Joe Santos

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Joe Santos
Santos (right) in 2009
Joseph John Minieri Jr.

(1931-06-09)June 9, 1931
DiedMarch 18, 2016(2016-03-18) (aged 84)
Years active1963–2010
Maria Montero
(m. 1958; her death 1988)
Partner(s)Nancy Hobson
Children3, including Perry Santos

Joe Santos (born Joseph John Minieri Jr.; June 9, 1931 – March 18, 2016) was an Italian-American film and television actor, best known as Sgt. Dennis Becker, (later Lieutenant) the friend of James Garner's character, on the NBC crime drama, The Rockford Files.

Early years[edit]

Santos was born in Brooklyn on June 9, 1931, the same day his father died.[1] His mother Rose (née Sarno), sold olive oil and eventually became a nightclub owner and singer in New York City and Havana. She later married Puerto Rican-born Daniel Santos, and Joe took his name.[2]

Santos was a football player at Fordham University, and even turned semi-pro, before finding a new avenue in acting. He struggled in show business, and worked blue-collar jobs until his friend Al Pacino helped him get a role in the 1971 movie The Panic in Needle Park.[3]

In the Korean War, Santos served in the United States Army.[1]


Santos had roles in a number of notable films of the early 1970s, including The Panic in Needle Park (1971), The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971), as the leader of a slave-catching gang in the western The Legend of Ngr Charley (1972), Shaft's Big Score! (1972), as a policeman in Shamus (1973), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), The Don Is Dead (1973), Blade (1973) and Zandy's Bride (1974). More than two decades later he appeared in the big budget Kevin Costner flop, The Postman (1997).

From 1974–1980, Santos played LAPD Sergeant (later Lieutenant) Dennis Becker, the friend of the easy going ex-convict-turned-private investigator Jim Rockford (played by James Garner) in The Rockford Files,.[4] He portrayed Lt. Frank Harper in the TV series Hardcastle and McCormick (1985–86). He reprised the Dennis Becker role in eight The Rockford Files television movies (1994-1999).

Santos appeared in various television movies during the 1970s and 1980s, including Nightside (1973), The Blue Knight (1973), The Girl on the Late, Late Show (1974), A Matter of Wife... and Death (1975), Power (1980), The Hustler of Muscle Beach (1980), The Selling of Vince D'Angelo (1983), and The Ratings Game (1984). His character was often a police detective or lieutenant. He portrayed Marty Sinatra, Frank's father, in the four-part 1992 television miniseries Sinatra.

In 1980, Santos played Norman Davis in the short-lived (10 episodes) NBC comedy Me and Maxx.[5]:675 In 1984, he portrayed Domingo Rivera on the ABC comedy a.k.a. Pablo, which was cancelled after six episodes.[5]

Santos made guest appearances on television shows throughout his acting career, including Room 222, Toma, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, Kung Fu, Baretta, Lou Grant, Police Story (in 8 episodes), Black Sheep Squadron, Trapper John, M.D. , The Greatest American Hero, Hill Street Blues (in 3 episodes), The A-Team, Remington Steele, T.J. Hooker, Hardcastle and McCormick (in 10 episodes), MacGyver (in 2 episodes), Magnum P.I. (in 5 episodes), Murder, She Wrote (in 2 episodes), Miami Vice, Quantum Leap, Santa Barbara (in 5 episodes), Hunter (in 2 episodes), and NYPD Blue. From 1978 to 1980 he appeared on the CBS game show The Match Game, always sitting in the top left seat. He appeared in numerous episodes and was usually a comic foil to Brett Somers.[citation needed]

Santos also appeared on The Sopranos as Angelo Garepe in seven 2004 episodes.

Personal life[edit]

In 1958, Santos met and married Maria Montero while he was in Cuba.[1]


Santos had a heart attack in March 2016 and died two days later at the age of 84.[3][6]


Year Title Role Notes
1964 Warm Nights and Hot Pleasures Dick
Flesh and Lace Julian shop owner
1966 Moonlighting Wives Detective Hank
1967 The Tiger Makes Out Man at Housing Authority Uncredited
My Body Hungers Truck Driver
1968 The Detective Reporter Uncredited
1971 The Panic in Needle Park Detective DiBono
The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight Ezmo
1972 The Legend of Ngr Charley Reverend
Shaft's Big Score! Pascal
1973 Shamus Lieutenant Promuto
The Friends of Eddie Coyle Artie Van
The Blue Knight Sgt. Cruz Segovia TV movie
The Don Is Dead Joe Lucci
Blade Spinelli
1974 Zandy's Bride Frank Gallo
A Knife for the Ladies Uncredited
1975 A Matter of Wife... and Death Lieutenant Promuto TV movie
1983 Blue Thunder Montoya
1984 Fear City Frank
1986 The Education of Allison Tate Detective Duncan
1989 Beverly Hills Brats Spyder
1990 Revenge Ibarra
Sinatra Marty Sinatra 5 episodes
1991 The Last Boy Scout Bessalo
1992 Mo' Money Lt. Raymond Walsh
1994 Trial by Jury Johnny Verona
Art Deco Detective Detective Guy Lean
1997 The Postman Colonel Getty
1998 The Right Way
2000 Auggie Rose Emanuel
Hammerlock Warden Stan Cromwell
2001 Proximity Clive Plummer
The Man from Elysian Fields Domenico
2009 Baseline Bashir Abu Ahmed
2010 Dead Genesis Jason
2015 Chronic Issac Sr. (final film role)

Television credits[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lentz, Harris M. III (2017). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2016. McFarland. pp. 347–348. ISBN 9781476670317. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  2. ^ Weber, Bruce (March 18, 2016). "Joe Santos, a Mainstay of 'The Rockford Files,' Dies at 84" – via
  3. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (March 18, 2016). "Joe Santos, a Mainstay of 'The Rockford Files,' Dies at 84". The New York Times. p. A22.
  4. ^ Susan Doukas Brady (July 11, 2012). Tales, Observations and Notes: Bob an Actor's Mentor. Susan Doukas Brady. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-61927-060-2.
  5. ^ a b Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  6. ^

External links[edit]