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How Erin Moran Spent Her Final Years

To most of the world, Erin Moran will always be known first and foremost for her portrayal of the character Joanie Cunningham on the hit television sitcom Happy Days throughout the 70s and early 80s, as well as the much less successful spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi. However, after those two shows ended their runs, things ended up taking a dark turn for Moran, and the final days of her life were anything but happy. Unable to achieve the success that she desired after moving on from her iconic role, the television actress spiraled into a deep and dark web of depression that culminated in a tragic end that many consider came much too soon. Follow Facts Verse as we take a look at how Erin Moran spent her final years.

Erin Moran won over the hearts of the global television audience as one of the stars of the hit television sitcom Happy Days. The young actress played Joanie Cunningham, the kid sister of the show’s main character, Richie Cunningham, who himself was iconically portrayed by Ron Howard. Ron Howard was then known mostly as a child actor, having done a memorable stint on The Andy Griffith Show throughout the 60s as the young Opie Taylor. For Howard, Happy Days represented a transcendence of this child star paradigm, a fate that many child stars yearn for and few accomplish. He would go on to become a famous adult star in his own right, and an acclaimed Hollywood director from there. To Erin Moran, though, Happy Days would be the vessel that made her a child star. As well, unlike her on-screen brother, it was a role that she would ironically never be able to escape from.

While Erin only had a recurring role in Happy Days‘ first season, she would go on to take a much more pronounced, and eventually central. After Ron Howard decided not to return for the show’s eighth season, her role would become one of the main drawing points for fans of the show. When Happy Days first came on the air, Moran was only 13 years old. The young actress would go on to grow up on the set of the show, and it would shape her adulthood in many more ways than one. In the shows fifth season, the equally young actor Scott Baio was brought on in a supporting role as the character of Chachi Arcola. He would eventually take on a much more prominent role, just as Joanie herself did several years earlier. Chachi became a love interest for Joanie, and this is one of the things that helped the show keep the audience’s attention during the later and waning seasons.

Happy Days would go on to last for 11 seasons, four of which went on without it’s main star, Ron Howard, although he did end up returning in the final season as a guest star. In it’s final years, Joanie and Chachi were arguably the biggest draw for the slowly lessening audience, which is perhaps the reason that the studio executives felt it would be appropriate to green-light a spin-off featuring the two characters in the main roles. This sitcom, which would end up being called simply Joanie Loves Chachi, sounded good on paper, but it ended up being a good deal less successful than the studio executives had hoped. It was cancelled before the first season even finished, leaving it’s stars to wonder excessively about their future.

Joanie Loves Chachi was cancelled in 1983 before Happy Days had even finished it’s run, which meant that both Erin Moran and Scott Baio were able to temporarily return to their respective roles as Joanie and Chachi for that show’s final season. However, after that season was over, the future seemed much more tentative for the both of them. Scott Baio was thankfully able to bounce back almost immediately a year later in 1984, as he went on to star in the hit sitcom Charles in Charge. Not only was this role a huge success, but it ended up being a role he is perhaps even better remembered for than his stint as Chachi in both Happy Days and it’s universally derided spin-off. Erin Moran, however, wasn’t quite as lucky with her post-Happy Days career.

After Happy Days came to an end, Erin Moran never was able to land another role that was anywhere near as successful as the one that made her a star. She did several stints guest-starring in other television programs, such as Murder She Wrote, but she never got a starring role that reached the heights of the one that made her famous. Over time, the actress came to resent the show, and even joined a few other Happy Days stars in a lawsuit against CBS, who owned the sitcom, to try and get money they felt they were owed for merchandise rights. Happy Days was over, and it appeared that Erin Moran’s happy days were over, as well. If you’re enjoying this video, hit the like button to help support more content like this being made in the future! As well, subscribe if you’d like to be the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

