T.V. geek Arnold Horshack, played by Palillo, suffers heart attack in Florida home.
“Welcome Back, Kotter” cast member, Ron Palillo, died Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The actor was 63 and was best known as high school geek Arnold Horshack on the 1975 ABC sitcom.
According to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Palillo suffered a heart attack at his home at 4 a.m. before he was rushed into emergency care and pronounced dead.
Though “Welcome Back, Kotter” only lasted four seasons, Palillo’s character, Horshack, had become widely known for his nerdy antics and was one of the most identifiable and likeable characters on the show.
Arnold Horshack paved the way for other television nerds like Screech from “Saved by the Bell” and Steve Urkel from “Family Matters,” and even squared up against Screech actor Dustin Diamond in an episode of the 2002 reality show “Celebrity Boxing.” The geek fight only lasted one minute and twenty-three seconds and Palillo left the match looking like a raccoon with a pair of black eyes. Needless to say, Screech won that bout.
Although Palillo’s career peaked by the time “Kotter” ended, that did not stop him from pursuing acting in a number of cameo appearances and several D-List movies.
Having attended the University of Connecticut and earning a few Shakespearean parts before landing the gig as Arnold Horshack, Palillo even taught acting at the G-Star School of the Arts high school at his residence in Palm Beach long after his “Kotter” tenure ended.
Palillo leaves behind two brothers, a sister and his partner of 41 years, Joseph Gramm.