I was so sorry to hear that Robert Hegyes passed away today at the age of 60.
Hegyes, as you might recall, played Juan Epstein way back when on WELCOME BACK KOTTER - the show where John Travolta got his start (in the role of Vinnie Barbarino)
Several years back, I interviewed Robert for TV LAND CONFIDENTIAL. He was one of the nicest guys I interviewed for the show. Completely down-to-earth, friendly, and funny.
Here's a bit of that interview, relating how he got the part of Juan Epstein.
ROBERT HEGYES: I was doing a Broadway show at the time. Larry Jacobs (Lawrence Hilton Jacobs- Boom Boom Washington) called my agent and said I’m up on this thing. Do you have anybody? Send them over.
So between previews-we were doing a matinee and a night performance- I ran over to the Windsor Hotel in Manhattan. I go up the elevator and I knock on the door. Jimmy Komack (Welcome Back Kotter producer) enters the room and says come on in.
I’m looking around saying "what is this?" what kind of interview is this?
He says ok do the monologue. So I start the monologue for Barbarino which was in the pilot. I get about five or six lines into it and Jimmy says "OK, that’s enough. Stop."
And I keep going. I’m pushing though it. I do another couple of lines. He said "stop. I heard enough."
I’m pushing though. I get another couple lines.
He says "I said stop! you got the job."
I says "I memorized the whole thing, you’re gonna hear the whole thing pal."
He goes "you’re my guy. You’re my guy."
I goes "what? Yeah. Fine."
Then I kept going with the monologue. "I memorized it. You’re gonna hear it."
That’s a New York actor.