Robert Hegyes, who played one of the Sweathogs in Welcome Back Kotter, has passed away at the age of 60. Newsday.com reports that Hegyes died of a heart attack. He was in full cardiac arrest when he arrived at the JFK medical centre in Edison, where he was taken after suffering chest pains at home. Hegyes, who was of Hungarian and Italian descent became well known in the 1970s for playing the role of Juan Epstein - one of the tough kids in school - in the TV sitcom that also starred John Travolta.
In the 1980s, he also had a recurring role in the TV series Cagney & Lacey. He played the role of Detective Manny Esposito in the popular show, which starred Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless in the two title roles. Away from the screen, Robert also had a successful stage career. He made his Los Angeles stage debut as Chico Marx in Arthur Marx's play An Evening with Groucho. He would work as a teacher in between acting jobs and was awarded a lifetime artist-in-residence status at Rowan University.
Last year, the cast of Welcome Back Kotter reunited at the TV Land Awards, in order to celebrate the show's 35th anniversary. Writing on his website at the time, Hegyes said that he had modeled the role of Juan Epstein on Chico Marx's character.