Actor Ron Palillo is dead at 63. Best known for his character Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter, Palillo carved a later voice acting career for himself in animated productions such as Darkwing Duck, and Rubik, the Amazing Cube. Horshack, as the lovable geek in Welcome Back Kotter’s high school Sweathog milieu, endeared audiences with his frantic raising of his hand coupled with “Ooh ooh ooh, Mr. Kotter!” as a catchphrase, and his trademark laugh evocative of a geese migration.
Palillo appeared on that old self-referential pop culture bargain-bin known as Celebrity Boxing on Fox, in a matchup against a much younger and larger Dustin Diamond, the man who played the high school dweeb Screech on 90’s high school sitcom Saved by the Bell. There can only be one dork. The fight ended midway through the second round, with Palillo being stopped by TKO.
The Sweathogs & Mr. Kotter
Beyond that blemish, Palillo, through his portrayal of Arnold Horshack, will be remembered for establishing the more outlandish of sitcom foils – paving the way for Diamond’s Screech, Willie Aames’ Buddy Lembeck, and Jaleel White’s Steve Urkel – the awkward, and often obnoxious characters that take a defining role in the development of a sitcom’s essence.