Ron Palillo, Horshack in Welcome Back Kotter, Dies in Palm Beach Gardens

Ron Palillo dead at 63

Ron Palillo, who died this morning in Palm Beach Gardens

Actor Ron Palillo, who played goofball Horshack opposite a young John Travolta in the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, died suddenly early this morning at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

He was 63.

Ron Palillo as Horshack

Ron Palillo as Horshack

Palillo moved to the local gated community of Mirasol three years ago when he accepted an acting teacher’s job at the G-Star School of the Arts, a West Palm Beach charter school for children interested in television and movies.

He lived with a long-time life partner, retired actor Joe Gramm, who called 911 early this morning when Palillo experienced difficulties breathing. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and was pronounced dead about 4:30 a.m.

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A woman who answered the phone at Palillo’s home said there was no foul play involved in the death.

Over the past month, according to G-Star founder Greg Hauptner, Palillo suffered from whooping cough.

“Ron’s health wasn’t the greatest,” Hauptner tells me. “He had major intestinal surgery last year.”

Still, Hauptner said he was stunned to hear about Palillo’s passing this morning. He taught the “acting for a camera” class.

“He was a fantastic teacher,” Hauptner said. “The kids adored him. They’d find old recordings of Welcome Back, Kotter and watch Ron. The kids are coming back to school next week. They’re going to be crushed.”

Palillo fell in love with the area a few years ago when he performed in a play downtown West Palm Beach. Through mutual acquaintances, Palillo struck a friendship with Hauptner, who hired him to teach at the school.

Palillo will be remembered for his role of the sitcom’s long-haired high school student Arnold Horshack, who often squealed “Ooooh, oooh Mr. Kotter” while raising his hand. The series aired from 1975 to 1979. Later, Palillo’s TV roles were confined to guest appearances.

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  1. deskboy says

    Horschak, Ooh ooh Mr Kotter!!
    Mr Kotter: Yes Horschak, what is it?
    Horschak, Mr. Kot tair, Did I pass the course.
    Mr Kotter: Yes Horschak, A+ you passed. Good work.

  2. Mrs. Dr. Who says

    It saddens me so to learn that Horschak has left this world. My prayer is that his lifelong partner will be surrounded by good, loving people. I hope you guys had great memories which will carry you until you meet again. My sis and I loved that show so much! It’s a big part of our history with fond memories. We were like 13 and 14 when it ended and we hated to see it go. Peace out…

  3. YQue says

    No John Travolta, but an integral part of the show.

    Evidently he shared some proclivities with Travolta, but we are beyond that now. Aren’t we?

    RIP, Horshack. Sorry you went too soon.