Towards the end of her life, “Happy Days” star Erin Moran was living in a trailer park home, drank a lot, and eventually could not speak

    Erin Marie Moran’s first husband was against her associating with fans and did not want the actress to be recognized by them.

    The “Happy Days” star died a week after celebrating her wedding anniversary with her second husband. Toward the end of her life, the actress could not talk, and her friend chose to be silent in solidarity with her.

    Moran looked sad and thin before her death as photos and videos of the actress during her last few weeks made it to the internet.

    Erin Marie Moran was a well-known actress whose last credited screen role was in the comedy film “Not Another B Movie,” released in 2010. The actress lived for 56 years and died on April 22, 2017.

    Erin Moran on the set of "Happy Days" on September 7, 1975 | Source: Getty Images

    The movie star worked on several feature films such as “How Sweet It Is,” “Watermelon Man,” and “Wayne Newton.” However, it is her role as Joanie Cunningham on ABC’s “Happy Days” that made her recognized globally.

    The actress became a seasoned child star when she played Joanie, who was an energetic kid sister to teenager Richie Cunningham in the series. The show revolved around Richie, but Moran also became popular for acing her role.

    “Happy Days” ran from 1974 to 1984 for 11 seasons. However, like many child actors in Hollywood at the time, Moran had a difficult time finding roles as an adult and did not play any other major character in her period as an actress.

    She did, however, land guest roles in the series “The Love Boat” and the film “Murder, She Wrote.” The actress also starred in the reality TV series released in 2008, “Celebrity Fit Club USA.”

    After her last screen role, Moran moved away from Hollywood as her home was foreclosed. The actress died in Corydon, Indiana, and is survived by her second husband, to whom she was married for 26 years.

    Her Childhood and Acting Career
    Moran was born in Burbank, California, on October 18, 1960. Her father, Edward Moran, was a finance manager, and his wife, Erin’s mother, was Sharon Moran. The actress was one of the couple’s six children— one boy and five girls.

    Erin Moran on the set of "Happy Days" in 1974 | Source: Getty Images

    Her film debut was in a TV commercial, where she appeared unidentified as a girl on a trike in the comedy “Who’s Minding The Mint” in 1967. While pursuing her career as a child actor, she studied at Walter Reed Junior High School and North Hollywood High School.

    When she was seven, Moran joined the children’s TV drama “Daktari” and starred in it for its two final seasons. “Daktari” was based on “Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion,” the 1965 comedy-adventure film.

    The actress played Jenny Jones, an orphan who was given a home by Dr. Marsh Tracy, a vet and conservationist, at his Wameru Study Centre for Animal Behavior in East Africa.

    Moran also played several guest roles before she was cast on “Happy Days.” The famous show was based on the 1973 drama-comedy “American Graffiti” and celebrated the rock and roll teenage culture in the 1950s and early 1960s, where young men would travel in their cars searching for girlfriends.

    Cathy Silver, who played Jenny Piccalo on “Happy Days,” said she and Moran were very close on set and referred to the actress as her best friend and shining armor, who also showed her unconditional love:

    “She was grace, poise, dignity, strength, and talent beyond measure, and above everything, Erin held my hand for all of my life. My love for Erin is eternal. A beautiful person, there is no luckier woman than I to have called Erin my loving best friend.”

    Silver also revealed that her friendship journey with Moran started on the set of “Happy Days,” where the best friends met on the first day, “When the casting door opened, and I walked in and jumped on the couch to read for Jenny Piccalo, we laughed our heads off, then Erin threw her arms around me, and our journey of friendship began,” she added:

    “We were very close on set and grew even closer now.”

    Scott Baio and Erin Moran on the set of "Happy Days" on March 23,1982 | Source: Getty Images

    Moran’s co-star added that the actress was gracious, elegant, respectful, kind, and unconditionally loving to people close to her.

    Moran’s TV brother, Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham, also remembered how she was on set. Howard noted that the set was like a boy’s club, with lots of goofing going around that Moran would sometimes take part in:

    “In one particular moment, we were in rehearsal, in our rehearsal clothes, and it was kind of turning into a shaving cream fight. And she did sneak up behind Henry Winkler with a pretty good shaving cream pie, and she got him.”

    Winkler, an American actor, played Fonzarelli in the series. Howard added that Moran was a wonderful talent who had a great irrepressible spirit, “She was always the kid on the set, in a way. When I think of her then, which is how I choose to think of her, she was this feisty, spirited little girl.”

