Tony Lip, an actor best known for his role as crime boss Carmine Lupertazzi in the hit HBO series The Sopranos, died Friday in a hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey. He was 82.
Though Lip’s exact cause of death is unknown, family members told local newspaper The Record of Woodland Park that the actor’s health had been failing in recent years.
Born Frank Anthony Vallelonga, “Lip” — nicknamed for his ability to gab — played minor league baseball in North Carolina with the St Louis Browns organization before going on to serve in the Army from 1951 to 1953 in Germany.
After the Army, Lip worked as general manager of the famed Copacabana nightclub in Manhattan, New York City, where he played host to the stars of the era including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin and met the sort of gangsters he would later portray in films.
It was also at the Copacabana where he met The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola and casting director Louis DiGiaimo, who gave him a minor role in the movie as a wedding guest.
He went on to portray numerous mobsters in films like Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco and Raging Bull, before eventually landing the part of Lupertazzi in The Sopranos in 2001.
In addition to his on-screen accomplishments, Lip also experienced minor success as an author, co-writing a cookbook in 2005, alongside Italian-American actors James Gandolfini (who plays Tony Soprano), Danny Aiello and Chazz Palmintieri.
The book, entitled Shut Up and Eat! was comprised of the actors’ favorite Italian recipes.
Tony Lip is survived by his two sons, Nick Vallelonga and Frank Vallelonga Jr. His wife Dolores died in 1999.