Early in December 2015, one of Wagner College’s best-known alums, actor Robert J. Loggia ’51, died in Los Angeles.
The son of Sicilian immigrants, he was born Salvatore Loggia on Staten Island on January 3, 1930. Somewhere along the way, Salvatore became Robert, a freshman on the varsity football team at New Dorp High School. Football was Loggia’s ticket to a college education, winning him a scholarship to Wagner College in 1947.
A Dean’s List student, Bob Loggia was involved in everything at Wagner: football, basketball, the Wagnerian, Alpha Sigma Phi, all while working on the College’s maintenance crew. Then, during the spring of his second year, Loggia was recruited for his first Main Stage role, playing the male lead in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Before that, not only had he never performed in a play — he’d never even seen one.
“Being a bit macho then, I wasn’t sure about going on stage,” Loggia recalled in a 1988 Wagner Magazine interview. “Once I got into the role, I loved it. … I didn’t actually decide at that time to make a career of acting, but I discovered how much at ease I felt playing a role.”
Loggia’s first stage performance, at Wagner, led to his first movie performance — also at Wagner. A promotional film company was shooting a 21-minute recruitment movie, Beautiful Upon a Hill. The producers saw Loggia in Shrew and cast him in the lead role of Bob Allen, a student whose big challenge was juggling his many collegiate activities.
That fall, Loggia transferred to the University of Missouri, where he completed a journalism degree before being drafted into the Army. He served during the Korean War as a reporter for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in the Caribbean.
When Loggia returned to New York in 1953, a former schoolmate turned theatrical agent helped him land his first stage role, which led to an audition for Stella Adler’s Theatre Studio, followed by acceptance to Lee Strasberg’s Actor’s Studio. From that point, Loggia’s career was secured.
Robert Loggia worked as a character actor. His rugged good looks and gravelly voice often landed him “tough guy” roles on both sides of the law: a drug lord in Scarface, a wannabe mobster in The Sopranos, a private detective in Jagged Edge (winning him an Oscar nomination), a special agent in Mancuso, FBI (an Emmy-nominated performance). But he was also sufficiently versatile to play the softhearted retail executive who danced on a huge piano keyboard at FAO Schwarz with Tom Hanks in Big. By the end of his career, Loggia had 220 television and motion picture roles to his credit, plus occasional stage appearances.
Loggia’s last visit to Grymes Hill was in 2007, when he reunited with several old football buddies and staged an impromptu Q&A for theater students at Stage One.
That same year, the adult animated sitcom Family Guy included Robert Loggia in one of its famous cutaway sketches. Loggia stands at an airport ticket counter, where an agent asks him to spell his name. “Certainly,” he replies. “Robert Loggia. ‘R,’ as in ‘Robert Loggia.’ ‘O,’ as in, ‘Oh my God, it’s Robert Loggia.’ ‘B,’ as in, ‘By God! It’s Robert Loggia.’ …” And so forth.
The fact that Loggia was never known for his ego is a big part of what makes this gag so funny. In Seahawk heaven, however, he’ll certainly never need to spell his name.