The World According to 'Epstein': His Best 'Welcome Back Kotter' Quotes

epsteinClass is dismissed for Robert Hegyes, the actor best known for playing Epstein, the Puerto Rican-Jewish "Sweathog" on the '70s TV series Welcome Back Kotter. Hegyes died last week of an apparent heart attack. Sad though it is that the actor has passed away at the young age of 60, I've loved watching Epstein's best moments from the show.

I never got to watch Kotter because it was on past my bedtime (my deprived, sheltered childhood) -- but I sure remember everyone at school yelling, "Up your nose with a rubber hose!" I spent many a recess period wondering how you would actually get a hose up a person's nose. But anyway, I'm gonna lay on you some of Epstein's lesser-known but equally golden funniest bits from Welcome Back Kotter.


Epstein on God: "Y'know, I think God is kinda tough, y'know? But he's fair. Sorta like John Wayne in a white beard, y'know? 'All right, pilgrims, move those clouds in a circle.'"

Also ...

Epstein: I ain't goin' to class, man. I ain't never goin' to class.

Kotter: Where you goin' then?

Epstein: I don't know, uh, into the religious life.

Kotter: Brother Epstein, huh? I can see the headlines: "Puerto Rican Jew enters monastery, becomes the first 'Schlamonk.'"

Epstein on art.

Kotter: Do I look like Miss Fishbeck, the art teacher?

Epstein: Only around the moustache.

Epstein on love.

Horshack: A woman is a sometime thing.

Epstein: She'll take your heart and give it a fling.

Horshack: But when true love runs off its course ...

Epstein: Then she'll sue you for divorce.

They're all onto Epstein.

Kotter: All right, Epstein, come on. Let's have it so we can get to work.

Epstein: What?

Kotter: One of your famous notes that'll read something like, "Please excuse Juan for being late. He was kidnapped by the jet set and left tied up on a lawn in Hyannis Port." Signed ...

Sweathogs: Epstein's mother!

Epstein on gambling.

Epstein: Hey, I got an idea, listen to this. ISB.

Kotter: ISB?

Epstein: In-School Betting. Yeah. It's about time we get bettin' off the streets, into the school here, where it belongs! [Sweathogs cheer]

Kotter: Are you kiddin'? I'll lay you 5-2 that'll never happen.

Epstein on the burdens of flim-flammery.

Epstein: Mr. Kotter, I got a note excusing my absenteeism.

Kotter: "Dear Mr. Kotter. Please excuse Juan's abs- " Aren't you gonna read along? [Epstein shakes head no] "Please excuse Juan's absence. He was home sick with the stomach flu. Sincerely, Mrs. Epstein." Fine. That's okay, Juan. Your excuse is perfectly legitimate.

Epstein: I know. That's the problem. It's the first legitimate excuse I've turned in in 11 years. Me, Juan Epstein, the flim-flam man of Buchanan High School, a legit excuse. What's the world comin' to? 

Rest in peace, Epstein/Hegyes, flim-flam man, philosopher, and gambler. Who knew you were such a Renaissance man? And now that I'm looking back at those episodes, Barbarino/Travolta may have been the class hottie, but you were adorable. That hair! I'll wear a red bandana in your honor today. 

Do you remember watching Welcome Back Kotter?


Image via BrosnanFans/YouTube

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