Today a sweet character from the past has died. For those of you who remember “Welcome Back Kotter”, and the misfit group of students with hidden potential, The Sweathogs, you will recall the originator of the above comment. Arnold Horshack, also known as Ron Palillo. What can I say? The show was great! Reflected what is common in many schools in that you have students who tend to be forgotten and left to their own devices until someone who is hell bent on changing their attitudes comes into their lives.
Mr. Kotter was that person, he cared for and took time to push the Sweathogs to learn, reach beyond what they had been told they could do. Arnold was one of those individuals, a small, goofy, and always shouting his trademark response, “Ooh, Ooh, Mr. Kotter!”. Arnold just wanted to fit in like the rest and I think all the gang wanted to learn but they had to have the right motivator.
You know, the situation presented back in the 1970s with “Mr. Kotter” and his class are no different from today. There will always be some who don’t quite fit in but still want to be counted, the ones who may not look a certain way or dress a certain way or maybe come from neighborhoods not as nice others. What it comes down to is this: we all have a right to learn, to belong, to be a part of something special. Kids should be told that they can learn even it some take longer than others, that giving up is not an option.
Through Horshack, Juan Esptein, Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington, and Vinnie Barbarino, we see promise and determination. Talent, and spirit, real kids in real situations that warrant some assistance so that they can move forward. Mr. Kotter helped them do just that. And they did. He was what they needed.
Mr. Palillo, you will be missed, not just for the character you played, but what you brought to the world with the show. Many a movie seems to be of similar storyline to yours true or not. But that’s okay, we need the light under our behinds and light bulbs over our heads to get the ideas going, to inspire, as you did with your acting and art.
Ooh, Ooh! one last time. Rest in Peace.