Robert “Bobby” Hegyes, best known for playing Juan Epstein on “Welcome Back Kotter,” died in his Metuchen, N.J. home today.
He was 60.
Hegyes’ brother told New Jersey’s Star-Ledger that Hegyes, who also starred on “Cagney and Lacey,” had suffered a heart attack a few years ago and was in poor health.
Police responded to a call for assistance at his home this morning.
They found Hegyes suffering from chest pains; he was taken to a hospital in Edison, N. J., but by the time he reached the emergency room, he went into full cardiac arrest and died, a hospital spokesman told the paper.
Hegyes wrote in a note on his website that he modeled the character of the scheming half-Jewish, half-Puerto Rican Epstein on Chico Marx, noting that all the Marx Brothers were both “intellectuals” and “juvenile delinquents,” adding, “I could definitely relate.”
He continued to act after that show and “Cagney and Lacey,” appearing on “NewsRadio,” “Diagnosis Murder” and “The Drew Carey Show.”
He also appeared in the movie Bob Roberts opposite Tim Robbins, taught acting and wrote screenplays. He, along with almost all the original cast members of Welcome Back Kotter, reunited last year at the TV Land Awards to mark the show’s 35th anniversary.