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'Simpsons' Character Inspired by Army Veteran from Illinois

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Chicago native Joe Mantegna said the inspiration for the raspy voice he uses for the Fat Tony character on "The Simpsons" came from his late uncle, an Army veteran from Westchester, IL.

"I thought as my homage to my Uncle Willie, I did that first episode like that thinking, 'OK, this will be that' and I'll be able to tell Willie, 'Hey Willie listen, that's you.' And little did I know I'd be doing it for like 25 years and still going," Mantegna says in the new DVD box set for the Fox animated comedy's 18th season. "I think I'm safe to say that Fat Tony is more a conglomeration of all those kind of guys that I ran into as a kid in Cicero."

Mantegna started voicing the mobster during the series' third season, which premiered in 1991.

His uncle, William Novelli, died in 2014 at the age of 91. He was an Army sergeant who served during World War II and received a Purple Heart.

Mantegna, 70, recently received a high honor of his own. The southeast corner of Hudson and Armitage avenues in the Lincoln Park neighborhood was named in honor of the "Criminal Minds" star in May.

Season 29 of "The Simpsons" airs at 7 p.m. Sundays on Fox.

tswartz@tribpub.com

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