Update on the ''Welcome Back Kotter'' crew -- Catching up with the stars as their show joins the Nick at Nite lineup

By Heather Keets and Jessica Shaw
May 26, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • TV Show

Brandon, Dylan, and Kelly may be the reigning gang on the West Coast, but once upon a time, in a zip code far, far away — Brooklyn, 11214 — Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-79) wore the crown as king of classroom television. With the Sweathogs joining the Nick at Nite lineup, we checked in with the Kotter clan (except comeback kid John Travolta, who was out of the country shooting a movie, and John Sylvester White, a.k.a. Mr. Woodman, who passed away in 1988), to see whether their dreams had all changed since we’d turned around:

Gabriel Kaplan (Gabe Kotter)
”I don’t really live as an actor anymore,” concedes Kaplan, a world-class poker player and former sports talk-radio host who still performs an occasional stand-up routine. ”But I’m ready for the Kotter renaissance.” His last foray into TV was a 1984 episode of Murder, She Wrote.

Marcia Strassman (Julie Kotter)
Best known these days as the mom in Honey, I Shrunk/Blew Up the Kids, Strassman is now focusing on raising daughter Lizzie, 8. ”Even though the clothes on Kotter were terrible, it’s a show I’m proud of,” she says. ”It’s not like being a regular on The Love Boat.”

Robert Hegyes (Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein)
From 1986 to 1988, he played Det. Manny Esposito on Cagney & Lacey, a role he reprised in last year’s C & L reunion movie. Hegyes, who performs stand-up in L.A., has two children: Mack, 4, and Cassie, 7 (who is Travolta’s goddaughter). ”Every time I walk into her room she has 90210 on,” he says. ”She knows her daddy is famous but she doesn’t know what for.”

Ron Palillo (Arnold Horshack)
Another sometime stand-up comic, he also illustrates children’s books, had a recurring part last year on One Life to Live, and recently completed shooting a pilot, Midlife, about…well, midlife crises. ”Watching Kotter again is like watching The Picture of Dorian Gray, except I’m the picture,” he says. ”I’m aging and it doesn’t, and that’s sort of scary.”

Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs (Freddie ”Boom Boom” Washington)
He played Papa Joe in the 1992 Jacksons miniseries and has been writing, directing, and starring in such straight-to-video action flicks as East L.A. Warriors and Angels of the City. But he wants to revisit high school and is developing West Side High, a realistic series that would tackle such subjects as AIDS, teenage pregnancy, and drugs. ”90210 is kind of fluffy and corny. They deal with things like ‘You stole my boyfriend!”’