On Saturday afternoon, the world lost Erin Moran, who was known the world over as Joanie Cunningham, and her death was surrounded with sadness and confusion. It’s not just her death that is a tragic story, but more is coming out about her final days of life and they are only adding to the sad tale that became her life over the last few decades. Her final years were not good, despite trying to get back on track and things just kept getting harder.
As reported by CNN, Moran died at the age of 56 when she was found by authorities in Indiana on Saturday, April 22, 2017. They received calls of an “unresponsive female” and when first responders arrived, they determined she was already deceased.
Right after her death, reports came out which had witnesses saying Moran died of a drug overdose and that it was heroin that killed her. It was soon revealed by an autopsy that she died due to complications from stage four cancer of the throat, and it was not an overdose at all.
— People Magazine (@people) April 26, 2017
Some found that to be a huge relief, but it is no secret that the years had not been kind to Moran and her husband, Steve Fleischmann. There have been battles with drug and alcohol, but it appears as if things became really bad in the last five or six years.
In 2012, The Hollywood Reporter stated that Moran was part of a settlement which saw CBS pay her and five other Happy Days actors $65,000 each due to the usage of their images on merchandise.
That money, which ended up being only $60,000 each, did not last long and it was only a matter of time until the couple were dealing with being broke and homeless yet again.
Later in 2012, Fleischmann and Moran had their home lost to foreclosure and it forced them to ask his mother if they could live with her in her trailer park home. She refused and yet they still attempted to sneak in one night while drunk and it led to trouble.
Radar Online reports that Fleischmann’s mother caught them trying to sneak in and yelled at them to leave or she would call the police. It led to the two women screaming profanities at one another in the street and getting physical before being broken up.
From there, the couple moved around, living in hotel after hotel and sometimes living on the street.
— Steven Lance (@StevenLance) April 24, 2017
In 2013, Moran was approached by her Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler (Fonzie) about appearing in the Netflix reprisal of Arrested Development, according to Page Six. Nothing ever ended up coming of that offer and Moran did not join the cast.
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
A few years ago, Moran said in an interview with Xfiniti radio that she was working on a memoir called “Happy Days, Depressing Nights,” but that was also never completed. According to People, she spent the majority of her final years in different bars and talking to anyone who would listen to her.
Bartenders said she came in for the live music and to dance and that she was always happy. Moran would talk to people and it seemed like she was “having a good time,” no matter what was going on in her life.
Even in death, the actress affectionately known as Joanie had to deal with so many problems and many came from the man who played Chachi on Happy Days. Scott Baio originally spoke out and hinted that Moran died of drug-related issues, but TMZ is reporting that he felt extremely bad for speaking of her that way on the radio.
Baio said that on Sunday evening, he read reports that she had died of a drug overdose and this was all still before her autopsy findings. Upon going into the interview on Monday morning, that was where his mind was and he talked about losing her after she battled drug abuse for numerous years.
“Erin was my very first real girlfriend. My wife and Erin contacted each other and spoke often for over a decade. I even had her on my reality show (Scott Baio Is 45… And Single) years ago. I DID reach out to her over a span of 30 years.
“Please stop assuming the worse (sic) in me. I’m a compassionate person. I’m very heartbroken over her passing, especially since it was cancer.”
USA Today reported that Baio clarified his comments from Monday and said many news outlets reported he said that drugs caused her death. He said that is “wrong” and that he fully understands what is now meant by “Fake News.”
Moran’s husband, Steve, wrote an open letter on Scott Baio’s Facebook page detailing the final days of his wife and the awful disease she was living through. Things became really bad in November of last year when she awoke to find a small blood stain on her pillow and things only got worse from there.
At the doctor, they learned it was squamous cell carcinoma which led to radiation and chemotherapy, but it didn’t help the cancer from getting “so bad so fast.” By the middle of February, his wife could no longer speak, eat, or drink, which led to a feeding tube being implanted
Fleischmann said she was still happy and active but she had some trouble breathing on Friday and woke up in bad shape on Saturday. He laid down in bed to watch TV with her, dozed off, and when he woke up an hour later, Moran had died still holding her husband’s hand.
Erin Moran may have had her demons and fallen on hard times over the years, but it never stopped people around the world from loving her. The life of Joanie Cunningham was left behind long ago after Happy Days and any spin-offs finished up, but the hardships of real life hit Moran in a big and hard way. Many confusing stories regarding how she died, and cancer and overdosing on heroin have muddled things a bit, and it’s just sad that her final years didn’t treat her better.
[Featured Image by David Livingston/Getty Images]