Deaths | News | Television

Gay 'Welcome Back Kotter' Actor Ron Palillo Dies at 63

HorshackTMZ reports on the death of Ron "Horschack" Pallilo:

We're told Palillo was found by his partner of many years Joseph Gramm around 4:00 AM. Gramm called an ambulance and Palillo was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

We're told the heart attack was very unexpected. Palillo was 63.

According to one of Palillo's colleagues at G-Star School of the Arts, Palillo had appeared to be in good health ... but was a heavy smoker. We're told he had been suffering from a bad cough and had even scheduled a doctor's appointment for today.

Palillo was known for calling out, "Ooh ooh ooh, Mr. Kotter" as one of the Sweathogs on the show ... which he appeared on with John Travolta from 1975 to 1979.

Does anybody know if he was out before his death?


Horschack's classic move, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. He was never "In." He just never held the seemingly mandatory Coming Out Press Conference, which seems to be the the only way to officially declare your gayness.
    I met him many times back in the 90's. He was very sweet.

    Posted by: JimmyD | Aug 14, 2012 2:15:23 PM

  2. I'm by no means saying that I'm glad he's dead but a few years ago he (Palillo) rented a summer home, for the entire summer, right next door to a good friend of mine. The homes were on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan and the decks on the back of both homes nearly touched as the homes were close together so there were a few brief conversations. Saying Palillo was a jackass would be a gross underestimation. He was a complete prick. He was in the area doing a workshop at a community theater and severely overestimated his talent and celebrity with a huge unwarranted ego.

    Posted by: Truth | Aug 14, 2012 2:19:55 PM

  3. Maybe not the time/place/context for that particular anecdote?

    Posted by: chris | Aug 14, 2012 2:25:02 PM

  4. No doubt he was a great guy but it is my opinion that a public figure has to acknowledge their sexual orientation publicly in order to be "out." The question isn't whether his parents or friends knew, but whether the public knew. It doesn't require a press conference per se but rather an acknowledgement that makes it part of the public record and understanding. This is a brave act for celebrities because it effects their income, obviously, so those who do make public acknowledgements deserve credit and those that don't do not. I'm not saying we should stigmatize those that do not come out to the public, but the difference is real. The irritating and now constantly invoked defense that "I was never in" is ridiculous. To be an "out celebrity" means "out publicly."

    Posted by: Humanzee | Aug 14, 2012 2:28:15 PM

  5. Even when I was a little kid watching reruns of Kotter, I knew immediately 'Horschack' the character was gay. I knew I was gay, but didn't act like the Horschack character and many other 'gay' characters in popular culture. I didn't relate to them. It bother me for many years.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Aug 14, 2012 2:28:57 PM

  6. Who cares if he was in or out? It sounds like his boyfriend was there for him, unlike many currently "out" personalities. Why no mention of Anderson Cooper's boyfriend's infidelity? Let's keep the gay marriage monogamy myth alive -- and protect "one of your own"
    Check "National Enquirer" for the real story. I think it has a wider circulation.

    Posted by: Cover Up | Aug 14, 2012 2:29:02 PM

  7. These celebrities are dropping like flies. What is going on?

    Posted by: Byron St. James | Aug 14, 2012 2:31:21 PM

  8. Chris,
    If not now, when? How often was that Z-lister in the news?

    Posted by: Don | Aug 14, 2012 2:32:00 PM

  9. Classic Palillo moment: overfilling the Kotter's sink with too many bubbles and screaming: "AAAHHHHHHH! We're being attacked by Lawrence Welk!!"

    He was always my favorite Sweathog--sweet and guileless. Nice knowing Palillo was gay in real life.

    Posted by: Dback | Aug 14, 2012 2:39:05 PM

  10. @coverup
    Wow! Sounds like someone's projecting a bit, don't cha' think?!

    Firstly, Cooper and his boyfriend are not married so your point about "the gay marriage monogamy myth" doesn't even apply to your example.

    Secondly, I have been in a loving, monogamous relationship for nearly twenty years now. It's sad that you have such trust issues; you might want to work on that!

