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Ronald Gabriel Palillo (April 2, 1949 – August 14, 2012) was an American actor and teacher.[3][4] He was best known for his role as the endearingly dim-witted character Arnold Horshack on the ABC sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979).[5][6]

Ron Palillo
Ron Palillo 1975.jpg
Ron Palillo in 1975
Ronald Gabriel Paolillo[1]

(1949-04-02)April 2, 1949
DiedAugust 14, 2012(2012-08-14) (aged 63)
Other namesRonald G. Paolillo (as illustrator)
Alma materUniversity of Connecticut
Occupationactor, illustrator, playwright
Years active1975–2012
Partner(s)Joseph Gramm (1971–2012; Palillo's death)[2]

Early life and educationEdit

Ronald Gabriel Paolillo was born in New Haven, Connecticut to Italian-Americans[7] Gabriel and Carmel Paolillo, and raised in nearby Cheshire. He graduated from the University of Connecticut at Storrs, where he would later teach in the 1990s.[8][9] He attended Fairfield University while pursuing a postgraduate degree. He adopted the last name Palillo for his acting career.


Palillo as "Sweathog" Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back, Kotter, c. 1976

In 1975, Palillo was cast as Arnold Horshack, one of the misfit "sweathogs" in the high school sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, whose antics made him one of the stand-out characters of the series. In the last season of the series, a backdoor pilot episode for a spin-off series featuring Horshack was produced, but the series was not developed.[10][11]

Following Kotter, Palillo appeared in leading and supporting roles in various television series and films. He voiced characters on such animated series as Laverne & Shirley in the Army, Darkwing Duck, and Rubik, the Amazing Cube, in which he played the lead character. In 1996, Palillo played himself in several episodes of the television sitcom Ellen, playing the love interest of Ellen’s friend Audrey. Palillo also spent a year on the daytime show One Life to Live and also acted in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), and the lead in The Curse of Micah Rood.[12][better source needed]

He returned to New York in 1991, and played such roles as Mozart in Amadeus and regionally as George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Arthur in Camelot and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls. He appeared on Broadway in 2008 in Broadway Backwards 4, a charity event benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Among his other New York City credits were a one-person show in 2000 where he portrayed Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann in The Diary of Adolf Eichmann off-Broadway.[13] Palillo, in a newspaper interview in 1997, said he lamented his role as Horshack as he was permanently typecast, which he believed had damaged his career.[14]

As a director, Palillo directed successful productions of the musical Three Guys Naked From The Waist Down in Los Angeles, A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, and a new edition of Phantom Of The Opera at the Cuillo Center for the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida.[15] In 2007, he introduced a clothing line specializing in limited-edition T-shirts produced by Rotter and Friends. Palillo was also an artist, providing artwork for two children's books, The Red Wings of Christmas and A Gift for the Contessa. [16]

In 2005, his first full-length play The Lost Boy, the true story of Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie,[17] premiered at the Helen Hayes Theatre in Nyack, New York, and later played at the Queens Theatre in the Park in Queens, New York and at the Eldorado's Springs High School in Eldorado Springs, Missouri.[18]

He taught freshman drama at G-Star School Of The Arts for Motion Pictures and Broadcasting in Palm Springs, Florida.[19][20]

Personal life and deathEdit

Palillo and his partner of 41 years, Joseph Gramm, lived in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.[21][22] On August 14, 2012, Palillo suffered a heart attack at his home and was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He died seven months after his co-star Robert Hegyes.[22][23][24][25]

Palillo's funeral service was held in Palm Beach Gardens on August 22, 2012.[26] He is buried at St. Lawrence Cemetery, West Haven, Connecticut.[27] A memorial tribute, directed by Lawrence Leritz and hosted by Tyne Daly, was held to honor and celebrate Palillo's life and career at NYC's The Triad Theatre, October 3, 2012.[28]


