January 27, 2012- Robert Hegyes, best known for playing one of the “Sweathogs” on the well know comedy Welcome Back, Kotter has died at the age of 60. Hegyes played Juan Epstein, a Jewish-Puerto Rican in the comedy series that was a hit in the 1970s.
Hegyes died of a heart attack in New Jersey. Hegyes lived in Metuchen, New Jersey. He arrived in complete cardiac arrest at KFK Medical Center and died shortly thereafter a hospital spokesman said.
Hegyes wore his hair in a curly mop during his time on the hit comedy series. The “Sweathogs” were a group of misfit high school students. He starred on the show with John Travolta, Ron Palillo and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. They attended a high school in Brooklyn and their teacher was played by Gabe Kaplan. The show was televised from 1975 through 1979 on ABC.
Hegyes was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and was of Italian and Hungarian descent. Before landing the role on Welcome Back, Kotter, he moonlighted as a substitute teacher. When the show ended, he went on a national tour for a production of Groucho, playing Chico Marx. He also played in the hit series Cagney and Lacey as a police detective, wrote screenplays and performed standup comedy.