Friday, July 12, 2024

RIP Joe Mascolo, aka Stefano DiMera of “Days of Our Lives,” Dies for Real at age 87


It’s not possible to have lived with a TV set for the last 35 years and not seen Joe Mascolo’s face. He was Stefano DiMera, a comic book villain on “Days of Our Lives” starting in 1982. The inside joke about Stefano was that you couldn’t kill him. His character was murdered dozens of times, and rose like a “Phoenix”– his nickname–days or weeks later.

Alas, Mascolo actually died yesterday at age 87. I met him once at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills after some event and he couldn’t have been nicer. Gone was Stefano’s intercontinental accent. (He was from West Hartford, Connecticut, and not Italy or anyplace exotic.) He was absolutely charming, and loving his late in life fame. God bless him.

Mascolo’s acting credits string back to around 1960 but he didn’t hit his stride until 1981, when he was in a short lived Mafia type TV series. His bio also says he played clarinet with the Metropolitan Opera for a couple of years, and I’ll bet he was a closet opera singer a la Paul Sorvino. In 1982, he became Stefano, a ridiculous character that Mascolo made real — so real he drove the story on a show that used to be about a white bread middle class family from the mid west. How bizarre.

Indeed, when I was in high school, “Days of our Lives” was pure vanilla — bland white people cheating and drinking. Mascolo’s entrance brought ethnicity– something only seen on “Ryan’s Hope.” (Soaps in general do not acknowledge that Italians, Jews, Greeks, etc exist.) Mascolo was followed by John Aniston as the Greek tycoon Victor Kiriakis. (He’s still there after thirty years as well.) They were a shock, I’m sure, to middle America,

So here’s to Joe Mascolo. He was one of a kind, and certainly made daytime TV more interesting that it deserved.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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