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Thread: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

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    Member Spitball's Avatar
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    Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    Welcome Back, Kotter' star Robert Hegyes dies at 60
    Jan. 26, 2012, 6:02 PM EST
    By Tim Kenneally
    TheWrap
    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, N.J., 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, N.J., but at that point he had gone into full cardiac arrest.

    Though Hegyes also starred on the detective series "Cagney & Lacey" (as Detective Manny Esposito) and, in later years, guest-starred on shows such as "NewsRadio" and "Diagnosis Murder," he 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, Epstein stood out among a group of characters that included the super-cocky womanizer Vinnie Barbarino (played by a young John Travolta) and hip but beleaguered high school teacher Gabe Kotter (played by Gabe Kaplan).

    Hegyes' last listed acting role on IMDb is in the film "Hip, Edgy, Sexy, Cool" in 2002. He also appeared with most of the original "Kotter" cast members for a reunion at the TV Land Awards last year, as a commemoration for the series' 35th anniversary.

    He leaves behind two children, Cassie and Mack, and two stepchildren, Sophia and Alex.
    Last edited by Spitball; 01-26-2012 at 09:00 PM.
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    CELEBRATION TIME RBA's Avatar
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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    Hey, Mr. Saint Peter, I got a note

    Dear Saint Peter

    Please excuse Juan

    signed, Epstein's Mother.


    RIP.

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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    I just found out the bad news and really hate it.Welcome Back, Kotter was a great tv show with alot of good actors.

    RIP Epstein!!
    I can spell,I just can't type!!

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    Member cumberlandreds's Avatar
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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    I'm sorry to hear of his death. That was a good show with a great supporting cast in which he was a big part. R.I.P Epstein
    Reds Fan Since 1971

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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    I loved the show and the characters, Epstein, Mr. Kotter, Washington, Barbarino, Horshack, and Mr. Woodman.

    When it first came out, those of us in the Boston area didn't get to watch it. The local programer felt it might be too controversial for a community going through busing issues. I believe the ban only lasted a couple of episodes.
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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    This is sad news. Just last week I was watching Robert Hegyes (and his ABC teammates) in the epic tug of war battle vs. CBS in the Battle Of The Network Stars from the 70's on youtube. I remember watching that as a small child and Hegyes was certainly an intense competitor. I think the tug of war went on for about five minutes. Great stuff.... hate to see him pass away so young.

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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric in IL View Post
    This is sad news. Just last week I was watching Robert Hegyes (and his ABC teammates) in the epic tug of war battle vs. CBS in the Battle Of The Network Stars from the 70's on youtube. I remember watching that as a small child and Hegyes was certainly an intense competitor. I think the tug of war went on for about five minutes. Great stuff.... hate to see him pass away so young.
    CBS had Battle of the Sexes
    ABC had Battle of the Network Stars (with Howard Cosell)

    Great stuff.

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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    Quote Originally Posted by Spitball View Post
    When it first came out, those of us in the Boston area didn't get to watch it. The local programer felt it might be too controversial for a community going through busing issues. I believe the ban only lasted a couple of episodes.
    We had the same problem in Iowa, IIRC. I'm not sure if it was because it was too controversial but it wasn't on quite a bit in it's first season.
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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    Quote Originally Posted by RBA View Post
    CBS had Battle of the Sexes
    ABC had Battle of the Network Stars (with Howard Cosell)

    Great stuff.
    A related note on "Battle of the Network Stars":

    Sportswriter Bill Simmons called Gabe Kaplan's triumph one of the greatest sports moments of the 1970s, yet you will not see Kaplan listed under Athletes on our website. The triumph came on an iconic television program, "Battle of the Network Stars".

    We previously discussed the ridiculousness of the made-for-TV spectacle that was "Superstars" (see the Jody Scheckter profile). But at least that had real athletes, where "Network Stars" featured... yes, network stars. Competing in sporting events. For some reason, that made sense. Don't ask us, we were barely alive at the time.

    The iconic moment came in 1976. NBC, led by macho man Robert Conrad, was disqualified from a relay race for an illegal baton pass. The race was won by ABC, captained by stand-up comedian Gabe Kaplan. At the time, he was starring on the highly popular "Welcome Back, Kotter", playing a wisecracking (but wise!) high school teacher.

    Conrad complained, throwing a fit filled with such gems as saying that Kaplan "is Jewish, he wants to arbitrate, and I'm German, I want to kill [him]!" This was the 70s. No one cared.

    So Kaplan agreed to race again, but not a full relay, just a run-off between the two captains. Simmons describes being horrified, as he thought that Kaplan didn't stand a chance against an action hero. He was dead wrong. Kaplan, who ran track in high school, obliterated his competitor, giving ABC the title. Everyone hugged. This was the 70s. Somehow they cared.

    A few years passed, and "Battle of the Network Stars" got canceled. Kaplan stayed on the television screen a little longer, before reinventing himself as a poker player. He's a cash game specialist, and has also won over a million dollars on the pro circuit...

    But how can any of that compare to "Battle of the Network Stars"?
    "I am your child from the future. I'm sorry I didn't tell you this earlier." - Dylan Easton

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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    An amusing anecdote at the end of the NY Times obit:

    With fitting symmetry, Mr. Hegyes also taught for several years at Venice High School in California. As he told interviewers afterward, he had a reputation for accepting no absence excuses of any kind.

    Now that's funny.
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    Re: Welcome Back, Kotter' star Juan Epstein dies at 60

    Quote Originally Posted by RBA View Post
    Hey, Mr. Saint Peter, I got a note

    Dear Saint Peter

    Please excuse Juan

    signed, Epstein's Mother.


    RIP.
    One of my favorite posts. Thanks for that.
    "I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody".
    —Bill Cosby


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