Soap icon Joseph Mascolo passes away at 87

Posted Friday, December 9, 2016 3:29:46 PM
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Joseph Mascolo, who played the role of iconic Days of our Lives villain Stefano DiMera, has passed away at the age of 87.

Days of our Lives icon Joseph Mascolo has passed away at the age of 87. He had battled Alzheimer's disease for many years.

"It is with great sorrow that we share the news of the passing of our dear friend and beloved member of the Days of our Lives family, Joseph Mascolo," Days of our Lives' executive producer Ken Corday said in a statement. "The smile on Joe's face is something we'd all come to find comfort in, and he will be sorely missed. His larger than life presence, kind heart, and unwavering positivity has impacted us all for decades, and will live on in the memories of his many fans. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time."

Born and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut, Joseph Peter Mascolo was endowed with a musical ability that seemed to guarantee a brilliant career as a classical musician. He never considered an acting career until a music scholarship took him to the University of Miami, where a drama coach heard in Mascolo's hearty basso a voice that was destined for the stage.

When he became a candidate for a Fulbright Scholarship to study orchestral conducting, there was a snag; Mascolo was determined to submerge himself in the study of opera in Italy, and the available position was in Germany. That being the case, he passed up on the Fulbright and, instead, took advantage of an offer in New York City. Of all the ways an actor supports himself while studying theater and auditioning in New York, the coveted seat in the clarinet section of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, which Mascolo accepted, has to be among the most unique. It was in New York that the seed to act, which had been planted back in Miami, began to blossom.

Mascolo was first seen off-Broadway in a production of The Threepenny Opera, soon followed by an appearance in the landmark off-Broadway production of A View From the Bridge with director Ulu Grosbard, where he succeeded Robert Duvall as Eddie Carbone and joined an ensemble that included Jon Voight as costar and Dustin Hoffman as assistant director. His Broadway debut came in Dinner at Eight, mounted by theatre legend Tyrone Guthrie.

The first generation American went on to appear in numerous theatrical productions like The Rose Tattoo, opposite Olympia Dukakis; That Championship Season; Catch My Soul; Little Shop of Horrors; and Bravo Caruso!, the latter of which went on to be one of his greatest acting memories.

The film Diary of a Mad Housewife marked Mascolo's debut into the movie world, which was followed by appearances in films like the 1972 sequel flick Shaft's Big Score, the 1978 film Jaws 2, and 1981's Sharky's Machine and 1986's Heat, both of which starred Burt Reynolds, who describes Mascolo as "one of Hollywood's best kept secrets."

In the end, television ended up being Mascolo's true home. Before landing the DAYS role that made him a household name, the actor starred as General Hospital's Nicholas Van Buren, won an Emmy for his work on the NBC miniseries Poppa and Me, and appeared on shows like True Story, The Doctors, Where the Heart Is, All In the Family, and Bronk. It was the actor's performance in the TV miniseries The Gangster Chronicles, however, that prompted former DAYS head writer Pat Falken-Smith to create the role of Salem's notorious villain Stefano DiMera for the talented actor in 1981.

Funny enough, it wasn't an easy task to convince Mascolo to take his DAYS role. He didn't want to be tied down with a long-term contract, but Falken-Smith was relentless in her pursuit of the performer -- which ultimately led to him taking on what would eventually become a fan-favorite and iconic role.

Despite having become a DAYS legend in his 18 years in Salem, Mascolo decided to walk away from the role of Stefano in 2001 to pursue other opportunities. Hearing the actor was on the market, Bradley Bell, the executive producer and head writer of CBS Daytime's The Bold and the Beautiful, snatched him up to play the role of Massimo Marone, a character who shook up the daytime world when it was revealed he was the true father of B&B's popular character Ridge.

"RIP Joe Mascolo," Angelica McDaniel, the head of CBS Daytime, shared on Twitter. "Sending positive thoughts to his family during this difficult time. #BoldandBeautiful #Days"

Later, CBS's official Twitter account for daytime programming added, "The CBS Daytime Family sends our condolences to Joe Mascolo's family on his passing. He will always be remembered as a legend in Daytime."

After a half a decade of wowing CBS viewers, Mascolo decided to return to DAYS as his iconic character Stefano, and he remained there until having to bow out in 2016 due to health issues.

"Last spring, I had a small stroke. During my rehab, I thought this would be a good time for Stefano to leave," Mascolo revealed in early 2016, adding that he and the writers at the time decided it would be a good moment for Stefano's final death (emphasis on the word final, because the character famously rose from the dead several times and was thus nicknamed the Phoenix). "The producers visited me and we worked out a tentative plan, and the writers beefed up the storyline to what you see on TV."

The storyline he was referring to was Hope (Kristian Alfonso) blasting several bullets into her long-term nemesis' chest -- a storyline that caught fans by surprise and is still creating memorable story a year later.

Though Mascolo kept busy with both his daytime role and ongoing theater appearances over the years, he preserved some free time for a variety of causes like New Horizons, a non-profit organization that offers counseling and careers for adults with developmental disabilities, and building a group home for mentally and emotionally impaired citizens in Ocilla, Georgia.

The beloved actor is survived by his wife, Patricia Schultz-Mascolo; his son, Peter; his stepdaughter, Laura; and his sister, Marie, and her husband, Ronald LaVoie. He also had five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, one niece, one nephew, three great nieces, one great nephew, and one great-grand niece.

What are some of your favorite Stefano moments? Please feel free to share your condolences in the Comments section below, on our message boards, or by submitting Feedback.

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