Welcome Back, Ron Palillo

Ron Palillo, also known as Ronald Gabriel Palillo, is a famous American actor better known for his starring role in the popular American television series Welcome Back, Kotter. In the sitcom, Ron Palillo starred as a high school student, Arnold Horshack. However, the Television sitcom aired almost five years from 1975 to 1979.

Born on April 2, 1949, in Cheshire, Connecticut, Ron started his acting career. The name Palillo derives its roots from the Italian town of Bari, Puglia. He was so enthusiastic about drama and acting that by the time he was turning 14 years old, Ron awed everyone by starting his own summer theater in his hometown of Cheshire, Connecticut. To the surprise of many, including his parents, Gabriel and Carmel Palillo, the summer theater was a success and helped to affirm Ron’s interest in professional acting.

Ron discovered his passion for acting and preforming early on in life. This discovery would propel him into stardom and a prosperous acting career. Apart from acting, he proved to be also good in other arts, including drawing illustrations, script writing, directing plays, dramas, and short skits.

Apart from being a theatrical genius, Ron is also a wonderful color and black & white pen artist. He is credited with providing the art and illustrations for two children’s books: The Red Wings of Christmas and A Gift for the Contessa. As an artist, he uses the name “Ronald G. Paolillo”, in memory of his late father. His artistic works have been displayed and sold at various art galleries in California, New York, and Hawaii, among other places in the world. After completing his high school education, he joined the University of Connecticut at Storrs, where he studied drama and graduated in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in Dramatic Arts. During his education at the university, he participated in numerous college plays and dramas whereby honed his acting and performing skills. It’s at the University of Connecticut at Storrs that he returned to become a tutor during the 1990s. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut, Ron joined the University of Fairfield in Fairfield, Connecticut to pursue his postgraduate degree.

Soon after graduating from the University of Connecticut, Ron got a job with a tour company, which was famous for performing Shakespeare’s plays. Yet again, Ron got the opportunity to play different roles in the plays. According to Ron, he received priceless experience from acting in these Shakespearean plays. Some of the plays included A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and The Taming of the Shrew. After working with the touring company for some time, Ron joined a Repertory company in Miami, Florida. Soon after, Ron moved to New York City where his acting career took a turn to success and prosperity.

His first roles upon arrival in New York included theater roles as Mozart in Amadeus, Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, and George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, among many other acting roles. In fact, he received The Best Actor award for his role as Mozart in Amadeus. In the mid-1990s, Ron organized a promotional event in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, where he and other actors were dressed in 1970s clothing. In this event, they distributed Metro Cards to the passing commuters. The Metro Cards were meant to publicize a week of 1970s programming on music television channel VH1.

He also got a role in the off Broadway success Hot 1 Baltimore. Ron stayed with the show for more than a year and due to his outstanding role in the show, he got a lead role in the musical special The Last Sweet Days of Isaac. He featured on the television musical special for quite some time, before being invited to go on tour with Mickey Rooney in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He also featured in Summer Brave, a serious play, which included Jan Sterling in the cast.

As mentioned earlier, Ron became a household name due to his role in the Television Sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter. In the show, he played the role of a high school student known as Arnold Dingfelder Horshack. During the first season of the show, Ron’s character, Horshack was associated with a thermos brand P.O.T.A lunchbox. The character’s accent was derived from a combination of the New Haven accent derived from his aunt and the accent of the Dustin Hoffman character in “Midnight Cowboy”. Ron was so good in the role that he won rave reviews and the “ooh-ooh” that was associated with his character as Horshack in the sitcom. According to an episode in the Television series, the name Horshack means the cattle are dying. The show became a hit to the extent that in 1976, Mattel started producing a line of Welcome Back, Kotter dolls and merchandise. The Welcome Back, Kotter Board Game by Ideal was also released in 1976 following the success of the Kotter dolls.

After performing for several years, the Welcome Back, Kotter show came to an end in 1979. Thereafter, Ron played supporting roles in a variety of television shows and became a voice performer in a variety of animated series, including Laverne and Shirley in the Army and Darkwing Duck. He played the leading role character in Rubik, the Amazing Cube in 1983. Besides the mentioned shows, Ron was also featured in several other theater shows, including Oklahoma, Butterfingers Angel, I hate Hamlet, A Holiday Memory, and How To Succeed. It was while playing the role of Truman Capote in A Holiday Memory in 1996 that he got the invitation to feature on Ellen. He was to be the guest star in a single episode, but to his delight, he received several other invitations to perform in the show. During the Television shows, Ron played the love interest of Ellen’s friend, Audrey. It was also during this period that Pelican Publishers published his second book, A Gift for the Contessa. The book had outstanding illustrations, which further underlined his artistic prowess. 

Ron has not confined his art prowess to New York alone; he has traversed other parts of the country performing what he knows best, acting. He directed a musical comedy known as 3 Guys Naked from the Waist Down in Los Angeles. The comedy received many accolades and awards in the drama circles. He also toured for several months in a two-character comedy known as The Fourposter. Yet again, the comedy received rave reviews and accolades from drama critics. Ron broke nearly all box office records when he directed and starred in A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline at the Cuillo Center for the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. The show was extended three times and ran for a record seven and a half months. Possibly due to the success of the show, Ron was made the Artistic Director of the theater. Thereafter, he went on to direct a new edition of The Phantom of the Opera. During the same time period, Ron was the guest star at the Lake Pepin Theater where he played the starring roles in Blithe Spirit and Arsenic and Old Lace. He returned to Lake Pepin Theater several times to perform different plays including Art, whereby he portrays Arthur in Camelot. He always longed to play this role since his childhood days.

