Television’s First Geek: Ron “Horshack” Palillo Dies at 63

Welcome Back Carter

Long before there was Screech from ‘Saved by the Bell’ or Steve Urkel of ‘Family Matters’ there was Arnold Horshack — the beloved “Geeky” member of the “SweatHogs” from television’s ‘Welcome Back Kotter’. If this show or the name ‘Horshack’ doesn’t ring a bell, then you’ve probably heard of John Travolta, and it was ‘Kotter’ who can be credited with launching his career as  the Sweathog, Vinnie Barbarino. Ronald Palillo past away at his home in Florida on August 14th. He was 63.

Here’s more from CNN:

(CNN) – Palillo died of a heart attack in the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, area, where he had moved to live near his mother and was active in the theater, his agent, Scott Stander, told CNN.

He was best known for his role as one of the “Sweathogs” — remedial students at a Brooklyn high school — on the 1975-79 show, which starred Gabe Kaplan and launched the career of fellow Sweathog John Travolta. Palillo’s “Oooh! Oooh!” appeals for attention became the character’s catchphrase.

Stander called Palillo “upbeat, fun, a great friend who loved theater, loved the fans and had a great sense of humor.” He taught acting to high school students at the G-Star School of the Arts, a charter school in West Palm Beach, Stander said.

Palillo made numerous guest appearances on television in the following decades, including playing himself in three episodes of the Ellen DeGeneres comedy “Ellen” in 1996. He also appeared on the reality show “Celebrity Boxing” in 2002, losing by a TKO to former “Saved by the Bell” actor Dustin Diamond.

Another of the original Sweathogs, Robert Hegyes, died in January at age 60. Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein, also played a detective in the late 1980s police drama “Cagney & Lacey.”

Thanks for the laughs Mr. Palillo – you will be missed.

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