It’s a sad day for fans of the 70s classic TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.
Robert Hegyes, the actor most known for his role as Jewish Puerto Rican wheeler-dealer Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein in the series, has died of an apparent heart attack. Hegyes was 60.
According to a report by USA Today, emergency personnel were called to Hegyes’ home in Metuchen, N.J., around 9am on Thursday. They then transported him to JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J., where he died.
Though Hegyes starred in more than thirty television shows and a handful of movies over the course of his career as an entertainer, he is most remembered for playing the perpetually scheming Epstein, who always had a self written note signed “Epstein’s Mother” to explain school absences.
Check out Epstein and the rest of the sweathog debate team in the following Welcome Back, Kotter clip below:
On his website, Hegyes credited Chico Marx as the influence for his Epstein role and he was on record as being a big fan of the Marx Brothers:
“They were immigrant Jews, and I was an immigrant Italian. Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Gummo, and Zeppo were intellectuals … They all played the piano and took music lessons, and they were all juvenile delinquents; I could definitely relate.”
In 2011, Kotter and its cast were honored at the TV Land Awards. Hegyes said the network “gave us new life in syndication; I looked at it as an opportunity to poison a whole new generation,” USA TODAY reported at the time.
Robert Hegyes leaves behind a two children, Cassie and Mack, and two step-children, Sophia and Alex.
via USA Today