    Posted by: Randy | Aug 14, 2012 2:43:35 PM

  11. He was a heavy smoker and this comes as a surprise?

    Posted by: anon | Aug 14, 2012 2:54:28 PM

  12. Epstein died of a heart attacked, too, earlier this year.

    What was craft services serving that crew? cigarettes and country fried steak 24/7?!?!??!

    If I was John Travolta's next masseuse, I'll be worried he'll crash and burn with a heart attack right there on the table.

    Posted by: William | Aug 14, 2012 2:59:20 PM

  13. Would love to hear John Travolta's words for a passing collegue.

    Posted by: castaway | Aug 14, 2012 2:59:55 PM

  14. Don,
    Maybe never. The man was occasionally crabby and vain, like most of us. Why do we need to hear about that right after he has died? (Or ever, frankly, especially since, as you note, he was barely even in the public eye anymore?)

    Posted by: chris | Aug 14, 2012 3:06:10 PM

  15. "Does anybody know if he was out before his death?"

    this was literally the first time I have heard it.

    Posted by: Homo Genius | Aug 14, 2012 3:09:23 PM

  16. @WILLIAM I don't think we have to worry about Travolta's "masseuses".

    Posted by: Byron St. James | Aug 14, 2012 3:14:57 PM

  17. Chris -

    The whole respect for the dead thing is BS. I'm not going to say someone was not an ass just because they died. His behavior was more than just "occasionally crabby and vain, like most of us", as you put it. I was there and witnessed Diva Palillo, you weren't! I was just telling what I personally witnessed. And yes, Palillo was an ass!

    Posted by: Truth | Aug 14, 2012 3:21:22 PM

  18. Classy, Don. My point is not that you have to say someone isn't an ass, just that you could say nothing at all since very little is being added by it. (By the way, sorry for not noting that you were an eyewitness to minor bad behavior but it's difficult to keep track of you when you're posting under two different monickers within the space of a couple hours.)

    Posted by: chris | Aug 14, 2012 3:32:57 PM

  19. A bit before my time so I don't know the character but if he was gay then he surely crossed gay paths with Travolta back then and thereafter. Perhaps we'll hear from Pillo's partner in a 'tell-all' (or someone's auto of his life).

    and @Cover Up - Anderson Cooper has never publicly admitted that Maisani is his boyfriend even though we all assume he is because they are seen together and share the FireHouse home together. Can you share a picture of them kissing or any other comprising position with the rest of us? Is there any credible witness who is willing to step forward and spill some intimate details? Again, credible is the key.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Aug 14, 2012 3:38:39 PM

  20. What do you suggest for Anderson Cooper, Randy? Crying on Robert Pattison's shoudler perchance?

    Besides being out, Ron Palillo appeared in "Broadway Cares" presentations to raise money in the fight against AIDS.

    Yeah he was a real jerk, wasn't he?

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Aug 14, 2012 3:40:15 PM

  21. TRUTH always seems to be "in the know" or knows everything. Insert eyeroll.

    Posted by: WHAT? | Aug 14, 2012 3:40:43 PM

  22. The coments on the Yahoo article are heartbreaking. So many glad he is dead now that they know he was gay...

    Posted by: Mikey Dallas | Aug 14, 2012 3:47:08 PM

  23. @David
    I wasn't making any suggestions for Cooper. I was merely replying to coverup pointing out that the gay marriage monogamy myth doesn't apply to Cooper, yet. Is my monogamous relationship a touchy subject for you?

    What are you talking about in your second and third sentences? I said nothing about Ron Palillo being a jerk or being in or out?

    Posted by: Randy | Aug 14, 2012 3:50:55 PM

  24. Is my NON-monogamous one a touchy subject for YOU?

    My lover and I have been together for 39 years.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Aug 14, 2012 3:54:36 PM

  25. @David
    You didn't explain your misplaced, misdirected Ron Palillo comments.

    And no, I could care less if a couple decides to choose not to be monogamous. But you really didn't need to tell me your relationship is NON-monogamous. Your defensive comment was pretty transparent.

    Posted by: Randy | Aug 14, 2012 4:01:03 PM

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