Friday, January 27, 2012

Goodbye, Kotter: Sitcom Star Robert Hegyes Dies of Heart Attack, Age 60

Actor Robert Hegyes, who starred opposite a young John Travolta on the classic hit 70s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, has died of cardiac arrest at the age of sixty.

Hegyes  appeared as wise-cracking half Jewish/half Puerto Rican character Juan Epstein on the series for four seasons, from 1975 through 1979. The show focused on a group of remedial high school students known as the Sweathogs at the fictitious James Buchanan High in Brooklyn, New York, head by compassionate and understanding teacher Gabe Kotter, played by Gabe Kaplan.

The series scored an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Comedy Series in 1976. Hegyes would go on to direct several episodes of the television series. He was seen at last year's series reunion for the TV Land Awards, where he appeared onstage beside Travolta and former co-stars Marcia Strassman and Gabe Kaplan. The actor had been in failing health after suffering a heart attack several years ago, his brother Mark told the press. He leaves behind his two children, Cassie and Mack, and two step-children, Sophia and Alex.

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