It’s hard to imagine Salem without picturing Joseph Mascolo as Days of Our Lives’ greatest villain, Stefano DiMera. Even though the character was killed off in 2016 when Mascolo decided to retire from acting, the beloved actor was still a part of the DOOL family.
It was announced today that Mascolo, 87, died Wednesday of Alzheimer’s disease.
The show’s producer, Ken Corday, released a statement remembering Mascolo.
“It is with great sorrow that we are sharing the news of the passing of our dear friend and beloved member of the Days of Our Lives family Joseph Mascolo,” said Corday. “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.”
Mascolo got his start on the East Coast as a theatre actor in off-Broadway productions in the 1950s. He moved to Los Angeles to try his luck in film, and he made his screen debut in 1970 in Diary of a Mad Housewife. He also guest starred in TV shows like All in the Family, Lou Grant, The Incredible Hulk and Hill Street Blues.
In 1982, Mascolo’s life changed when he was cast as Stefano DiMera, a role that was written for him by head writer Pat Fallen-Smith. The mob-boss-turned-unethical-businessman-turned-terrorist was a fan favorite among viewers.
His character had so many deaths, it was hard to keep track of. You could try to kill Stefano DiMera, but he always came back to life. It’s why longtime fans nicknamed him “The Phoenix” because he always rose from the dead.
Despite a five-year hiatus from DOOL to join The Bold and the Beautiful as Massimo Marone, Mascolo came back home to Salem where he belonged. He retired from DOOL earlier this year.
Fans reacted immediately to the news once it was posted on the official DOOL Twitter account.
One of the most iconic TV villains of all time.
— Ray Paolantonio (@RayPaolantonio) December 9, 2016
Oh no. My heart is breaking. He was such a fabulous actor with such heart, passion, intelligence and wit. A true legend.
— Marie-Eve Mongrain (@mariem201) December 9, 2016
Hearts will break everywhere knowing that "The Phoenix" shall not rise again…RIP Joseph Mascolo 💔😪 You were a true Gentleman ❤️
— Ginny Buchanan (@ginnyb902) December 9, 2016
Cast members had not yet responded to the sad news as of press time.
Mascolo is survived by his wife, Patricia Schultz-Mascolo, his son, Peter, his step-daughter, Laura, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“Joseph was a big ol’ bear with a puppy-dog heart,” Schultz-Mascolo said in a statement. “I’m so blessed to have had these many years with him. I will miss him every day.”
We will miss him, too.
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