Skip to main content
  1. AXS Entertainment
  2. Arts & Entertainment
  3. Performing Arts

Ron Palillo AKA Horshack in Welcome Back Kotter was my true friend

See also

Broadway Global shares an exclusive tribute from our dear friend Lawrence Leritz (The Normal Heart). When we heard Ron had passed, we could not think of no better way to honor him then by this story from a true friend, Lawrence Leritz.

"Ron Palillo, who well-known to the world as 'Horshack' in "Welcome Back Kotter", was someone else to me. He was my best friend. Ron was the first person I spoke to when anything important was going on. We talked almost every day. What people may not know is what a sweet and sensitive person he was. We called ourselves brothers. No matter what was going on in our lives, we were always there for each other 100%.

After "Welcome Back Kotter," Ron acted for many years in NY theatre and around the world. It was always his first love. Early on in his career, Ron was appearing Off-Broadway in Langford Wilson's play "The Hot L Baltimore" when he got his audition for Kotter. Ron spent many of the later years of his life as a playwright. His moving play, "The Lost Boy," is a brilliantly written work. It enjoyed a premiere at Nyack's Helen Hayes Theatre in 2005. I probably saw it five times. Ron discussed with me about producing "The Lost Boy" in NY. Ron attended many performances of Boobs! The Musical when it was playing Off-Broadway and saw me in producer mode.

Ron and I only appeared together once professionally. I played his boxing coach in TV's "Celebrity Boxing 2". When Dustin Diamond hit him in the face, it gave him a black eye. I was so upset, that I told Dustin I was going to punch him. Dustin quickly disappeared. I was proud to have defended my friend.

When Ron and I last spoke, we laughed about our first meeting in 1982. I had no idea of who he was. I was in Europe dancing in ballet companies at the time Kotter was on the air. I walked into his bathroom and saw an award he had won with the Kotter cast. "Are you famous?" I asked. We always laughed about that. Ron suddenly passed away in August, 2012. It rocked my world. I directed and co-produced a tribute to honor Ron Palillo's life and career at NYC's The Triad Theatre, October 2012, hosted by Tyne Daly.

"The Lost Boy" was ever present on my mind. Everything has now come full circle. With Ron's cousin, Dominic Paolillo, I am producing "The Lost Boy" in NY. Broadway's Matt Doyle (Book Of Mormon), Jennifer Cody (Shrek), Sheffield Chastain (Is He Dead?) and Roberta Maxwell (Brokeback Mountain) will star in a industry reading of "The Lost Boy" at the Manhattan Theatre Club Studios, 311 West 43rd St. "The Lost Boy" will be performed Monday, Sept. 15th at 6:30 pm and on Tuesday, Sept. 16th at 12:30pm. Drama Desk Nominee Tony Speciale, who recently directed the Barry Manilow musical Harmony, will direct the Manhattan reading.

"The Lost Boy" tells the compelling story of a well-known author, who in the shadow of his own international writing success, confronts his haunted past, his brother's untimely death, a family that has scorned him, and his own dissatisfaction with the illusions of fame and fortune. For more The Lost Boy info, contact: or visit" Lawrence Leritz.

Broadway Global and USA Theatre Chat thank our dear friend Lawrence Leritz (The Normal Heart). When we heard Ron had passed, we could not think of no better way to honor him then by this story from a true friend Lawrence Leritz. Destined to meet at the Theatre World Awards, we had no idea at that time why it would be so important. Today this exclusive tribute shares the importance of that night. Ron Palillo AKA Horshack in Welcome Back Kotter was also destined to be everyone's "true friend". We all felt we knew him as we watched the hit TV show every week. His character reminded us of someone we knew in school, that student who always had their hand up to answer the teachers question. Ron has left his legacy for all of us to remember, The Lost Boy will keep his journey alive for eternity.