Erin Moran was always vocal about the fact that she had begun suffering from depression soon after the end of Happy Days and the failure of Joanie Loves Chachi. For whatever reason, she was never quite able to break free from the mold imposed by her iconic character, and she was never granted the acting roles that she desired once Happy Days ended. Over the years after the show’s run, while sporadically taking minor guest-starring roles in other television programs, she ended up marrying her first husband, Rocky Ferguson. Their marriage lasted from 1987 to 1993, a period of time in which Moran made very little progress in her career. Within mere months of divorcing Ferguson, she married a new husband, Steven Fleischmann, and they would stay together until the actress’s untimely death in 2017. Fleischmann would accompany Moran throughout her most turbulent years, and would be by her side in those final moments when she eventually succumbed to her fateful end.

Erin Moran and her husband managed to stay out of the public eye for the most part in the early years of their marriage, and neither found much success in the public sphere. In 2011, Moran made the news when she and four other cast members of Happy Days filed a lawsuit against CBS over what they felt was money owed to them for merchandise that was inspired by the hit sitcom. She was joined by Don Most, Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and the estate of the late Tom Bosley, all alleging that they had been deprived of proper compensation for various merchandise inspired by the show and featuring their likenesses. There was certainly tons of merchandise that had been made over the years to cash in on the successful show, including clothing, trading cards, board games, comic books, toys, lunch boxes, and DVDs. The lawsuit asked CBS for $10 million dollars between the five of them, but they eventually ended up receiving only around $60,000 each.

After the publicity from the lawsuit, Moran would continue sporadically showing up in the public’s eye, and for increasingly troubling reasons. She was still, after several decades, actively battling her ongoing depression, and this spiraled into other issues, some of which were financial. Around the time she received the settlement for the lawsuit, her and her husband were living with Fleischmann’s parents in a trailer park in Indiana. They managed to survive off of the settlement for a period of months, then the money ran out. Things became increasingly heated, and Moran was eventually kicked out of the trailer by her mother-in-law after what was described as a drunken brawl.

Fleischmann and Moran managed to recuperate from the incident to some degree, and were happily celebrating the 24th anniversary of their wedding when things took a turn for the worse yet again. Upon returning from the celebration, Moran began experiencing some troubling symptoms. She woke up to find that there was a small amount of blood on her pillow, and this would continue occurring almost every morning from there. As it kept happening, eventually Moran decided it was time to go the doctors. Although the doctors originally made a diagnosis of simple tonsillitis, it ended up being throat cancer. She began to undergo chemotherapy but, after her diagnosis, her physical state would rapidly deteriorate.

A few months later, in early 2017, Moran was unable to eat or drink on her own, and could barely even speak. She ended up dying a few months later on April 22. Many people, including her old co-star and on-screen partner Scott Baio, speculated that her death was the result of drugs and alcohol. However, those closest to her knew that cancer was the real culprit, and there was little that anyone could’ve done about it. Her final years were incredibly rough and turbulent, matching the rough and turbulent journey that she had experienced throughout her life.

Although Scott Baio didn’t have very kind words to say upon her passing, some of her other old co-stars remembered her much more fondly. Both Henry Winkler, who played the popular character Fonzie on Happy Days, and her old on-screen brother Ron Howard, took to social media soon after her passing was publicized to share some much-needed positivity about the late television actress. According to Howard, he was going to “always choose to remember [her how she was] on [the set of Happy Days], making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up TV screens [for the audience at home].” The late actress left behind no children, but she will always be fondly remember for the role she played in Happy Days, even if her days weren’t made all that happy for it.

Erin Moran is sadly only one of many child actors who went on to lead complicated and stressful lives that were not at all aided by their childhood success. However, those who were closest to her choose to remember the good things about her rather than the pain and suffering she went through. Comment down below to share your favorite Joanie moment from Happy Days, or if you feel that Joanie Loves Chachi deserved more success than it ended up getting. As well, hit the subscribe button and the notification bell to be the first to know when more Facts Verse content is on the way!

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