Reni Santoni died Saturday in hospice care in Los Angeles, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Santoni was a well-renowned actor who appeared in many television and film roles such as the rookie partner of Clint Eastwood’s maverick detective in Dirty Harry, and guest appearances on TV shows such as Hawaii Five-O, Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue.
He also appeared in Cobra and Guns of the Magnificent Seven and as Poppie the pizza chef on Seinfeld, the unsanitary pizza guy who has a problem with bladder control. Santoni’s claim to fame was his breakout role in Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show)’s directorial debut Enter Laughing in 1977, which ultimately received sub-par reviews according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“He had been sick for quite a while,” said TV producer Tracy Newman (Ellen, Hardball), regarding his death via Deadline. “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.”
Santoni had a wife Lisa James and son Nick. His more recent roles include a judge on Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues)’s series Murder One, and his 2012 role as Judge Maurice Vincent Franklin & Bash.