Robert Hegyes, played Epstein on ‘Kotter,’ dies

AP Photo
AP Photo

METUCHEN, N.J. (AP) — Robert Hegyes, the actor best known for playing Jewish Puerto Rican student Juan Epstein on the 1970s TV show “Welcome Back Kotter” has died. He was 60.

The Flynn & Son Funeral Home in Fords, N.J., said it was informed of Hegyes’ death Thursday by the actor’s family.

A spokesman at JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J., told the Star-Ledger newspaper that Hegyes, of Metuchen, arrived at the hospital Thursday morning in full cardiac arrest and died.

Hegyes was appearing on Broadway in 1975 when he auditioned for “Kotter,” a TV series about a teacher who returns to the inner-city New York school of his youth to teach a group of irreverent remedial students nicknamed the “Sweathogs.” They included the character Vinnie Barbarino, played by John Travolta.

The show’s theme song, performed by John Sebastian, became a pop hit.

Hegyes also appeared on many other TV series, including “Cagney & Lacey.”

He was born in Perth Amboy and grew up in Metuchen, the eldest child of a Hungarian father and Italian mother.