Ron Palillo

Ron Palillo

Ron Palillo in 1975
Born Ronald Gabriel Paolillo[1]
(1949-04-02)April 2, 1949
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
Died August 14, 2012(2012-08-14) (aged 63)
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, U.S.
Cause of death heart attack
Other names Ronald G. Paolillo (as illustrator)
Alma mater University of Connecticut
Occupation actor, illustrator, playwright
Years active 1975–2012
Spouse(s) Joseph Gramm (1971–2012; Palillo's death)[2]

Ronald Gabriel "Ron" Paolillo (April 2, 1949 – August 14, 2012) was an American television and film actor and teacher.[3][4] He was best known as Arnold Horshack on the ABC sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–79).[5][6]

Early life and education

Ronald Gabriel Paolillo (he used the surname "Palillo" during his acting career) was born in New Haven, Connecticut to Gabriel and Carmel Paolillo, of Italian descent.[7] and raised in Cheshire. He graduated from the University of Connecticut at Storrs, where he taught [8] during the late 1990s.[9]


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

After Welcome Back, 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 Audrey (Ellen's friend's) love interest. Palillo also spent a year on the popular 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. [10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13] In 2007, he introduced a new 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. [14]

In 2005, his first full-length play, The Lost Boy, the true story of Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie,[15] 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.[16]

He taught freshman drama at G-Star School Of The Arts for Motion Pictures and Broadcasting in Palm Springs, Florida.[17][18]

Personal life and death

Palillo and his partner of 41 years, Joseph Gramm, lived in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.[19][20] 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.[20][21][22][23]

Palillo's funeral service was held in Palm Beach Gardens on August 22, 2012.[24] 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.[25]


Film and Television
Year Title Role Notes
1975–79 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"
1981–82 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 Ron Palilllo Sit com
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


  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.
  9. Vitello, Paul (August 14, 2012). "Ron Palillo Dies at 63; Played Horshack on TV". New York Times.
  11. "Ron Palillo, Horshack in "Kotter", Dead at 63". Hartford Courant. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  12. "Ron Palillo hurt by Arnold Horshack role in Kotter series". Big News Network. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
  13. Palillo's official website
  15. "Ron Palillo, Horshack of "Welcome Back, Kotter", Dies at 63". Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  16. Staff. "BWW Special: Lawrence Leritz on Ron Palillo's Death & Legacy". Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  17. "'Welcome Back, Kotter' actor teaches drama in Fla.". USA Today. October 19, 2009.
  18. Freeman, Marc (September 5, 2009). "Former Sweathog, actor Ron Palillo, now a teacher in Palm Beach County". South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
  19. Streeter, Gray, Leslie (August 14, 2012). "Obituary: Ron Palillo, 63, 'Kotter' star, G-star "teacher". The Palm Beach Post.
  20. 1 2 Silverman, Stephen (August 14, 2012). "Welcome Back, Kotter Actor Ron Palillo Dies". People. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  21. 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).
  22. "Welcome Back, Kotter star Ron Palillo dies at 63 'after suffering heart attack'". Daily Mail. August 14, 2012.
  23. "Ron Palillo, TV's Horshack, dies at 63". Variety. August 14, 2012.
  24. Streeter, Leslie Gray (2012-08-20). "Service for actor, teacher Ron Palillo". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 2012-08-21.
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