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Characters / Welcome Back, Kotter

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    The Kotters 

Gabriel "Gabe" Kotter
Have I ever told you about my Uncle....
Played by: Gabriel Kaplan.

The main protagonist and school teacher. A former Sweathog who made good and is coming back to his old Alma Mater to teach.

Julie Kotter
They're not students! They are inmates and YOU are the 'Head Cuckoo'!
Played by: Marcia Strassman

Gabe Kotter's long-suffering young Mid-Western wife from Nebrasks.

    The Main Sweathogs 

Vincent "Vinnie" Barbarino
Played by: John Travolta

Sicilian-American self-proclaimed Leader of the Sweathogs. A poor student but a big-time hearthrob who's also a bit of a big-time doofus.

Arnold Dingfelder Horshack
....OOH! OOH! OOH!....
Played by: Ron Palillo

A strange, diminutive, Polish-American oddball and a bit of a sidekick to Barbarino.

  • Adorkable: Even though he's geeky and somewhat unattractive, he still manages to get lucky with a few of the ladies, even falling for Mrs. Kotter at one point before marrying and befriending Mary Johnson. Nevertheless, he still has a plucky spirit, offfering to fight Carvelli in a boxing match, and remaining loyal to his friends.
  • Annoying Laugh: Also a Signature Laugh....a bizarre wheezing hyena-like noise.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: In spades!
  • Determinator: In "Horshack vs. Carvelli", he volunteers to take on Carvelli in a boxing match, with the other Sweathogs and Mr. Kotter trying to talk him out of it to no avail. When Wooodman gets word that Horshack is the one that volunteers for the fight, he roots for Horshack in the hopes that Buchanan will get bragging rights. Even though he gets knocked out by Carvelli, he gains the Sweathogs' respect for his valiant efforts.
  • Ditzy Genius
  • Gag Nose
  • Hidden Depths: It turns out he's actually a fairly good student when he applies himself-he even almost is mainstreamed into regular classes in one episode. He can't cope and is brought back to Mr. Kotter's class.
    • In the final season, he successfully manages to talk down the suicidal Mary Johnson when even Julie and Mr. Woodman fail.
  • Kavorka Man: Downplayed; even though he doesn't have much success with the ladies, he still manages to get lucky once in a while at first, offering to be a fatherly figure to Rosalie's baby in Season 1 (which was part of Rosalie's scheme to teach the other Sweathogs a lesson) and later in Season 3 when Rosalie had a baby for real. He manages to get a good-looking date in Season 2's "Sadie Hawkins Day", goes on a date with Juan's sister Carmen, falls for Julie after several rejections, and eventually helps save the life of Mary Johnson, whom he eventually marries.
  • Little Guy, Big Buddy: The Little Guy to Vinnie's Big Buddy.
  • Lovable Nerd: The geekiest of the Sweathogs who feels uncomfortable in any other classroom, preferring to hang out with the Sweathogs.
  • Morality Pet: Somewhat to Vinnie.
  • Nerd
  • No Social Skills
  • Promotion to Parent: Tries to do this in "Whatever Happened To Arnold" part 2 after his fifth stepfather dies. He seems successful at the end, but little more is said about this.
  • Side Kick: To Vinnie.
  • The Smart Guy
  • Tagalong Kid: In the beginning. He comes into his own in later seasons and is the first of the Sweathogs to marry.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: A teacher's wife variant; Arnold has a brief crush on Mrs. Kotter in "Horshack and Madame X", when Julie offers him words of comfort after failing to be noticed by the other girls at Buchanan High. By the end of the episode, Julie and Arnold decide to discontinue while remaining friends, out of respect for Mr. Kotter.
  • Teens Are Short: Amongst the Sweathogs, Arnold and Juan Epstein are the diminutive ones, in contrast to Vinnie and Freddie, who are definitely taller than them.

Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington
Hi, there!
Played by: Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs

A tall, wise-cracking African-American "cool dude" who's also a school basketball player.

Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein
Mr. Kotter! I gotta note!
Played by: Robert Hegyes

Short, pugnacious Puerto-Rican Jewish guy who is famous for writing his own hilarious B.S. excuse notes.

  • Alter Kocker: Shade of this in an otherwise young, muscular, Latino youth, usually played for laughs.
  • The Big Guy
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Emphasis on big.
  • Book Dumb
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: He's a good guy deep down, and he's very good with animals.
  • Face of a Thug: When he goes missing, one episode, the Sweathogs create a poster complete with "Have you seen this?"
  • Informed Judaism: In one episode, when asked if his mother was Puerto Rican, he replies that his mother's maiden name was Bibberman.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Gets mad when Freddie and Vinnie attempt to date Carmen, the only reason he gives Arnold his blessing is because he thinks Arnold is "safe". Luckily, Carmen calls him out for it and he admits it's his only way of showing he loves her.
  • The Napoleon: It is not a good idea to get Juan mad, especially since he was voted "most likely to take a life" by his peers.
  • The Pig Pen: His gym locker is considered a major hazard and often used for a threat against people the Sweathogs dislike.
  • Twofer Token Minority: A Puerto Rican Jew.

    Other Sweathogs 

Angie Grabowski
Played by: Melonie Haller

Female Sweathog and Proud of it.

Bambi Forrester
Played by: Suze Lanier Bramlett

A pretty blonde student and one-episode Sweathog who's not what she seems.

Beauregarde "Beau" DeLabarre
Played by: Stephen Shortridge

Southern Cajun boy, replacement-Sweathog for Barbarino.

Mary Johnson

Played by: Irene Arranga
A meek, plain and awkward new student. Becomes Horshack's girlfriend and eventual wife.

Rosalie "Hotsie" Totsie
Played by: Debralee Scott

The main female Sweathog of the first season (along with Verna Jean). A redhead with a rumored "bad reputation".

VernaJean Williams
Played by: Vernee Watson Johnson (credited as Vernee Watson)

Female Sweathog and Freddie Washington's girlfriend. She eventually moves away to Staten Island.

    Other Characters 

Principal Lazarus

The unseen Principal. Is on very chummy terms with Juan Epstein, much to the chagrin of Mr. Woodman.

Vice Principal Michael Woodman
Played by: John Sylvester White

The main antagonist. An old grump with a very dim view of all things "Sweathog".


A dopey neighborhood bully

Played by: Bob Harcum

Carvelli's toadie.

Judy Borden
Be sure to wear earplugs when she's around!
Played by: Helaine Lembeck

An incredibly shrill, snooty, snotty, loud but very studious young student. Often an antagonist towards the Sweathogs.

Todd Ludlow
This ginger has no soul.
Played by: Dennis Bowen

Another super-studious but insufferable fellow student & antagonist. Is also a very hot-tempered, physically and emotionally aggressive jerk who even defeats Juan Epstein in a fist-fight.

Miss Fishbeck

An unseen female teacher who's mentioned often in passing as a gag. Presumably an elderly woman.


Example of: