Joseph Mascolo, 87, who played bad guy Stefano DiMera on NBC's daytime serial

Days of Our Lives

died Wednesday, according to a statement released by NBC on behalf of his wife, Patricia Schultz-Mascolo. He had Alzheimer's disease for a number of years.

Although he was best known for his role as crime boss and mogul DiMera, Mr. Mascolo was a classically trained musician and appeared on Broadway in plays including Dinner at Eight and That Championship Season.

His wide-ranging TV credits included the prime-time series Kojak, Hill Street Blues, and It's Garry Shandling's Show. He began on Days of Our Lives in 1982 and, despite taking breaks from the show, spent a total of more than two decades with it.

Mr. Mascolo also appeared in the daytime serials The Bold and the Beautiful, General Hospital, and Santa Barbara.

A native of West Hartford, Conn., he began studying music as a youngster and attended the University of Miami before deciding to pursue acting.

To support himself while he studied with famed acting coach Stella Adler in New York, Mr. Mascolo played clarinet with the Metropolitan Opera, according to his family.

During his long career, he appeared on stage in London and Los Angeles and was active in regional theater, including in New York and Connecticut.

On the big screen, he had parts in films including Sharky's Machine, Jaws 2, and Yes, Giorgio - the latter giving him the chance to sing with Luciano Pavarotti.

He is survived by his wife, son, stepdaughter, sister, and five grandchildren. - AP