift, which aired on ABC. It won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.

A true Renaissance man, he was a TV actor (The Practice), stage actor (Big Julie in Guys and Dolls, starring Milton Berle), technical advisor on magic and gambling (Mission Impossible, Charlie’s Angels, Sting II, etc.), columnist (“The Giorgio Letters” in Genii), author (Tossing Broads), lecturer (con games and gambling scams), and card and dice hustler.

He produced several DVDs still available, including The Ultimate Work, an extensive training video on the art of hand mucking (holding out) and card manipulation.

Born in Herkimer, New York on September 27, 1923, Giorgio grew up in Schenectady during the Great Depression. He started doing magic tricks at the age of seven, and began his career in show business as a professional “amateur,” performing magic in talent shows for pay. At age 12, he ran away from home to join a circus and performed magic in a sideshow. Over the years, he transitioned from magic to professional hustler and then back to show business, working along the way in a variety of venues, from conventions and fraternal clubs to country clubs, Las Vegas casinos and Hollywood studios.

In 1963, he was one of the early performers at the Magic Castle, winning Close-up Magician of the Year in the 1990s. He was hired by Playboy Clubs in the 1960s to be their resident gambling expert.

His first appearance in films was as a card dealer in A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966). Besides his role in The Godfather, his most iconic film appearances were as Frank Palancio in Magnum Force and Don Scagnelli in American Me.

Tony Giorgio is survived by his wife of 41 years, Kaye S. Jacobs-Giorgio, and by many nieces and nephews.

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