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Actor Reni Santoni Dead at Age 81: 'Another Great One Is Gone'

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Reni Santoni, born in New York on April 21, 1939, died Saturday after dealing with a number of health issues for years. He was 81.

Santoni originally found his feet in the sports world, playing baseball and setting his sights on sports writing, according to his IMDb bio.

Of French and Spanish descent, he started writing comedy and playing small parts on television in the 1960s.

When he got into acting, he mainly held supporting roles, with some of his best-known performances being “sloppy” Poppie, a restaurant owner on “Seinfeld,” and Detective Chico Gonzalez, the partner of Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan in “Dirty Harry.”

He would be active in film and television until 2012.

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Santoni also did voice acting and wrote “Raisin’ Hell in the Son,” an off-Broadway play that premiered in 1962.

Tracy Newman, a friend of Santoni’s, told Fox News that Santoni died of natural causes after years of health issues. He was in hospice care in Los Angeles at the time of his death.



“Reni Santoni passed away yesterday morning,” Newman posted Sunday. “April 21, 1939-August 1, 2020. He had been sick for quite a while.”

“Those of you who knew him know how funny he was, what a terrific actor, improviser, performer, etc. So brilliant.”



“I loved him very much and will miss him terribly. Another great one is gone. I have a lot of wonderful pictures of him, and will post them over the next week.”

“My heart goes out to his son, Nick, who has been such a comfort to Reni over that past five years or more.”



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Newman has kept her word, sharing a lot of photos of Santoni from better years. Others have also chimed in with their own memories of the actor.

“Viva Inspector Chico Gonzales …” writer and director Edgar Wright tweeted. “RIP Reni Santoni.”

“It’s truly amazing how famous these characters became from a single episode,” writer Kevin Rozell shared, along with a photo of Santoni as Poppie.

“Another wonderful character actor gone,” director Steve Hughes posted. “RIP Reni Santoni, 81, so good in Seinfeld, Dirty Harry, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Cobra, Private Parts. Godspeed and thank you.”

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