According to a Facebook post written by his friend and TV writer-producer Tracy Newman, Santoni died on Saturday morning. 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.,” the post read. “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.”
Born in New York City, Santoni built his acting career from off-Broadway theatre, starring in “The Umbrella” and “The Mad Show.” His first significant film role was an uncredited appearance in the 1964 film “The Pawnbroker,” in which he played a junkie trying to sell a radio.
His first leading role was in “Enter Laughing” (1967), in which he played a delivery boy in New York City. Other film credits include inspector Chico González in “Dirty Harry” (1971), prison official Ramon Herrera in “Bad Boys” (1983) and detective Tony Gonzales in “Cobra” (1986).
One of Santoni’s most notable roles was on “Seinfeld” as Poppie, an unhygienic restaurateur. He had a recurring role as one of Arthur Hill’s assistants on the final season of ABC’s “Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law” (1973) and played Daniel in “28 Days” (2000), starring Sandra Bullock.
Santoni is survived by his wife and stage director, Lisa James, and son, Nick.