Ron Palillo Obituary


Ron Palillo; actor played Arnold Horshack on ‘Kotter’



Los Angeles Times
August 15, 2012


Ron Palillo, 63, an actor whose signature role was Arnold Horshack in the 1970s TV sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter,” died Tuesday of a heart attack in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said his agent, Jackie Stander.


Along with John Travolta’s Vinnie Barbarino, Robert Hegyes’ Juan Epstein and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs’ Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington, Palillo’s Horshack was one of the original Sweathogs in the James Buchanan High School class taught by Gabe Kaplan’s Mr. Kotter.


Horshack was the nasally teen who yelped “Oooh, ooh” and shot his hand skyward whenever Kotter posed a question.


The show ran on ABC from 1975 to 1979. After it ended, Palillo’s career stalled.


He said he felt exiled throughout the 1980s, unable to find parts, sinking into depression and rarely venturing from his apartment. When offers did come, he felt typecast as Horshack.


“While I loved him, I really loved him, I didn’t want to do him forever,” he said in a 1994 interview with the Birmingham (Ala.) News.


He was born Ronald Paolillo on April 2, 1949, in Cheshire, Conn., and eventually dropped the first “o” from his surname. His father died of lung cancer when he was 10 and he developed a stutter. His mother thought getting him involved in a local theater might help. He fell in love with the stage and overcame his speech impediment.


He attended the University of Connecticut and earned parts in Shakespearean productions before his big break.


Palillo had bit parts in shows including “The Love Boat,” “Cagney and Lacey” and”The A-Team”and played himself for a time on the series “Ellen.” But “Kotter” remained his most well-known acting part, and he focused on stage directing and writing.


More recently Palillo taught acting at a high school in West Palm Beach and was due to return for the upcoming school year.



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4 Responses to “Ron Palillo Obituary”

  1. Anne says:

    RIP Ron Pallilo. Truly enjoyed his role on the sitcom Welcome Back Kotter.

  2. Jim Davis says:

    something that most obits left out –

    “Palillo is survived by his partner of 41 years, Joseph Gramm”

    and they wonder why we make a fuss about marriage!

  3. landman says:

    Welcome Back, Kotter was one of my favorite comedies of the 70’s. Ron and the others on the show were all great talents, and certainly went on to successful careers in the business. Now Ron and Juan are together again, we miss them both. Thanks guys, for making us laugh. God bless their families they left behind.

  4. The Ramos Family says:

    A little more about the real person.. Ron not only attended the University of Connecticut, he taught there as well. At his most recent teaching job at G-Star School of the Arts and Motion Picture Broadcasting (2009 – till his death) he was a great teacher and mentor to the students. These kids know him as Mr. Paolillo, teacher, confidant, class cut-up, compassionate, passionate about life, friend..and so much more. He will forever be remembered by our daughter as the man who inspired her, made her laugh and instilled confidence- and always cared ♥ “No longer a lost boy… He will be forever in our hearts and in neverland” ♥

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