According to reports, Palillo was found at approximately 4 a.m. by his partner of 41 years Joseph Gramm, a retired actor. Palillo was rushed by ambulance to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, where he was unable to be revived and was pronounced dead.
Palillo is best known for his role as nerdy Arnold Horshack, one of the beloved “Sweathogs” from the ABC sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter,” which ran from 1975-1979 and launched John Travolta’s career.
“While I loved him, I really loved him, I didn’t want to do him forever,” Palillo said of playing Horshack to the Birmingham News in 1994, according to the AP. He felt the role typecast him and into the ’80s Palillo was unable to find work and went into a depression.
He lived in Palm Beach County, where he had been teaching acting classes at the G-Star School of the Arts for the last three years. A native of Cheshire, Conn., Palillo previously lived in New York for about 40 years.
Stacy Sacco, a friend of the actor’s, confirmed his death Tuesday to The Palm Beach Post.
“He just couldn’t have been more fun and intelligent or talented. He was an amazing human being,” Sacco told the Post. “I had been a fan. We all knew who he was. He was a shining star.”
Palillo’s “Kotter” costar Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein, died this past January from a heart attack.