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Sweathog

January 30, 2012
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Juan Luis Pedro Felipo de Huevos Epstein is no more. Metuchen’s Robert Hegyes, of “Welcome Back, Kotter” fame (one does appreciate a sitcom title that contains a comma, doesn’t one?), has passed on at the far too early age of 60.

Epstein, half Jewish and half Puerto Rican, was known for his insouciant slouch, shirt open to the navel and an often immense Afro, capacious even by ’70s standards. As portrayed by Mr. Hegyes, the character was equal parts “West Side Story” tough and Sergeant Bilko trickster. (Mr. Hegyes said he modeled Epstein on Chico Marx.)

Absence-excuse notes were among Epstein’s specialties, though the fact that they were invariably signed “Epstein’s Mother” tended to tip his hand. The son of a Hungarian-American father and an Italian-American mother, Robert Hegyes was born in 1951 in Perth Amboy, N.J. He earned a bachelor’s degree in speech, theater and dance from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in Glassboro, N.J., before moving to New York to start his acting career.

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.

For a show that in retrospect approaches unwatchable, it was one of my favorites. Rest in peace.

And if you’re wondering what’s been going on with Boom Boom Washington, Jet fills us in.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 30, 2012 2:37 pm

    “As he told interviewers afterward, he had a reputation for accepting no absence excuses of any kind.”

    Ha ha ha! R.I.P. Metuchen’s Robert Hegyes.

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