Reni Santoni

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Reni Santoni
Reni Santori 1973.JPG
Santoni in 1973
Born(1938-04-21)April 21, 1938
New York City, U.S.
DiedAugust 1, 2020(2020-08-01) (aged 82)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other namesReni Sands
Years active1962–2012

Reni Santoni (April 21, 1938 – August 1, 2020) was an American film, television and voice actor. He was noted for playing Poppie on the television sitcom Seinfeld, Tony Gonzales in Cobra, and Chico González in Dirty Harry.

Early life[edit]

Santoni was born in New York City on April 21, 1938.[1] His family was of Corsican and Spanish descent.[2] He began his career in Off-Broadway theatre, writing the play Raisin' Hell in the Son which premiered in 1962.[1]


Santoni's first significant film role was an uncredited appearance in the 1964 film The Pawnbroker (starring Rod Steiger),[3] in which he played a junkie trying to sell a radio to the title character (using anti-Semitic slurs to no effect).[4][5] His first leading role was as a young actor in Enter Laughing.[6] He was cast into the role of delivery boy David Kolowitz after being scouted by Carl Reiner; the film was a semi-autobiographical story about the latter.[7] Santoni went on to play Inspector "Chico" González in the 1971 film Dirty Harry. His character, who is a newcomer detective and college graduate in sociology, was initially dismissed by the title character as "a college boy".[7] He ultimately uttered the memorable phrase, "No wonder they call him Dirty Harry; [he] always gets the shit end of the stick".[8]

Santoni again collaborated with Reiner in the comedic homage to film noir Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982).[7] His other film roles during this decade included prison official Ramon Herrera in Bad Boys (1983), as well as Detective Tony Gonzales in the action film Cobra (1986) opposite Sylvester Stallone. He featured in the short-lived series Sanchez of Bel Air and Manimal,[1] in which he played Nick Rivera.[6] He was described by Tracy Newman as having a completely different personality from the characters he played, which were most frequently cops, crime lords, or judges. She noted his reputation among friends as being "the funniest guy in the room".[7]

Santoni made guest appearances on television shows such as Barnaby Jones, Lou Grant, Hawaii Five-O, Hardcastle and McCormick, Hill Street Blues, The Odd Couple and Midnight Caller. In 1973, Santoni played a junior partner on Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law.[3][6] His most notable later role was as Poppie, the bombastic, antiabortion, neurotic, and very unhygienic restaurateur in Seinfeld.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Santoni was married to Lisa James. He then had a long-term relationship with actress and director Betty Thomas, and a son named Nick.[1]


Santoni died on August 1, 2020 at a hospice in Los Angeles at the age of 82. He had several health problems during his last years, including cancer.[1][9]



TV series[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barnes, Mike (August 3, 2020). "Reni Santoni, Actor in 'Enter Laughing' and 'Dirty Harry,' Dies at 82". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  2. ^ "Reni Santoni". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on February 24, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c "Reni Santoni". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  4. ^ "The Pawnbroker". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  5. ^ Lee, Janet W. (August 3, 2020). "Reni Santoni, Poppie in 'Seinfeld' and 'Dirty Harry' Actor, Dies at 81". Variety. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d "Reni Santoni List of Movies and TV Shows". TV Guide. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d Alexander, Bryan (August 4, 2020). "'Dirty Harry' star Reni Santoni, who played Poppie in 'Seinfeld,' has died at 81". USA Today. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  8. ^ Yang, Rachel (August 3, 2020). "Reni Santoni, Dirty Harry and Seinfeld actor, dies at 81". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  9. ^ Young, Julius (August 4, 2020). "Reni Santoni, 'Dirty Harry' and 'Seinfeld' actor, dead at 81". Retrieved August 4, 2020.

External links[edit]