Joe Viterelli, the pug-faced actor known for playing goons in mob movies, died on Jan. 29 from complications of heart surgery. He was 66.
The New York City native originally ran the family business — of music schools. Viterelli played the classical guitar and spent his youth saving up enough money to see performances at Carnegie Hall and Broadway theaters. He later took on jobs as a truck driver, bar owner and bowling ball driller to feed his family.
Viterelli moved to Los Angeles in the late-1970s and befriended director Leo Penn. Although Joe originally declined to go Hollywood, he changed his mind when actor Sean Penn (Leo’s son) requested his presence in the 1990 gangster film, “State of Grace.”
Audiences liked what they saw and Viterelli soon received offers to act in other mob movies. He appeared in 40 films, typecast as Joe Profaci (“Mobsters”), Nick Valenti (“Bullets Over Broadway”), Vinnie “The Shrimp” (“Mickey Blue Eyes”) and Fat Tony Ragoni (“Cure for Boredom”). He was best known for his performance as the likable henchman Jelly in 1999’s “Analyze This” and its 2002 sequel, “Analyze That.”
His final performance was in the humorous Staples commercial released on Super Bowl Sunday. It featured Viterelli acting as “muscle” for an office worker whose manager demanded bakery bribes in exchange for office supplies.