“It’s heartbreaking”: SNL alum Tony Rosato dead at 62
Toronto comic actor Tony Rosato, veteran of SCTV, Saturday Night Live and more, has died.
The 62-year-old’s death on the evening of Jan. 10 was confirmed Tuesday by his longtime agent Larry Goldhar, who said that an autopsy is planned, but the death apparently resulted from a heart attack.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Goldhar told the Star. “He is truly one of the gentlest people I have ever met. He was just such a kind person.”
Goldhar recalled that Rosato was “grateful all the time” and that it was a pleasure to work for him. “I can tell you, every time I saw him he would tell me, ‘I love you.’ Like, every single time. You know? That’s the kind of person he was.”
Rosato was best known for his regular performances on stage at Second City, SCTV, Saturday NightLive, Street Legal and had a recurring character on Night Heat. He would later become a lead on the series Diamonds and was “busy all the time,” Goldhar recalled.
The Naples-born actor joined Second City’s Toronto cast in 1979, and came to be recognized for his zany characters — in his youth, he was once pegged to be the next John Belushi.
Movie stardom never came, but he was working steadily on locally filmed TV projects through the 1980s. Occasional TV roles and voice-over work in animation followed in the 1990s and beyond but his career stalled when, in 2005, the actor suffered a serious bout of mental illness and ended up languishing in the maximum-security Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee.
The Star later reported that Rosato had been in jail for two years awaiting trial on a harassment charge when he was, in fact, suffering from Capgras syndrome, a rare condition in which the sufferer believes those close to him have been replaced by substitutes.
He believed that his ex-wife Leah and their infant daughter had been replaced by impostors in the spring of 2005, and he began to frantically call the police, who charged him with harassing Leah.
The actor’s lawyer, Dan Brodsky, blamed mistakes by prosecutors, judges and others in the justice system for the long wait behind bars, telling the Star that Rosato spent more time in custody pending trial “than any other convicted prisoner in Canada has ever spent on the same charges.”
Fellow actor Dan Aykroyd and a band of Second City performers came to Rosato’s trial. He was not convicted; instead he was handed a conditional discharge and ordered to reside at a psychiatric facility until deemed fit to leave. He was out on probation by early 2009.
His demons vanquished by antipsychotic medication, Rosato spoke to the Star later that year of his gratitude for the “miracle” of being free and having “the privilege . . . to start over again.”
Rosato then made a comeback to performing after his time in custody; Goldhar credits work in radio for sustaining him in his early days of freedom. Work on TV and in small films eventually returned; however, the ordeal eventually broke apart his marriage.
It was Rosato’s girlfriend, Tanya Moore, who discovered he had died, according to a post on the actor’s Facebook account.
“Tony, my beautiful, loving and precious boyfriend passed away last night,” she posted on Facebook. “I will love you forever and as you said so many times to me with all my heart.”