While still at Los Angeles, Ron won the Dramalogue award for his role in P.S. Your Cat is Dead. In the play, he stars as a cat burglar to utter perfection. This particular acting role won him great reviews and accolades from various drama quarters. This brought him a showing in New York where he met up with Tyne Daly with whom he played the Artful Dodger to her Nancy in a previous production of Oliver.

Ron has starred and appeared in hundreds of films and plays as both the main actor and a guest star. Some of the best films that have propelled his stardom include:

In the movie Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives released in 1986, Ron played Allen Hawes. The movie is a horror movie about Jason who is an undead serial killer. Although Ron didn’t have a major starring role in the movie, it showed his flexibility and ability to act in any kind of movie, from comics to horror movies. The film opened in 1,610 theaters making 6.7 million dollars in its first weekend.

Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster was shot in Canada. The movie indicated the international exposure and experience that Ron possessed. The film is about Lamas, a character who tries to eliminate a major drug cartel after one of his students dies of a drug overdose. During his quest to extinguish the cartel, he meets several characters including Ron’s character, who will both assist and hinder his quest for justice.

Skatetown, U.S.A was among the first films that Ron featured in alongside Patrick Swayze, Ruth Buzzi, Scott Baio, Maureen McCormick, and Flip Wilson. The film is an American comedic feature film that emphasizes on the craze of roller disco in the early 60s and 70s. In the movie, Ron took the role of Frankey.

Surf II is an American comedy that was produced in 1984. It was written and directed by Randall M. Badat, starring the likes of Eddie Deezen, Eric Stoltz, and Jeffery Rogers among other actors including Ron. The film is set as a beach party movie, mixing elements of comedy, fiction, horror, and teen film genres.

Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star is an American movie that was released in 2003. Sam Weisman directed it and it starred David Spade and Mary McCormack. Ron was among the cast that performed the cameos. In the movie, Dickie Roberts is a former child star who shot to fame on an eponymous TV show. The movie turns into an interesting comedy film as Dickie Roberts cracks up the viewers with his silly jokes.

Doin’ Time (1985) was released on 19th May, 1985. On its release, the film was rather underrated and it did not receive many reviews. As the years went by, it gained in popularity. It stars Pat McCormick, Richard Mulligan, and Jimmy Walker. Ron also features in the movie. One highlight of the movie was a special appearance by Muhammad Ali, the former world boxing heavyweight champion.

As of 1999, Ron was teaching acting at the same school he attended, The University of Connecticut in Stores. The university is renowned for offering scholarships in acting to undergraduate and graduate students who are majoring in acting. The Nafe E. Katter-Ron Palillo Scholarship is awarded to students or interested individuals who have contributed to departmental productions and demonstrated exceptional talent. Ron Palillo has also proved to be philanthropic. In the year 2008, he appeared on Broadway Backward 4, a charity event for people living with HIV/AIDS. All the proceeds from the event went towards assisting people from different parts of the world who are living with HIV/AIDS.

In 2005, Ron released his first full-length play called The Lost Boy. The play is about the creation of Peter Pan, based on the novel written by J. M. Barrie. Ron wrote the play, which was later produced in New York City. The play has received radiant reviews from drama enthusiasts and reviewers. As of July 2010, a new mounting was to occur at the “Playhouse on Park” in West Hartford, Connecticut, with Ron playing the title character. Moreover, an idea of a film version of the play was raised before the mounting was to occur.

Ron Palillo

In the film The Curse of Micah Rood, Ron puts in a splendid performance as the starring Micah Rood, thereby winning several awards as the Best Actor in a variety of film festivals. The Curse of Micah Rood is based on a 17th Century prodigy from Norwich, Connecticut who was known as Micah Rood. Micah Rood was a hermit who loved his solitude and his prized apple orchard. When a peddler infringes onto his orchard, Micah Rood accuses him of stealing his apples and commits a brutal deed that soon after taints the apples of his orchard with the blood of guilt. The film was recently shown at the New London Film Festivals in November 2008.

Apart from films, Ron has also featured in numerous television shows and made several guest appearances in popular Television sitcoms and shows. Besides Welcome Back, Kotter, he has starred in other television shows including Match Game PM, Laverne and Shirley in the Army, The Invisible Woman, Rubik the Amazing Cube, Snakeeater, One Life to Live, Welcome Back, Kotter: The E! True Hollywood Story, and Celebrity Boxing 2, among many other television shows. He also made special appearances in several television sitcoms including The Love Boat, Alice, The A-Team, CHiPs, Matt Houston, Murder, She Wrote, Trapper John, M.D., Darkwing Duck, Ellen, Mr. Rhodes, and Duckman.

Ron’s latest movie It's a Dog Gone Tale: Destiny's Stand was released in 2010. Other popular films and movies that gained him further recognition include The Curse of Micah Rood, The Guardians, Tree 2: The Root of All Evil, and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. In The Curse of Micah Rood, he played Micah Rood, in The Guardians, his cast name was Professor Walker while in The Root of All Evil; his cast name was Dougie Styles.

Currently, Ron reportedly resides in Palm Beach, Florida where he is a lecturer at the G-Star school of the Arts for Motion Pictures and Broadcasting. He still loves acting, directing, as well as writing new movies, films, and plays. Not much is known about his family, but he has two brothers and a sister. His elder brother, Richard is an eye surgeon, while his other brother is Robert is a salesperson and marketer. His sister Ann pursued education and became a schoolteacher.

Ron Palillo is still an active actor, director, writer, and illustrator. His personal and private life has remained just that, private. Not much detail is given concerning his married life and family. Nonetheless, his works in acting and drama will undoubtedly leave a long-lasting legacy among his peers in the entertainment and recreational arts fraternity.

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