‘Happy Days’ Star Erin Moran Dies at 56

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Erin Moran, best known for playing Joanie Cunningham on the 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” has died. She was 56.

According to TMZ, Moran’s body was found unresponsive Saturday afternoon by authorities in Indiana. The cause of death is unknown.

The California-born actress, who also starred in the “Happy Days” spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi,” had fallen on hard times in recent years. She was reportedly kicked out of her trailer park home in Indiana because of her hard-partying ways.

Henry Winkler, who starred opposite Moran as The Fonz in ABC’s iconic series, tweeted: “OH Erin…now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth. Rest In It serenely now…too soon.”

In a statement on Sunday, Winkler also said, “I will always remember Erin with her sweet smile that greeted me on the very first day I walked onto the set of ‘Happy Days’ in 1974. She was only nine years old. For the next 10 years that smile never faded. Unfortunately yesterday it did. My condolences go out to her family. She will always be locked in my heart.”

Moran was just 14 when she signed on to play Ron Howard’s sister in the family comedy, which aired from 1974 to 1984.

Howard tweeted, “Such sad sad news. RIP Erin. I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up tv screens.”

“What happened with all of us was like we were this family,” Moran said in a 2009 interview with Xfinity. “It was so surreal with all the cast members…They were my family, get it?”

The actress, however, apparently wasn’t as happy about appearing in “Joanie Loves Chachi,” the short-lived sitcom spin-off which co-starred Scott Baio.

“I liked working with the people. But I didn’t even want to do it. I was talked into it,” she said. “I wanted to stay on ‘Happy Days.’ They were running them at the same time.”

“Joanie Loves Chachi” only lasted one season (1982-83) before it was pulled off the air.

Her co-star, Scott Baio, on both series, shared his condolences on Twitter: “Many people remember Erin for her contagious smile, warm heart, and animal loving soul. I always hoped she could find peace in her life. God has you now, Erin.”

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Moran’s TV credits also included “The Love Boat,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

She most recently appeared on VH1’s reality show “Celebrity Fit Club” in 2008 and low-budget film “Not Another B Movie” 2010.

In 2012, Moran and some of her “Happy Days” co-stars — Anson Williams, Marion Ross, Don Most and the widow of Tom Bosley – filed a $10 million lawsuit against CBS and Paramount, claiming they never received merchandise royalties they were owed under their contracts. The case was later settled out of court. Neither Winkler nor Howard were part of the lawsuit.

Most said in a statement, “I am so incredibly sad to hear about Erin. She was a wonderful, sweet, caring, talented woman. As I write this I can’t really comprehend this right now. A very painful loss. It gives me some comfort to know that she’s with Tom, Al, Pat and Garry.  Rest In Peace, sweet Erin.”

Williams, who played Potsie in “Happy Days,” said, “Erin was a person who made everyone around her feel better. She truly cared about others first, a true angel. I will miss her so much, but know that she is in God’s hands. RIP sweet angel.”

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  1. JoAndra says:

    I’ve known Erin for several years, while she was still living here in Southern California and it’s been nothing less than true joy. Whenever I’d see her and say, “Hey!,” she would have such a big smile on her face that was contagious. She’s been so sweet to me and others around her. That’s what I’m going to miss most about her. Thank you for the friendship, Erin. Hope to see you when I get to heaven.

  2. michael says:

    Well, now, a few days after the media speculated about what substances this poor thing consumed, the truth comes out: she died of stage 4 throat cancer.

    The media in this country should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

  3. Jeanne says:

    What role was she in on “The Bold and the Beautiful”?

