John Travolta shared an epic throwback photo in honor of an iconic career milestone. The image showed Travolta when he set forth on an uncertain television career that eventually made him both a household name and a bona fide film superstar.
The actor shared a photo of himself and the cast of the television series Welcome Back, Kotter, which made its official debut 44 years ago on September 9, 1975, on ABC. Travolta called it “amazing” to look back on the earlier part of his career in the caption of the throwback pic.
The show, set in Brooklyn, New York, was the story of a delinquent student who turned his life around and became a teacher, returning to the school and the setting from his youth to counsel a group of troubled kids. While the premise sounded dark, Welcome Back, Kotter showcased how this group of disadvantaged students, called the Sweathogs, were misunderstood and worthy of the time and effort of a great teacher. As a member of the original class of Sweathogs, Kotter became both a teacher and friend to this group of students, ushering them through their school day and other personal issues they encounter.
Starring in the series were Gabe Kaplan as Mr. Kotter, Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino, Ron Palillo as Arnold Horshack, Robert Hegyes as Epstein, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Freddie “Boom-Boom” Washington, and Marcia Strassman as Julie Kotter.
The show was based on several people that Kaplan grew up with as a young man living in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and the school shown in the series’ opening credits, New Utrecht High School, was the school Kaplan attended. In fact, the entire show opening was filmed in and around the area where Kaplan grew up.
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Today is National Teachers' Day! We honor all teachers by presenting one of our favorite TV theme songs ever — "Welcome Back, Kotter," which is all about one of our favorite instructors, Mr. Kotter! Who was your favorite TV teacher? #antennatv #retrotv #welcomebackkotter #nationalteachersday
The series ran for five seasons through 1979 but Travolta would not see his character through to the last episode. He began filming what would be his breakout role in the film world, Saturday Night Fever, in 1977. By the end of that year when the film was released, Travolta was considered a bona fide film superstar. Ironically, the film was also set in the same neighborhood as Kotter, with many of the same street scenes filmed in the area as the opening credits for the now-iconic television show.
Travolta left Welcome Back, Kotter after the show’s third season, dramatically altering his five-year contract with the series. He would later appear in a handful of episodes after the success of Saturday Night Fever and would be billed as a “special guest star” in the credits.
The actor would cement his film fame after Saturday Night Fever, quickly heading into the production of the movie Grease, co-starring Olivia-Newton John. The film would eventually become the highest-grossing movie musical of all time.
Travolta, who hails from New Jersey, honored his home state during an appearance at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards where he presented alongside Queen Latifah, reported The Inquisitr.