On his website, Hegyes wrote that he modeled the swaggering, skirt-chasing Epstein after Chico Marx, whom he played in a national touring production of "A Night With Groucho." He was a big fan of the Marx Brothers: "They were immigrant Jews, and I was an immigrant Italian. Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Gummo, and Zeppo were intellectuals ... They all played the piano and took music lessons, and they were all juvenile delinquents; I could definitely relate."It's sweet to see that connection to the Marx Brothers tradition of ethnic characters played by actors whose own ethnicity is at odds with the character's ethnicity. Heyges came from Hungarian and Italian ancestry and the Epstein character was Jewish and Puerto Rican.
"Welcome Back Kotter" wasn't a show I watched. I was in my 20s in the 1970s, and didn't watch much TV in those years. It's the TV shows of the 50s and 60s that are seared into my memory. Are there shows that I truly loved that I'd find really unwatchable now? Maybe "The Red Skelton Show."