  4. Larry says:

    It’s funny how all of these stars “loved and cared for her so much” .. yet did nothing to help her out as she fell on hard times. Also, Howard and Winkler do not believe in God .. until someone dies and then they spill out the “so sincere” .. “at least she’s in peace with God now”. LoL! Yes .. I’m sure Erin si with god now .. her life was such a shining example of how much she loved God and trusted in His Mercy.
    not

  5. Sam says:

    When she was in the news about 5 yrs ago about not being able to get a job and being on drugs and living in disgrace while still being a world icon from the famous show, it seemed like she would not be able to survive for much longer. It was a hope to the actors when they filed the claim for royalties, however they each only received $65,000 in 2014 to settle.
    Another disgrace, for 40 yrs of their images being used in a world iconic show. Worse for her because she was only a child when she started. It breaks our hearts for her.

  6. Terri Thayer says:

    good chance we won’t know Why for a few weeks but it’s sad loosing so many who made us laugh RIP girl…

  7. sheeplesuck says:

    My, aren’t we all so judgmental about other people’s “tragic failures”?
    1) 56 isn’t dying young. James Gandolfini and Tim Russert died at the same age. No one would call them “tragic failures”. It’s called heart disease and 56 is a very typical age to die from it. Erin Moran probably died from typical cardiac blockage in her sleep.
    2) Nothing tragic about ending up in a trailer park. I suppose all the hipsters who choose to live in “tiny houses”, people conscious of their carbon footprint, seniors who live on fixed incomes, non-conformists who crave the freedom of travel, are all “failures” and “tragedies”, too?

  8. Kiehm K Kahalioumi says:

    I enjoyed Happy Days it was one of my greatest childhood memories. Family back then meant so much. Rest in Peace Erin.

  9. SANDRA GREENWALD says:

    I was shocked to hear of Erin’s passing. I’ve always loved watching “Happy Days”. This is truly a very sad day for fans of the show; RIP.

  10. Bill B. says:

    The nonsense on here blaming Howard and Winkler for not stepping in. I worked with people for 10 years 39 years ago. I don’t think I am expected to help out with their lives & problems all of these years later. And vice versa.

    • Sam says:

      Yes however this is a world iconic show still airing and the actors images are vital to that success.
      Her image and character along with the other actors/writers, being used to make money, need to be paid their legal royalties.

  11. RIP Erin and thank you for the memories.
    Those were “Happy Days.”

  12. Jeb says:

    Dana Plato was another that had trouble after young Stardom.

  13. Frank says:

    She was a child when she started the show and worked on the show for 10 yrs of her adolescent life, never again to be replaced by the freedom of growing up in a regular school and family life, instead used up like a thing for others enrichment and to this day 
    32 years later  her image is still being promoted and used for enrichment ;
    according to articles the actors 
    never received the royalties entitled to and were scammed into agreeing to only 65000 dollars each in 2012.
    For 40 yrs of a world famous show!!! 
    The actors images are used up to enrich others for 40 yrs. and that’s what they get. Cheated out of 10 yrs of their life for nothing.   
    not one of the dozens of the successful people and studio of the show 
    had an extra house she could have at least lived in, she dies in a trailer park.
     shame on them all. 
    Stop airing the show!!!!

    • Sam says:

      From a recent article:
      Her acting career hit a dead end — with only guest spots on other TV shows coming her way.

      She was a contestant on VH1’s reality show “Celebrity Fit Club” in 2008.

      She lost her California home to foreclosure in 2010 — forcing her to relocate to Indiana to live with her husband’s mother in a trailer home.

  14. Alex says:

    Truly sad news, rest in peace Erin

  15. Cheryl Tapp says:

    A lot of child actors have a hard time making it after their shows are cancelled. Some can get acting jobs, some become producers, directors, movie makers. But there are those that run themselves down and some try to do what they can. A lot don’t want to be called what they were known for as a child. It hurts me to see some living out of their cars. They are human and make mistakes, Jesus says “let he who has not sinned cast the first stone” R.I.P Erin You will be missed.

  16. Lloyd Russell says:

    Erin also starred in the series Daktari that previewed on January 11, 1966. Her characters name was known as Jenny Jones and she made her showing on their final year 1968-1969. Erin will be badly missed. RIP Erin.

  17. Paul Waldron says:

    If she was down and out Ron Howard you could have gave her some work . I hope you remember her knowing you did nothing to help her at the end of life everybody gets a hole in the ground something to think about till then.

  18. Unbelievable says:

    Good grief, everyone on here talks as if they really know. You do not know, unless maybe you lived in the same trailer park. You don’t know her, or what she did or why she did it, and you know nothing whatsoever about her soul. You don’t know if she had a drug problem or if anyone tried to help her or not. All we know is that a tv actress, living in a trailer park in Indiana, died.

    • greg says:

      Thats so very true ..They all seem to have abandoned her .I wasn’t surprised at Scott Baios cold statement about her death he thinks his better than the whole lot of them ..shame on all of them

  19. Narelle says:

    Have some respect Erin has just passed away and you lot are arguing about Ron and Henry helping Erin. How do you know they didnt offer they may have and she may have
    refused. Very sad news.
    A great actress. Rip sweet beautiful girl.

  20. How on God’s green earth was she living in a trailer park? I don’t get it. I hope that she has found peace. It sounds like it eluded here in life.

  21. Teresa Parsons says:

    Rest In Peace Erin you will be missed 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏❤️❤️❤️❤️

  22. Tony says:

    There’s only so much you can help an addict . It’s been 40 years since Happy days ended.

  23. brian scavo says:

    Henry and Ron, talk is cheap you could of helped her, perhaps even getting her on the right path back,
    but with all your monies, i suspect you folks did nothing but give her lip service, nice praise, but you folks did nothing for her when you could of helped.
    take that to your graves Ron and henry

    • You have to WANT help to receive it.

    • My thoughts exactly!!! All I have heard about her troubles, One of these people never stepped to help her???? hmmmm RIP

      • blmathew1955 says:

        And maybe her co-workers did try to help but Ms Moran either refused or took advantage of their kindness. It doesn’t matter, Joanie has gone home.

      • E.K. says:

        If Henry Winkler and Ron Howard spent their time and money helping every co-worker who wasn’t doing as well as they were, they would be broke and they would never get anything done. It isn’t hypocritical to care about someone and feel pain at their struggles, yet understand that much of the time you cannot do anything to help another adult who is bent on self destruction.

  24. Chuck Kopsho says:

    Wow! I’m two-years older than her. I remember when my sister was doing crystal meth. It almost totally destroyed her. She later became a drug and alcohol counselor. My advice to the drug and alcohol addicts reading this, get help NOW. Your families would be sad for your loss. Get help, NOW.

  25. Carla Wilston says:

    Sad situation. I hope some of her prior co-workers reached out to her during her darker days.

  26. Mynamehear says:

    She’s not “with” anyone nor will she be anywhere else- she’s dead. She will soon be with different insects- mostly ants. From there she will broken down and used as energy or redeposited as organic matter. All of her atoms will continue on however- can’t people just be happy with reality?

    • That’s just cruel and stupid! And you don’t know anything for sure..
      This is the most insensitive remark ever posted! What you wrote, is something out of a scientific journal….Cold morbid facts about decomposition….
      Because you have so little respect for another human being”s death,that you callously mock it ,just to get a rise out people…well it worked …Jesus died,was buried, and rose from the dead…please refute that….All the dead in Christ, will rise first….

    • None of her co-workers helped her, that’s why she was living in a trailer park in Indiana and not in LA. See, all these actors “talk” a good game but when it comes to really helping someone, fat chance.

    • Olivea says:

      a) There are no ants at the levels bodies are buried.
      b) Having got that wrong (which is easily researched but not by trolls) it is highly unlikely we can trust your opinion about body and soul. Guess what – we all know (well you don’t as it turned out) what happens to a decomposing body. ‘Dust to dust’ is a Biblical description, not a 21st century one.
      c) If she was a pile of aimless organic matter then so are you so you and your supposed reality is a real irrelevance .Which is why most of us find you and it unbelievable.

