Actor Ron Palillo dead at 63

Actor Ron Palillo (who played nasal-voiced delinquent Horshack on “Welcome Back, Kotter”) died of a heart attack this morning in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 63.
Palillo’s New York-accented Horshack was best known for the stretched-out pronunciation of his last name when greeting people with his signature line “Hello. How are ya. I’m Arnold Horshack!”
Palillo’s “Kotter” co-star Robert Hegyes died earlier this year.
After “Kotter,” the actor continued his career on TV and in film but never regained the high profile he enjoyed during the run of the successful ABC sitcom starring Gabe Kaplan.

Actor Ron Palillo dead at 63
Ron Palillo.

Mr. Palillo was inextricably linked with the character he played from 1975 to 1979 on “Kotter” – the ABC situation comedy – in which the title character returns to his Brooklyn alma mater to teach a group of lovable wiseguys known as the Sweathogs. Horshack was the nasally teen who yelped, “Oooh, ooh,” and shot his hand skyward whenever Kotter posed a question.
The show was a ratings success and a pop cultural phenomenon, injecting smart-Alec phrases such as “up your nose with a rubber hose” into the mainstream and propelling costar John Travolta to stardom. But the series only lasted as long as a high school education and its end, for Mr. Palillo, brought difficulty.
He said he felt exiled throughout the 1980′s, unable to find parts, sinking into depression, and rarely venturing from his apartment. When offers did come, he felt typecast as Horshack.
“While I loved him — I really loved him — I didn’t want to do him forever” – he told the Birmingham News in 1994.

Ronald Palillo was born April 2, 1949, in Cheshire, Connecticut, eventually dropping the first “o” from his surname. His father died of lung cancer when he was 10 and he developed a stutter. His mother thought getting him involved in a local theatre might help. He fell in love with the stage and overcame his speech impediment.
He attended the University of Connecticut and earned parts in Shakespearean productions before his big break.
He told interviewers that his dying father’s voice inspired Horshack’s trademark wheezing laugh, but when he auditioned for “Kotter” he thought he’d be passed over for others who had more of a tough-guy New York look. The casting agents knew better, and so did Gabe Kaplan, who played Kotter.
“When Ron walked into the audition and did his first line: ‘Hello, how are you, I’m Arnold Horshack,’ I said: ‘That’s him, That’s the guy’” – Kaplan recalled in an email to The Associated Press.
“Ron was a wonderful person and talent, and helped catapult ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ to great success” – Travolta said. “We will miss him.”
Besides Travolta (who played Vinnie Barbarino) also cast for the series was Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Freddie “Boom-Boom” Washington and Robert Hegyes as Juan Epstein. Hegyes died earlier this year.
“I think he was the smartest kid in school” – Palillo said of his character in a 2009 interview with the Miami Herald. “He was giving up his aptitude in order to be liked. Then and now, that is a very common thing in teenagers.”

One Response to “Actor Ron Palillo dead at 63”

  1. Hello everyone

    I’m Jurgen and I would like to welcome all forum members…
    Hope to have a good time here.


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