Applebee’s using Welcome Back, Kotter theme song in commercials

Depending on your age, where you remember first seeing John Travolta will vary.

Me? I can’t remember if it was the movie Boy in the Plastic Bubble (that movie, although it wasn’t a horror film, just freaked me out with the idea that breathing outside air could kill), Stephen King’s first adaptation Carrie (also my intro to Sissy Spacek and a chilling film) or the 70s TV show Welcome Back, Kotter.

Certainly the latter I remember him most for early on, because he was on weekly and prominently. Of course he’d go onto other iconic roles in Grease and Saturday Night Fever, but Kotter is where I most remember Travolta from in the beginning of his acting career.

Add to that very catchy theme song to Welcome Back Kotter. The 70s and 80s had crazy good memorable theme songs.

Travolta played a Henry Winkler like Fonz character in the TV show as one of the Sweathogs. Gabe Kaplan as the teacher and Ron Palilo as Horshack — with that zany hoarse laugh.

Palillo’s character was part of a group of remedial students known as “Sweathogs,” in a Brooklyn high school. He was known for his catchphrase, “ooh, ooh! Mr. Kotter” and his unique laugh. Some of the cast members in the show, including Palillo, have passed away.

Ron Palillo — Life and Death of the Beloved ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ Star

Sadly, Palilo passed away in 2012. He joined others that we remember on the show that are no longer alive including: John Sylvester White who played Mr. Woodman in 1988, Robert Hegyes (who played the sweathog Epstein) in 2012, Marcia Strassman (Gabe Kaplan’s character’s wife Julie Kotter in the show) in 2014.

The only main surviving main characters as of this writing are, in fact, Gabe Kaplan (age 77), John Travola (age 66) who played Vinnie Barbarino and the other prominent sweathog, Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs).

Inevitably the death clock catches up with us all, but this is one of several 70s and 80s TV shows I remember fondly.

Imagine my surprise and delight when Applebee’s ads playing on Hulu are now using the opening theme song to Welcome Back, Kotter.

While it might be premature, Applebee’s want potential customers to realize their restaurants are back open in many places. We probably won’t be going to Applebee’s any time soon, but it’s a well marketed way to let us know they’re open and available.

Imagine there will be plenty of other catchy theme songs to use for returning businesses. Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” perhaps? (joking!). Licensing is one of the few remaining non-concert performance ways for music artists to make money from their songs.

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