I heard about the passing of Ron Palillo on the news today. As a kid growing up in the 70s, I used to watch that ABC sitcom, "Welcome Back, Kotter" with Ron, a very svelte John Travolta, Robert Heyges, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and of course Gabe Kaplan. Sweathog Vinnie Barbarino may have been the ratings magnet, but I always liked Arnold Horshack since he was such an appealing weirdo....something that I could relate to.
After the series ended, Palillo fell prey to that terror that any actor could face after a successful run on any series: typecasting. Noone could or would hire him after such an iconic character as Horshack. He had a long period of depression and just stayed cooped up in his home for years. He seemed to be able to crawl himself out of it after the 80s, but unfortunately today, he suffered a fatal heart attack....and at 63. He was in his early 20s when he did "Kotter". Time has just warped by.
I didn't even know that Robert "Juan Epstein" Heyges had passed on.