Tony Lip dies at 82; character actor known for mob roles


Tony Lip, 82, a veteran character actor known for playing mob roles on “The Sopranos” television show and in films, died Friday at a hospital in Teaneck, N.J. Family members told New Jersey’s Record newspaper that Lip, a resident of Paramus, N.J., had been in failing health in recent years.

While best known for playing mob kingpin Carmine Lupertazzi in “The Sopranos” on HBO from 2001 to 2007, Lip also had roles in movies including “The Godfather,” “Goodfellas” and “Donnie Brasco.”

He was born Frank Anthony Vallelonga in Beaver Falls, Pa., in 1930 and grew up in an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx. According to family lore, he was called Lip from age 8 because he could out-talk all others.

“Even my mother, Dolores, didn’t know his name was Frank until they had to make up their wedding invitations back in 1958,” Lip’s son Nick Vallelonga told the Record in 2003.

Lip became his stage name when he started getting acting parts.

Before his acting career, he had played minor-league baseball, served in the Army and worked in a variety of jobs, including hairdresser to the Rockettes. The GI Bill paid for that training.

Lip also worked at the famed Copacabana club in Manhattan during the 1960s and met numerous celebrities of the era, including singers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat “King” Cole and Bobby Darin, as well as the kind of gangsters he would later portray.

In 2006 Lip and coauthor Steven Prigge published “Shut Up and Eat! Mangia With the Stories and Recipes From Your Favorite Italian-American Stars.”

Times staff and wire reports