      • Mark says:

        “Dust to dust” is not biblical. It is a far older concept and phrase than that. The bible was written by s bunch of control freak, peer hungry men centuries after they imagined these fairy stories happened.

    • MichaelG194 says:

      You’re so cool and smart and confidant in your certainty about the afterlife. You probably think you’re cool and smart and confidant in all your ideas. You’re just so better than everyone else. You’re lucky to be you.

      • Sandy says:

        Like you know. The people that wrote the bible thought the earth was flat and that startswere little holes in the sky. you have no more real knowledge of the afterlife than anyone else. Since you won’t have a working brain its pretty sensible to assume you are done.

  27. Raymond McCauley says:

    To much partying tends to do that. She did it her way except for that stupid spin off no did her way. She fell on hard times but at least she still got work every now and then. Boomer from the original BSG fell on hard times they got so bad that he ended up homeless living on the streets were in pretty sure he does and that happened because no one took the time to help him out of his bad ways. Most likely he was never help because he was black and it was still the 80s

  28. Jacques Strappe says:

    Another red state trailer park claims another miserable white trash life and somehow this is the fault of someone other than Erin Moran.. Don’t worry. Donald J Turnip will make it all better for all the Joanie’s of the world. No, he will actually make things worse and blame it on Godless liberals, Democrats, Hollywood…anyone but him and the Repugnant Party.

    What’s with all the bizarre “God will take care of you” and “I’ll pray for your soul” bulldsh_t comments from total strangers would didn’t give a sh_t about Erin while she was alive. Sorry, your phony Christianity here won’t earn you a get out of Hell card.

    • MichaelG194 says:

      Why is this disgraceful post still here when others which decried its classlessness are removed?

      Oh and Jock Strap! What a delicious original pun! I finally got it! It took me awhile but I got it.

    • Hey fake-name,

      1) You don’t know Donald yet you speak as if you do. Hypocrite much?
      2) You don’t have to know someone personally to hope they do well.
      3) Just because you don’t believe in civility doesn’t mean you should pee on their cornflakes.

    • Deborah says:

      You are really a pitiful human being, taking someone’s untimely death and turning it into a ridiculous, irrelevant political tirade. Try to grow up a little, try to show some compassion. As for your rude and insulting comments to those offering prayers & condolences, I would prefer to have faith in God now and find later there isn’t one than have no faith now and regret that after death.

    • MichaelG194 says:

      How do you know these comments are from Christians? Are you a mind reader or do you just like to say stupid things?

      • Steve says:

        Exactly. I’m not a Christian, and I’m saddened by this. Probably because I’m the same age as her and, if I hadn’t gotten sober eight years ago, that could have been me.

  29. Saw her when she was a very young child in a “Gunsmoke” rerun several days ago, and she appeared also in an episode of “Celebrity Ghost Stories” a few years ago. That was before the news broke of her hard times. Sad news.

  30. Jacques Strappe says:

    Apparently, Chachi really didn’t love Joanie, either. Any people from any walk of life, profession and economic background can fall on hard times. Anyone dying too soon is worthy of our grief. Celebrities from A-list to D-list are no more or no less entitled to our grief than non-celebrities. Death doesn’t play favorites with anyone

  31. stevenkovacs says:

    So sad to hear of Erin’s passing. May she rest in peace now. RIP ‘Joanie’! ❤️🙏

  32. martin trinity says:

    God will save her.
    by martin trinity

  33. Dena Mattern says:

    R.I.P. #GODSPEED I am saddened that you were in pain! :-( This is a prime example of all the pressures of HOLLOWOOD IDIOTS put on individuals “ALL FOR THE MIGHTY DOLLAR” F HOLLOWOOD!!!

  34. Betty says:

    Loved you on happy days.You will be missed my all.May God bless you all always.And who all read this.

