Robert Hegyes, American actor (Welcome Back, Kotter; Cagney & Lacey), heart attack he was 60
(pronounced Hedges; May 7, 1951 – January
Hegyes was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to a Hungarian-American father, Stephen, and an Italian-American mother, Marie Dominica Cocozza. Hegyes had three siblings (Mark, Stephanie and Elizabeth).
He grew up in Metuchen, New Jersey and began acting in high school in the mid-1960s under the guidance of Metuchen High School theater teacher, Barton Shepard. Upon graduation from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University),
with a B.A. in Speech/Theater and Secondary Education, Hegyes ventured
to New York City to pursue a career in acting and soon became a member
of a Greenwich Village children’s theater group called, “Theater in a Trunk,” performing educational theater at U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt‘s
birthplace, on East 20th Street. Hegyes continued performing in the
Village in educational children’s theater, this time as a puppeteer with an arm and rod puppet company, playing Mr. Toad in The Wind & the Willows. Robert managed to work a third performing job in Washington Square Park and at the Provincetown Playhouse as a member of the political improvisational guerrilla troupe, “Jack LaRumpa’s Flying Drum & Kazoo Band.”
Within a year of graduating from college, Hegyes was cast to co-star in the highly acclaimed Off Broadway drama, Naomi Court, starring actor Brad Davis (Midnight Express). After completing the successful Manhattan Theater Club engagement, Hegyes was cast by Tony Award– winning actor Len Cariou (making his directing debut) to co-star in the Broadway drama, Don’t Call Back, starring Arlene Francis and Dorian Harewood. While performing on Broadway, Hegyes auditioned for television producer James Komack and was cast to star in what was to become the award-winning ABC comedy, Welcome Back, Kotter.
Hegyes portrayed the character of Juan Luis Pedro Felipo de Huevos
Epstein (typically referred to as simply “Epstein”). The show lasted
four seasons, from 1975 to 1979. Hegyes became one of the show’s
directors at age 25.
Hegyes guest starred in more than thirty television shows, including Saturday Night Live with Quentin Tarantino, NewsRadio, Diagnosis: Murder with Dick Van Dyke, The Drew Carey Show (in an April Fools’ Day episode where the character Oswald was recast for a brief scene with Hegyes playing the role) and The Streets of San Francisco with Michael Douglas. He also appeared in the award-winning Volkswagen Passat commercial “The Chase” for director Kinka Usher. Hegyes appeared in Honeymoon Hotel with Jane Kaczmarek, Underground Aces with Melanie Griffith and Dirk Benedict, Bob Roberts with Tim Robbins, The Purpose with Mia Farrow, and Bar Hopping with Kevin Nealon.
Hegyes made his Los Angeles stage debut as “Chico Marx” in the Westwood and national touring company engagements of An Evening with Groucho.
Upon returning from the tour, Hegyes was cast by producer Barney
Rosenswieg to star as a series regular portraying undercover detective
“Manny Esposito” in Cagney & Lacey. During this time he also appeared on the game show the $25,000 Pyramid from time to time.
Hegyes became “Artist-In-Residence” at his alma mater, Rowan University, teaching screenplay writing, acting for camera and public speaking, and was a guest lecturer in the Radio/Television/Film & Theater Departments. He was an adjunct instructor at Brooks College in Long Beach, California, where he taught essay writing and public speaking. Hegyes was a California Certified Secondary Education teacher, but had worked infrequently in recent years.
Having returned to live in his home town of Metuchen, New Jersey in
2009, Hegyes made his last public appearance in early January, 2012,
reprising his “An Evening With Groucho” role as Chico Marx, this time in
three performances of “The Marx Brothers: Flywheel, Shyster and
Flywheel,” a staged radio play re-creating several episodes of the
- Married to Mary Kunes (1973–1977); no children
- Married to Kyle Drummer (1979–1984); no children
- Married to Lynn O’Hare (1987–1993); two children, Cassondra (Cassie) (born 1987) and Mac (born 1991)
- Boyfriend to Cynthia Wylie (1994–2007), raised four children
together: his two children from his third marriage as well as Alex (born
1988) and Sophia (born 1991)
On January 26, 2012, after suffering from chest pains at his Metuchen, New Jersey home, Hegyes died from an apparent heart attack at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey. He was 60 years old.
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