Scott Baio is mourning the death of his longtime TV co-star Erin Moran. Moran was found dead by authorities in Indiana of unknown causes, according to TMZ. The Happy Days star was 56 and had reportedly fallen on hard times in recent years. Baio starred alongside the late actress on Happy Days and the spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi.
Erin was only 14-years-old when she first signed on to play Ron Howard’s little sister, Joanie Cunningham, on Happy Days. The show aired on ABC from 1974 to 1984 and was popular enough to spawn several spinoffs, including Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, and Joanie Loves Chachi, the actress’s short-lived sitcom with Baio.
— Alex McBurney (@LiveTVDirector) May 8, 2015
In an interview with Xfinity, Moran said she could have skipped the spinoff with Scott Baio.
“I liked working with the people,” she said. “But I didn’t even want to do it. I was talked into it. I wanted to stay on Happy Days. They were running them at the same time.”
In a 2015 interview with The Washington Times, Baio said he felt the same way about the ill-fated Happy Days spinoff, calling it a “horrible situation” due to issues with Moran.
“I don’t know what she was doing,” Scott said.
“She was not all together. I don’t think she wanted to be there. The writing was very poor…In hindsight, I should have done a show without her, because there was nowhere for the show to go with her.”
Moran and Baio played singing newlyweds Joanie and Chachi Arcola for just two seasons before the show was canceled by ABC in 1983.
— Mari Flores (@101ideaslady) April 23, 2017
But off the screen, fans knew that Joanie really did love Chachi. Scott Baio briefly dated his TV co-star in the late ’70s/early 1980s, and he once revealed that he even lost his virginity to his onscreen girlfriend.
In 1982, Moran talked about told how difficult it was to date Scott, who was a teen heartthrob at the time.
“There is a lot between us, more than we could ever reveal on TV,” she told People.
“We got real close as boyfriend-girlfriend, but it wasn’t right at the time and we both knew it. It was hard on both of us to separate. He had to go through his thing with girls. Girls were just crazy for him, and I couldn’t take him away from that.”
— Mike Himsworth (@MikeHimsworth) April 23, 2017
Baio later reunited with Moran on the VH1 reality show Scott Baio Is 45… and Single, where he turned to her to try to get insight on his commitment problems. By the time the series wrapped, Scott was ready for marriage to longtime love Renee Sloan.
Sadly, by 2012, Scott seemingly turned his back on Erin. While she teamed up with co-stars Don Most, Anson Williams, and Marion Ross for a lawsuit against CBS over royalties for the continued use of their images in Happy Days merchandise (the co-stars and the estate of the late Tom Bosley each received $65,000), Baio said he didn’t take part because he felt the show had been good to him.
“I don’t like lawyers very much,” Scott told the New York Post. “That show was very good to me. Paramount was very good to me.”
Baio also commented on his former co-star and her hard life. At the time, Moran was reported to be living in a trailer in Indiana after being evicted from her Hollywood home.
“I feel bad, but sometimes you make your bed and you have to sleep in it,” Scott said.
“That is unfortunate. I have extended myself a couple of times and at a certain point, you have to say, ‘You know what? I have got my own life to live. I am not going to worry about this.'”
After news of her death was announced, Scott Baio and several other Happy Days stars took to social media to pay tribute to Erin. Scott remembered his TV sweetheart’s “contagious smile, warm heart, and animal-loving soul.”
Henry Winkler, who played Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on the long-running ABC sitcom, tweeted that his “Shortcake” had finally found the peace she wanted so badly.
Ron Howard, who played her big brother Richie Cunningham on the series, wrote that he would always remember working with her and how she lit up TV screens. And Don Most, who played Ralph Malph on the series, said the death was a “painful Loss” and said he couldn’t “comprehend it right now.”
— Scott Baio (@ScottBaio) April 23, 2017
OH Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth …Rest In It serenely now.. too soon
— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) April 23, 2017
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. https://t.co/8HmdL0JKlf
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) April 23, 2017
So incredibly sad to hear about Erin. A wonderful, sweet, caring, talented woman.I can't really comprehend this right now.Very painful loss
— Don Most (@most_don) April 23, 2017
In a statement posted by Variety, Most said it gives him some comfort that his late co-star is now with her TV dad Tom Bosley, as well as late Happy Day stars Al Molinaro, Pat Morita, and executive producer Garry Marshall. Anson Williams, who played Potsie Webber on Happy Days, said Erin was a “true angel.”
“She truly cared about others first, a true angel,” the actor said. “I will miss her so much, but know that she is in God’s hands. RIP sweet angel.”
Take a look at the video below to See Scott Baio and Erin on Joanie Loves Chachi.
[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]