Film and Television
Year Title Role Notes
1975–1979 Welcome Back, Kotter Arnold Horshack 94 episodes
1976 Mr. T and Tina Arnold Horshack Episode: "Pilot"
1979 The Love Boat Al Breyer Episode: "Gopher's Opportunity / The Switch / Home Sweet Home"
1979 Sweepstakes Harold Episode #1.2
1979 Greatest Heroes of the Bible Hevet Episode: "The Tower of Babel"
1979 Skatetown, U.S.A. Frankey Feature film
1981 The Love Boat Casper Martin Episode: "Lose One, Win One / The $10,000 Lover/Mind My Wife"
1981–1982 Laverne & Shirley in the Army Sgt. Squealy Voice, 12 episodes
1981 Alice Mutner Episode: "The Wild One"
1982 Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour Sgt. Squealy Voice, 8 episodes (Laverne & Shirley with the Fonz segment)
1983 Rubik, the Amazing Cube Rubik Voice, 13 episodes
1983 The A-Team Zack Episode: "Mexican Slayride"
1983 CHiPs Nick Episode: "Journey to a Spacecraft"
1983 The Invisible Woman Spike Mitchell TV film
1983 Matt Houston Charley Arbis Episode: "The Beverly Woods Social Club"
1984 Surf II Inspector Underpants Feature film
1984 Murder, She Wrote Norman Lester, Esq. Episode: "Hooray for Homicide"
1985 Doin' Time Pappion Feature film
1985 Pound Puppies Scrounger Voice, TV film
1986 Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives Allen Hawes Feature film
1986 Trapper John, M.D. Kussman Episode: "Elusive Butterfly"
1986 Cagney & Lacey Mr. Larkin Episode: "Rites of Passage"
1987 Little Clowns of Happytown Arnie and Ralphie's Dad Voice, 18 episodes
1988 Superman Additional voices Episode: "Night of the Living Shadows / Graduation"
1989 Snake Eater Torchy Feature film
1989 Hellgate Matt Feature film
1989 Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster Torchy Feature film
1990 The Adventures of Don Coyote and Sancho Panda Additional voices Episode: "Pity the Poor Pirate"
1990 Midnight Patrol: Adventures in the Dream Zone Additional voices 13 episodes; aka Potsworth & Co.
1991 Committed Ronnie Feature film
1991 Darkwing Duck Ordinary Guy Voice, Episode: "Planet of the Capes"
1992 Wind Tony Feature film
1994 One Life to Live Gary Warren Daytime drama
1996 Ellen Himself Sitcom
1997 Mr. Rhodes Arnold Horshack Episode: "The Welcome Back Show"
2003 Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Himself Cameo, Feature film
2003 Style Court Juror Episode #2.26
2004 Trees 2: The Root of All Evil Dougie Styles Feature film
2008 The Curse of Micah Rood Micah Rood Short film
2010 The Guardians Professor Walker Feature film
2010 It's a Dog Gone Tale: Destiny's Stand Randolph Baines Feature film, (final film role)


  1. ^ Diaz, Johnny (August 14, 2012). "Ron Palillo, of 'Welcome Back, Kotter' fame, 63". South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
  2. ^ Kinser, Jeremy (August 14, 2012). "Welcome Back Kotter's Ron Palillo Dies". The Advocate.
  3. ^ "Ron Palillo". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Vitello, Paul (August 14, 2012). "Ron Palillo Dies at 63; Played Horshack on TV". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "So Soon, Another Sweathog Is Gone". The New York Times. August 14, 2012.
  6. ^ Hinckley, David (August 14, 2012). "Ron Palillo dead at 63: Actor best known to TV audiences as Horshack on 'Welcome Back, Kotter'". Daily News.
  7. ^ Erstein, Hap (May 7, 1996). "Ron Palillo's Welcome Back". The Palm Beach Post.
  8. ^ "Ron Palillo, Horshack in".
  9. ^ Vitello, Paul (August 14, 2012). "Ron Palillo Dies at 63; Played Horshack on TV". New York Times.
  10. ^ "7 potential spinoffs that never saw the light of day". Me-TV Network. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  11. ^ "Ooh-ooh-ooh! "Horshack" Talks Up the Kotter DVD | TV Guide". June 12, 2007. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  12. ^ "The Curse of Micah Rood (Short 2008) - IMDbPro".
  13. ^ "Ron Palillo, Horshack in "Kotter", Dead at 63". Hartford Courant. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  14. ^ "Ron Palillo hurt by Arnold Horshack role in Kotter series". Big News Network. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved August 23, 2012.
  15. ^ "Ron Palillo".
  16. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Tyne Daly to Host Ron Palillo Tribute at The Triad, 10/3".
  17. ^ "Ron Palillo, Horshack of "Welcome Back, Kotter", Dies at 63". Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  18. ^ Staff. "BWW Special: Lawrence Leritz on Ron Palillo's Death & Legacy". Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  19. ^ "'Welcome Back, Kotter' actor teaches drama in Fla". USA Today. October 19, 2009.
  20. ^ Freeman, Marc (September 5, 2009). "Former Sweathog, actor Ron Palillo, now a teacher in Palm Beach County". South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
  21. ^ Streeter, Gray, Leslie (August 14, 2012). "Obituary: Ron Palillo, 63, 'Kotter' star, G-star "teacher". The Palm Beach Post.
  22. ^ a b Silverman, Stephen (August 14, 2012). "Welcome Back, Kotter Actor Ron Palillo Dies". People. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  23. ^ Moore, Frazier (August 14, 2012). "Ron Palillo, actor who played nerdy teen Arnold Horshack on 'Welcome Back, Kotter' dies at 63". Associated Press (via The Washington Post). Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  24. ^ "Welcome Back, Kotter star Ron Palillo dies at 63 'after suffering heart attack'". Daily Mail. August 14, 2012.
  25. ^ "Ron Palillo, TV's Horshack, dies at 63". Variety. August 14, 2012.
  26. ^ Streeter, Leslie Gray (August 20, 2012). "Service for actor, teacher Ron Palillo". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
  27. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 36053). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  28. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Ron Palillo Tribute to be Held at the Triad, 10/3".

External linksEdit