Robert Hegyes, best known for his role as Juan Epstein in the 70s classic Welcome Back, Kotter, has died after suffering from an apparent heart attack, the Star Ledger reported. He was 60.
The Jersey-born Welcome Back, Kotter star had complained of chest pains on Thursday, but by the time emergency services had reached his home in Metuchen, he had gone into cardiac arrest.
Hegyes has not been in good health since he suffered from a heart attack two years ago, his brother Mark Hegyes told the Star Ledger.
Hegyes also co-stared in Cagney and Lacey, but is best known for starring alongside John Travolta as a Jewish Puerto Rican student in a remedial class of students known as the Sweathogs. Epstein's infamous catchphrase was, Hey, Mr. Kotter, I got a note!
Other Kotter stars Ron Palillo, Gabe Kaplam and Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs reunited with Hegyes and Travolta in the TV Land Awards last year to celebrate the show's 35th anniversary.
Hegyes was a Rowan University graduate, where he occasionally taught master classes, according to the Star Ledger. He was retired, but spoke about directing projects and getting more involved with local arts. His last acting role was in the 2002 film, Hip, Edgy, Sexy, and Cool.
Peter Loewy, who runs the Forum Theatre Arts Center in Metuchen, told the Star Ledger that he planned to work with Hegyes on a show a year or so ago, but Hegyes' health condition did not permit the show to go ahead.
He was a gentle guy, Loewy said. He had, ironically, a big heart.