  35. Darrin Weis says:

    All drug users get what they deserve in the end. I am an alcoholic and I choose to stay true my path of self-destruction. I am in control of my own demise. Hell will be a welcomed departure from this place.

    • Ruth Kletke says:

      Your absolutely right about alcoholics & drug users choosing to stay on their individual downward path. I think, with all the friends, co-workers etc. that she had for over 40 yrs (and may have run out of) surely some of them tried to help. Erin said to hell with it. This my life, and I can’t control it. Don’t put blame her successful counter-parts.

    • Steve says:

      Fine. That’s your choice. But there is help out there for those who ask for it.

    • jmengele says:

      Everyone here should stop what they are doing and pray for you. Your post is sadder than poor Erin’s death.

      • Reyah says:

        Praying only wastes time and accomplishes nothing. Hopefully Darrin finds a way to manage his alcoholism but it relies on his willingness to seek help, not your prayers.

    • leslie james says:

      Fans of TV series need to grow up and realize it’s only TV. The cast members have a job to perform but 99% of the time are not close friends. The Cunninghams never existed. Only Henry Winkler reached out when he discovered Erin was trailer park trash and she told him to get lost. The same could be said for the cast of Roswell. Smallville, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and the list goes on and on.

    • shadowbox1111 says:

      There is a better solution.

  36. James McCaslin says:

    You will be missed by so many who fell in love with you on “Happy Days.” May you have Happy Days again in God’s loving arms. Rest in peace sweet Angel, Rest in peace…:-(

  37. Alex Meyer says:

    So sad. RIP.

  38. Dennis Lemons says:

    Part of my childhood, happy days was a big part, sad to hear of erins death. She brought me many smiles.

  39. sandra says:

    it didn`t say what town in Indiana,,,I would love to send some flowers….we all need love….

  40. Lance Bayly says:

    On occasions Erin’s social comments were long remembered. More like a friend than an acquaintance. Rest in heavenly peace. Lance Bayly

  41. Guy McCool says:

    I remember walking right past her in a large electronics store in the San Fernando Valley…..when she was still on Happy Days. I always thought she was so cute and talented. What a shame! RIP Erin….Sweetie………God Bless you! I hope one day I will get to meet you on the “other side”!

  42. Toni says:

    That’s what 45 yrs of being a star in a world iconic show and contributing to it’s ongoing fame and that’s what they leave her with, a trailer park. Disgusting.

  43. Ken Hanson says:

    So sad. I always enjoyed the shows she was on and all the other actors and actresses.

  44. I remember watching her on Happy Days back then and just thinking that she was the most gorgeous girl on tv. I hated to hear about how her life had turned out after having such an amazing acting career. It’s depressing that we’re losing all the great icons from that generation. May she rest in peace.

  45. Tracey from queensland Australia says:

    What the hell. She is only 2 years older than me, and i grew up watching happy days and joanie loves chachie. What a tragic end to a beautiful young lady. RIP Erin

  46. Jonathan Richow-Markard says:

    Rest In Peace.

  47. Tim Brennan says:

    A real person has died too young . She had early success and a hard crash after that . We all have our what If’s it must be hard to know your life peaked at 14 and live with that for 42 years….who cares about bad reporters who most likely were not even born when she achieved her fame. I feel sympathy as I would for any person but the most depressing thing about the story is to read the comments . None of the people who are commenting on the errors in the article have grasped the simple fact…..this is about a real person.

  48. Verdel says:

    Goodbye blue sky, hello gray,
    ’cause nothing can revive you when you decay.

  49. Mel says:

    Yes, it was on ABC, but produced by Paramount TV. CBS is the corporate successor to Paramount TV and they own the rights to Happy Days and they were licensing the slot machines. That’s why the cast members filed suit against CBS. ABC has no ownership of Happy Days.

  50. Bruce Grieve says:

    Taken way to soon. Fond memories of her on screen. Peace to you dear Erin. Sad that the spelling police feel the need to post.

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