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Actor who played 'Kotter's' Epstein dies

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Robert Hegyes, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Ron Palillo in a 1977 "Welcome Back, Kotter" scene.

Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Luis Pedro Philippo DeHuevos Epstein on 1970s hit "Welcome Back, Kotter," has died at 60.

A spokesman at JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J., told the Star-Ledger newspaper that Hegyes, of Metuchen, arrived at the hospital in the morning in full cardiac arrest and died.

Hegyes' Epstein was one of the Sweathogs, remedial wisecracking students taught by Gabe Kotter (Gabe Kaplan). His character, a Puerto Rican Jew, was known for constantly attempting to pass off notes he would write to try and get out of tests or class, always signing the notes "Epstein's Mother."

Hegyes, already 24 when he started in "Kotter" in 1975, was just six years younger than Kaplan. Hegyes also worked as a director on the popular show, which ran from 1975-1979 and helped launch co-star John Travolta as a major star. The show also produced numerous catchphrases, including "Up your nose with a rubber hose!"

Hegyes also appeared on numerous TV shows, including "The Love Boat," "Chico and the Man" and "NewsRadio," and movies including "Bob Roberts" and "Honeymoon Hotel." He also starred in an award-winning Volkswagen Passat commercial dubbed "The Chase."

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