Ron Palillo

Todd Williamson/Getty Images for TV Land

Arnold Horshack, you will be missed.

Ron Palillo, who was best known for playing the loveable class clown opposite a young John Travolta's Vinny Barbarino in the classic '70s ABC sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter, has died. He was 63.

Palillo's agent, Jacqueline Stander, told NBC News that the actor had a heart attack and passed away in his sleep at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Palillo's goofy Arnold Dingfelder Horshack was a central member of the Sweathogs, a group of high school cutups taught by wisecracking teacher Gabe Kotter (Gabe Kaplan) at the fictional James Buchanan High in Brooklyn, N.Y. With his high-pitched squeal for a laugh, thick Brooklyn accent and child-like demeanor, the thesp was an audience favorite on the show, which aired from 1975 to 1979.

Among his signature catchphrases were "Ooh! Ohh! Ooh!" when he wanted to answer a question posed by Mr. Kotter; "G'head! G'head!"and his hilarious introduction, "How-wah-ya? I'm Ahhnold Horshaaaaack!" He was also one of the Sweathogs to graduate from his remedial class.

Besides Kotter, Palillo guest starred on a slew of hit TV series, including The Love Boat, Alice, The A-Team, Matt Houston and Trapper John, M.D. He also had a bit part on the big screen in such flicks as Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI and more recently in 2010's It's a Dog Gone Tale: Destiny's Stand, which he also wrote.

Additionally, the actor lent his voice to the Saturday morning cartoon Rubik, the Amazing Cube as well as the animated series Laverne and Shirley in the Army and Darkwing Duck.

Born April 2, 1949 in Chesire, Conn., Palillo began acting in his teens and even started his own summer theater before attending the University of Connecticut. Outside of his passion for performing, he was also an artist, having supplied the art for two children's books, The Red Wings of Christmas and A Gift for the Contessa. He later returned to his alma mater to teach before settling in Palm Beach County, where he continued to serve as an acting instructor for three years at G-Star School of the Arts, a charter school.

"He just couldn't have been more fun and intelligent or talented. He was an amazing human being," Palillo's friend, Stacy Sacco, told the Palm Beach Post. "I had been a fan. We all knew who he was. He was a shining star."

Sadly, Palillo's death comes just eight months after his fellow cast member, Robert Hegyes, who played Sweathog Juan Epstein, died of a heart attack.

No word yet on funeral plans. Palillo is survived by his partner of 41 years, Joseph Gramm, also an actor.

We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies. For more information on cookies including how to manage your consent visit our Cookie Policy.