Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gabe Kaplan: Welcome Him Back to Stage, TV

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gabe Kaplan: Welcome Him Back to Stage, TV

Article excerpt

WELCOME back, Kaplan.

For the past decade, Gabe Kaplan has been out of sight, out of mind.

While John Travolta, who was one of the "sweathogs" in Kaplan's 1970s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter," saw his career seesaw in the past decade, Kaplan disappeared.

But he's back - on TV and on stage.

"Kotter" is being aired on the cable channel Nickelodeon as part of its Nick at Nite package of classic sitcoms.

And Kaplan, who spent eight years in the world of finance, is returning to the comedy stage, the pad that launched him to fame in the '70s.

"Even when `Kotter' was on, I had become involved in finance," Kaplan said by phone from his Los Angeles home. "I enjoy the stock market, real estate. When choice stuff wasn't being offered in show business, I decided to concentrate on financial stuff. And I've done all right with that."

Kaplan said he took money he earned from "Kotter," which he helped create and kept partial ownership of, and invested it.

Kaplan manages investments while working out of his home. He raises money from investors to take companies public. If the company successfully goes public, the reward is stock at a substantially discounted rate. If the deal goes sour, investors, including Kaplan, lose their money.

"It's very important to choose the right company," Kaplan said.

In the late '60s, Kaplan was a bellboy at a New Jersey resort hotel that featured stand-up comedians. He watched. He listened. He thought he could do just as well, if not better.

He was right.

Kaplan developed routines based on growing up in Brooklyn, including his trademark stories about his idiosyncratic uncles, and broke into the big time in the early '70s, back when appearing on "The Tonight Show" was a big break.

He created "Kotter" based on his high school class. The show had a four-season run on ABC between 1975 and '79, and spawned a No. 1 hit for John Sebastian, "Welcome Back," the show's theme song.

Kaplan said he thinks "Welcome Back, Kotter" stands up well.

"It could've been better, but compared to other stuff it holds up pretty well. We created some identifiable characters."

After the show was canceled, Kaplan made several movie comedies - "Fast Break," "Tulips" and "Nobody's Perfekt" - and starred in the theater production of "Groucho, A Life in Review. …

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