Thursday, January 26, 2012

'Welcome Back Kotter'a Juan Epstein Is Dead at 60

Robert Hegyes, the Jersey-born actor who played Jewish Puerto Rican wheeler-dealer Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein on the 1970s classic "Welcome Back Kotter," died from an apparent heart attack after suffering chest pains at age 60.

Hegyes was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where my Grandmother used to live. He was one of four children. What you may not know was that he is the cousin of singer Jon Bon Jovi

Robert made his Los Angeles stage debut to rave notices as "Chico Marx" in the Westwood and National Touring Company engagements of, An Evening with Groucho. Upon returning from the tour, Robert was cast by Producer Barney Rosenswieg to star as a series regular portraying undercover detective "Manny Esposito" in the Emmy Award-winning drama, Cagney & Lacey, starring Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless.

When I was a teen I hated to miss an episode of this show. From the excuse notes from "Epstein's Mother" to a young John Travolata and Horschack's Ooh-ooh-ooooh!" (Used with raised hand when Arnold gets excited because he believes he knows an answer to Mr. Kotter's question. The shout was an imitation of Joe E. Ross's phrase from Car 54, Where Are You?.) to Washington's "Hey, Mister Kot-taire" (how he addresses Mr. Kotter)this show didn't just make me laugh out loud it helped me be the teacher I am today.

After all a little laughter makes the learning go down so much easier. Please do not believe for one moment I was anywhere near as funny as Kotter but my "sweat hogs" were and are just as loveable as these guys were.

Robert Hegyes died on January 26th, 2012 at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey from an apparent heart attack. He was taken there after suffering chest pains at his Metuchen in the morning. He was 60.

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