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Ron Palillo, Former 'Welcome Back, Kotter' Star, Dies at 63

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Aug. 14 2012, Published 9:38 a.m. ET

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Ron Palillo, who played Arnold Horshack in the 1970s sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter, passed away earlier today. He was 63.

Welcome Back, Kotter launched the career of John Travolta, who played Vinnie Barbarino, a fellow sweathog to Ron's character.

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Ron later appeared in The Love Boat, The A-Team, CHiPS, Murder, She Wrote and One Life to Live, but he was always best-known for his beloved character in Kotter. The actor admitted this was both a blessing and a curse.

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"While I loved him — I really loved him — I didn't want to do him forever," he once said.

Though probably frustrating, Ron seemed to keep a sense of humor about his Kotter character, appearing in an episode of Celebrity Boxing in 2002 along with Dustin Diamond, who played Screech Powers (a kind of '90s version of Horshack) on Saved By the Bell.

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Ron reportedly died of a heart attack at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where he was active in the theater.

This is the second Sweathog loss this year; Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein, passed away in January at age 60.

Our thoughts are with Ron's family at this time.

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