RIP: Juan Epstein Is Dead

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7143/6768145487_0bac49a107_z.jpg

THE WRAP: Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein on ’70s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter, died Thursday, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports. Hegyes, who died of an apparent heart attack after suffering chest pains at his Metuchen, New Jersey home, was 60. Hegyes had not been in good health for the past two years, his brother Mark Hegyes told the paper. The actor had suffered a previous heart attack in recent years. Police responded to an emergency call from Hegyes’ home at approximately 9 a.m. He was transported to JFK Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey, but at that point he had gone into full cardiac arrest. Though Hegyes also starred on the detective series “Cagney & Lacey” (as Det. Manny Esposito) and, in later years, guest-starred on shows such as “NewsRadio” and “Diagnosis Murder,” Hegyes was best-known for his role as Juan Epstein — full name: Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein — on the 1970s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” from 1975 to 1979. Perpetually scheming and always ready with a self-written note signed “Epstein’s Mother” to explain his school absences, http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7016/6768145569_0caa31ff7b_m.jpgEpstein stood out among a group of characters that included the super-cocky womanizer Vinnie Barabarino (played by a young John Travolta) and hip but beleaguered high-school teacher Gabe Kotter (played by Gabe Kaplan). MORE

RELATED: A fiercely proud Puerto Rican Jew (his father was Puerto Rican; his mother’s name was Bibbermann), and one of the toughest students at Buchanan High, despite his short stature. He normally walked with a tough-man strut, wore a red handkerchief hanging out of his right back pocket, and was voted “Most Likely to Take a Life” by his peers. In the season one episode, “One of Our Sweathogs Is Missing”, Epstein was shown to be the sixth child in his family, although his mother had 10, while in the episode “I’m Having Their Baby” he mentions that his mother gave birth 8 times. The only names of his siblings mentioned in the show are two brothers, Pedro and Sanchez (“One of Our Sweathogs Is Missing”) and a younger sister, Carmen (“A Love Story”). Epstein’s toughness was downplayed later on, and became more of a wiseguy. He was also known to have a “buddy” relationship with Principal Lazarus as he often referred to him by his first name, Jack. On a few occasions, when Kotter would do his Groucho Marx impersonation, Epstein would jump in and impersonate Chico Marx or Harpo Marx. Epstein’s diminutive height and large hair are common jokes associated with him. MORE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.