Ron Palillo Of "Welcome Back, Kotter" Dead At 63

By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
A friend says Ron Palillo, who played Arnold Horshack on "Welcome Back, Kotter," died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack.

From left to right, Lawrence Hilton Jacobs as Freddy "Boom-Boom" Washington, Ron Palillo as Arnold Horshack, John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino, Robert Hegyes as Juan Epstein, and Gabe Kaplan as Gabe Kotter in scene from "Welcome Back, Kotter."

(CBS News) Actor Ron Palillo, who played Arnold Horshack on the 1970s TV series "Welcome Back, Kotter," died Tuesday morning. He was 63.

Officer Lovejoy of the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department confirmed Palillo's death to CBS News, noting that Palillo was transported from his Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. home to a nearby hospital, where he died.

Although the police department offered no further details, Palillo's friend, Karen Poindexter, told The Associated Press that Palillo died of an apparent heart attack.

Born on April 2, 1949 in Cheshire, Conn., Palillo graduated high school and went on to study at the University of Connecticut, where he starred in various plays.

Palillo starred as the Brooklyn, N.Y. teenager in ABC's "Welcome Back, Kotter" from 1975 to 1979. His class clown character used to shout out a series of "Ooohs" when a teacher asked a question. The show also featured break-out star John Travolta as Vinny Barbarino. The Associated Press reports that Palillo once spoke about playing Horshack to the Birmingham News. "While I loved him, I really loved him, I didn't want to do him forever," he said.

After the series ended, Palillo made appearances on "Alice," Laverne & Shirley" and "The A-Team." In 1996, he guest-starred as himself on the TV series, "Ellen." Four years later, he was defeated by "Saved By the Bell" star Dustin Diamond on Fox's "Celebrity Boxing 2."

Most recently, Palillo taught acting classes at the Palm Springs-based G-Star School of the Arts.

According to The Palm Beach Post, Palillo is survived by Joseph Gramm, his partner of 41 years.

"Welcome Back, Kotter" lost another cast member this year. Actor Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein on the sitcom, died in January at 60.

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