Erin Moran, the actress who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcoms Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, died Saturday at age 56.
A statement from the sheriff’s department in Harrison County, Indiana, said the dispatcher received a 911 call about an unresponsive female. Upon arrival of first responders, it was determined that Erin Moran Fleischmann was deceased. An autopsy is pending.
Erin Moran who had been married to second husband Steven Fleischmann moved to Harrison County in Southern Indiana in 2011. The couple had been married since 1993 and owned a number of properties together in California, according to online public records.
After losing their California home to foreclosure in 2010, ABC News reports that a rep for Moran confirmed that the couple moved into a trailer park with Fleischmann’s sick mother.
The rep said that Moran and Fleischmann moved into the trailer to provide care for Fleischmann’s mother. But in September 2012, the Huffington Post reported that the couple had been kicked out of the trailer because of excessive partying.
After Moran was kicked out of the trailer she was seen living in a Holiday Inn Express in Corydon, about 130 miles south of Indianapolis, apparently after falling into financial difficulty and struggling with homelessness.
In 2012 Moran, and three Happy Days co-stars, received a settlement in a breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS. There reports of Moran quickly spending her portion the settlement. Huffington Post reports that the settlement originally asked for $10 million, but the final decision was reported to be $65,000 per person and future royalties.
Erin Marie Moran was born on October 18, 1960 in Burbank, California, and raised in nearby North Hollywood. She was born to Sharon and Edward Moran. Her father was a finance manager. She was the second youngest of six children. Her interest in acting was supported by her mother, who signed her with an agent when she was five years old.
At the age of six, she was cast as Jenny Jones in the television series Daktari, which ran from 1966 to 1969. In 1968, she made her feature-film debut in How Sweet It Is! with Debbie Reynolds. She appeared in 80 Steps to Jonah (1969) and Watermelon Man (1970). She made regular appearances on The Don Rickles Show in 1972. She made guest appearances in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, My Three Sons, Bearcats!, and Family Affair. As a young child, she was also on the television series Gunsmoke.
In 1974 at the age of 13, Moran was cast to play her best known role, Joanie Cunningham on the sitcom Happy Days. She played the feisty younger sister of Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard).
Moran continued the role in 1982 in the short-lived spin-off series Joanie Loves Chachi, alongside Scott Baio. She won the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a New Television Series for her role. After Joanie Loves Chachi’s cancellation in 1983, she returned to Happy Days for its final season.
Moran made several other television guest appearances, including The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and Diagnosis: Murder, and starred opposite Edward Albert in the cult sci-fi horror film Galaxy of Terror in 1981. In 2008, she was a contestant on VH1’s reality show Celebrity Fit Club.
In 2010, she made an appearance in the independent comedy feature Not Another B Movie. In 2013, despite reports that she would be reunited with Happy Days co-stars Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, and Scott Baio in the fourth season of Arrested Development, she did not appear in the revamped Netflix series.
On April 19, 2011, Moran and three of her Happy Days co-stars, Don Most, Anson Williams, and Marion Ross, and the estate of Tom Bosley, who died in 2010, filed a $10 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS, which owns the show. The suit claimed that cast members had not been paid for merchandising revenues owed under their contracts. Revenues included those from show-related items such as comic books, T-shirts, scrapbooks, trading cards, games, lunch boxes, dolls, toy cars, magnets, greeting cards, and DVDs where cast members’ images appear on the box covers.
Under the actors’ contracts, they were supposed to be paid five percent from the net proceeds of merchandising if a single actor’s image was used, and half that amount if the cast members were pictured in a group. CBS said it owed the actors between $8,500 and $9,000 each, most of it from slot machine revenues, but the group said they were owed millions. The lawsuit was initiated after Ross was informed by a friend playing slots at a casino of a “Happy Days” machine on which players won the jackpot when five Marion Rosses were rolled.
In October 2011, a judge rejected the group’s fraud claim, which eliminated the possibility of millions of dollars in damages. On June 5, 2012, a judge denied a motion to dismiss filed by CBS, which meant the case would go to trial on July 17 if it was not settled by then.In July 2012, the actors settled their lawsuit with CBS. Each received a payment of $65,000 and a promise by CBS to continue honoring the terms of their contracts.
After Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi were canceled, Moran moved from Los Angeles to the California mountains and revealed in a 1988 interview that she suffered from depression and was unable to gain acting roles.
In 1987, Moran married Rocky Ferguson; they divorced in 1993. Moran confirmed news reports that her California home was foreclosed on in 2010, following media claims that she was also served eviction papers and moved into her mother-in-law’s trailer home in Indiana.