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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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  • John Travolta thanks Gabe 'Mr. Kotter' Kaplan for his career

    Gabe Kaplan, Marcia Strassman, John Travolta, Robert Hegyes, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs at the "TV Land Awards 2011" in New York City April 10, 2011. (Reuters)

    John Travolta reunited with three-fourths of his fellow Sweathogs at the ninth annual TV Land Awards in New York City Monday night.

    The superstar had nothing but high praise for his former fictional teacher, Mr. Kotter, during a taped segment for Good Morning America.

    “I’ve waited 35 years to thank this man,” Travolta gushed about Gabe Kaplan, who based the ’70s “Welcome Back, Kotter” series on his years as a teacher at a rough Brooklyn high school. “And I never got to publicly thank Gabe for his genius—for putting us on the map. You know, we all wouldn’t be here today without Gabe.”

    Kaplan credited the series’ success to its diverse cast, “There’s a Horshack, a Barbarino, an Epstein, a Washington, in every class… These four guys from divergent ethnic backgrounds were the best of friends.”

    Travolta added, “My daughter even said, ‘This show is as funny as anything we’ve ever seen today—it looks like it was made yesterday,’ and I said, ‘Honey, that’s called timeless.’ It’s a classic.”

    The cast of 'Welcome Back Kotter' reunite. (Reuters)

    Marcia Strassman, who starred as the long-suffering Mrs. Kotter, revealed some secrets about a young, pre-megastar Travolta—including his enormous appetite.

    “He lived in the apartment underneath my parents’ apartment,” explained Strassman. “I would walk in the front door and I would look and there would be this body—the refrigerator door would be open, and there would be this body, standing in front of the refrigerator.”

    Travolta said he was often looking for “a nice piece of chicken.”

    John Travolta and Gabe Kaplan. (Reuters)

    “We were pretty poor when we got on the show,” added Travolta after Robert “Epstein” Hegyes admitted that one of the main perks of starring on hit sitcom was being able to buy groceries.

    The majority of the cast, including, Travolta’s sister, Ellen “Mrs. Horshack-O’Hara” Travolta and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who portrayed Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington, were on hand to accept the 35th Anniversary Award. Ron Palillo, who played the nasaly Horshack, was “under the weather” and did not attend the ceremony.

    “Bar none, this is absolutely the coolest night in television,” beamed Travolta, clutching his award on stage. “We’re having a blast tonight!”

    The TV Land Awards air April 17th on TV Land.

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