Actor Ron Palillo, who played nasal-voiced delinquent Horshack on “Welcome Back, Kotter,” died of a heart attack this morning in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 63.
Palillo’s New York-accented Horshack was best known for the stretched-out pronunciation of his last name when greeting people with his signature line “Hello. How are ya. I’m Arnold Horshack!”
Palillo’s “Kotter” co-star Robert Hegyes died earlier this year.
After “Kotter,” the actor continued his career on TV and in film but never regained the high profile he enjoyed during the run of the successful ABC sitcom starring Gabe Kaplan.
On TV he guested on the likes of “The Love Boat,” “CHiPs” and “Murder, She Wrote,” recurred on soap opera “One Life to Live” as Gary Warren in 1994 and also did voice work on animated series including “Midnight Patrol: Adventures in the Dream Zone” and “Darkwing Duck.” On the feature side he had roles in “Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI,” “Snake Eater” and its sequel, “Hellgate,” “Committed” and Matthew Modine starrer “Wind.”
More recently, he starred in the 2008 indie pic “The Curse of Micah Rood” as well as in 2010 films “It’s a Dog Gone Tale: Destiny’s Stand” and “The Guardians.”
Palillo made gameshow appearances and did the occasional talkshow and recently appeared in nostalgia-oriented TV shows such as the TV Land Awards, “I Love the ’70s” and “ABC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.”
He appeared on NBC’s “Today” show just last year.
Ronald Gabriel Palillo was born in Cheshire, Conn., and started his own theater at the age of 14. He graduated from the U. of Connecticut (he returned to the university to teach in the 1990s).
He appeared onstage in New York in the 1990s, starring in productions of “Amadeus,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Guys and Dolls,” and appeared in “Broadway Backwards 4,” a charity event for people with AIDS, in 2008.
Palillo had recently been teaching classes at G-Star School of the Arts for Motion Pictures and Broadcasting in Palm Beach.
He is survived by his longtime partner, Joseph Gramm.