Actor Reni Santoni, best known for his work in Dirty Harry and as Poppie on Seinfeld, died Saturday at the age of 81. According to Variety, Santoni’s friend, TV writer and producer Tracy Newman, confirmed his death on August 1 via a Facebook post. “He had been sick for quite a while,” writes Newman. “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.”
Born in New York City, Santoni’s first leading role was as the star of Carl Reiner’s Enter Laughing in 1967, based on Reiner’s autobiographical play of the same name, along with Shelley Winters and Elaine May. After portraying Inspector Chico Gonzalez in 1971’s Dirty Harry, the first of the film series, Santoni took roles in Reiner’s 1982 comedy Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, 1983’s Bad Boys, 1985’s Brewsters Millions, and 2000’s 28 Days, in addition to appearances on shows like Hawaii Five-O, Hill Street Blues, and The Odd Couple.
Seinfeld fans will remember Santoni as the sitcom’s wildly unhygienic, vehemently pro-life restaurant owner Poppie, making appearances in the season-five episode “The Pie,” season-six episodes “The Couch” and “The Doorman,” and in the show’s finale episode. He is survived by a son, Nick.