Published on January 26th, 2012 | by Kim LaCapria0
Robert Hegyes, Epstein on ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’, Dies at 60
Oh, man, there was like this one summer where Welcome Back, Kotter was on Nick at Nite right after my curfew so I came home and watched it every night and got totally addicted.
One of the very central characters of the show was the Jewish-Puerto Rican Sweathog Juan Epstein, played by actor Robert Hegyes. Hegyes, who had experienced some health setbacks in recent years, passed away this morning. NJ.com covered the actor’s death, confirming that he went into cardiac arrest and subsequently died at a local hospital:
Hegyes had suffered a heart attack a couple of years ago and was not in good health, his brother Mark Hegyes of Montana said. Metuchen police responded to a call for medical assistance from Hegyes’ home at 9:02 a.m., and Hegyes, who was experiencing chest pains, was taken to JFK Medical Center in Edison, police said. By the time he arrived at the emergency room at 9:40 a.m., he was in full cardiac arrest and died, according to hospital spokesman Steven Weiss.
The site quotes Hegyes about how he drew inspiration from the Marx brothers in his work:
“They were immigrant Jews, and I was an immigrant Italian. Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Gummo, and Zeppo were intellectuals … They all played the piano and took music lessons, and they were all juvenile delinquents; I could definitely relate.”
Hegyes continued to act on television and remained involved in local arts in his later years. A funeral has been planned in New Jersey.