Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein on '70s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter," died Thursday from an apparent heart attack. He was 60.
The actor, whose health had been steadily declining for the past two years, suffered chest pains at his New Jersey home before going into full cardiac arrest. He died at JFK Medical Center in Edison.
Hegyes is best remembered for his role on "Kotter" as the Jewish/Puerto Rican wisecracking student, Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein, along with a young John Travolta. The show ran on ABC from 1975 to 1979.
Robert also had a recurring role on the detective series "Cagney & Lacey" as Det. Manny Esposito, and guest-starred on various shows such as "NewsRadio" and "Diagnosis Murder." In addition to acting, Hegyes performed stand-up and wrote screenplays.
He also taught at Brooks College in Long Beach, Calif. and had plans to work on a one-man show in the next year, but it was put on hold due to his failing health.
Of Hungarian and Italian descent, Hegyes was born May 7, 1951 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He graduated from Rowan University (then Glassboro State College) in Glassboro, and worked as a substitute teacher between acting jobs before landing the part in "Welcome Back, Kotter."
Hegyes and nearly all of the original cast members reunited last year at the TV Land Awards to recognize the show's 35th anniversary.
Robert leaves behind two children, Cassie and Mack, and two step-children, Sophia and Alex.