Played Epstein on 'Welcome Back Kotter'

Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein, one of the so-called Sweathogs on the 1970s ABC comedy “Welcome Back Kotter,” died from an apparent heart attack Thursday morning in Metuchen, N.J. He was 60.

In “Kotter” Hegyes co-starred alongside a young John Travolta as the half-Jewish, half-Puerto Rican high school student whose full name was Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein.

Later the actor was a regular on CBS crime drama “Cagney and Lacey,” on which he played an undercover cop.

Born in New Jersey to a Hungarian father and Italian mother, Hegyes studied theater at Rowan U. and began his career onstage. He portrayed Chico Marx in “An Evening With Groucho” and later said he based his performance of Epstein on the frenetic Marx brother.

He made his first smallscreen appearance on “The Streets of San Francisco” in 1975 and guested on a variety of TV shows, including “CHiPs,” “NewsRadio” and “Diagnosis Murder.” He also appeared on a number of gameshows, on a 1995 episode of “Saturday Night Live” and as himself on a 1998 episode of “The Drew Carey Show.”

The actor also did some teaching at Rowan U. and elsewhere.

Hegyes and most of the rest of the “Kotter” cast reunited last year at the TV Land Awards on the occasion of the show’s 35th anniversary. He also appeared last year on “Good Morning America.”

Hegyes was the cousin of Jon Bon Jovi. He was married and divorced three times and is survived by two children, two stepchildren and three siblings.

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