    Moran was married twice, and her second marriage lasted until her death. Her first marriage was to Rocky Ferguson in 1987, divorcing in 1993. The actress then got married to her second husband, Steven Fleischmann, later that year.

    The “The Waltons” actress said in an interview with People in 2007 that her marriage to Ferguson was turbulent. She revealed that her first husband wanted her not to be recognized by fans:

    “He wanted me to lie in who I was, and if anyone recognized me to say no, I wasn’t. And that’s the pressure he put on me.”

    Moran revealed that Ferguson wanted to be the center of attention, which made him struggle with her fame. However, the California native said she did not want to speak more about him, “I really don’t want to delve into his personality or why he did things. I don’t even want to go there because it’s pointless.”

    Erin Moran (R) and her husband Steven Fleischmann in North Hollywood, California on May 6, 2008 | Source: Getty Images

    Moran and her second husband lived in Palmdale, California, but due to money problems, their house was foreclosed, and they moved to Indiana in 2010.

    Moran died from complications of this cancer as an autopsy report from the Harrison County Coroner’s Office showed no illegal narcotics were involved in her death.

    Fleischmann’s mom, Donna Woods, owned the trailer park home, and Moran acted as her caregiver. At this time, her financial situation had gotten worse, and Fleischman was working as a Walmart employee.

    The couple stayed in Indiana but were later thrown out in 2012 when the “The Bold and the Beautiful” actress returned home in a drunken state.

    In 2009, amidst her financial issues, the actress said she was writing an autobiography titled “Happy Days, Depressing Nights” that was yet to be published.

    Moran struggled with depression, alcohol, and drugs towards the end of “Happy Days” and after the show ended. When Fleischmann’s mother threw the couple out, they moved to a Super 8 motel in Corydon, Indiana, in 2012.

    A bartender, Amanda Richard, spoke out about Moran’s life during this period in an interview with People. The bartender would serve the actress at O’Charley’s bar and restaurant near the motel they stayed in. Moran went to the bar nearly every day and spent most of the afternoon there.

    Erin Moran in North Hollywood, California on June 23, 2001 | Source: Getty Images

    Richard confessed that Moran would tell her she was depressed and upset because she lost all her money and no one cared about her fame anymore:

    “I treated her like a normal customer, and we always bonded. She’d always order vodka, neat. She was fine, but then a little switch would go off, and she’d get belligerent. One of our managers asked her to leave more than a few times.”

    The bartender said Moran would drink at the bar but had bottles of vodka and gin in her room, and most of the time, she would be at the bar alone.

    Richard said Moran would drink in the afternoon, and if she had sobered up a bit, she would come back at night, drink more, and get overly loud while talking to strangers about her days as a star, saying, “Nobody cares about me.”

    The bartender revealed that Moran would drink so much her hands would shake pretty badly, her nerves would be seen going down, and she ended up becoming rough on the edges. She added that Moran was banned from O’Charley’s but would come back from time to time:

    “Sometimes, there was a spell when we wouldn’t see her for a week, but she’d show up again. I’d ask where she’d been, and she’d say something about her husband’s work. He was the only person in her life I ever heard her mention.”

    However, despite her troubles and causing problems at the bar when customers were eating, Richard recalled that Moran would always try to cheer her up when she had troubles with her mother or when she was dealing with a problematic table:

    “But she was a big and kind soul. She was always trying to cheer me up…I would share things with her, and she would put her hands on my shoulder and say, tomorrow is going to be better. Just smile, baby, just smile.”

    O’Charley’s was not the only bar Moran frequented as another bartender, Stephanie Thomas, said the actress was a regular of O’Brady’s bar and restaurant in Corydon. Thomas noted that Moran went to “Bike Night” every Wednesday to watch bands playing on the back patio:

    “She came for the live music. She almost always came alone. The few times she came in with other people, it was never the same ones twice. She was always chipper.”

    Erin Moran and husband Steven Fleischmann in Los Angeles, California on June 19, 2007 | Source: Getty Images

    Thomas added that Moran was famous in the place, as people would always come to take pictures with her when they heard the actress was around.

    According to Thomas, Moran was always jovial in the bar and always the first to stand up and start dancing when the band began playing. The bartender added that the actress always came with her money for drinks:

    “She was always talking to people and ever having a good time. Sometimes she placed an order for a burger to go, which she said she was taking back to her husband.”

    Moran died on April 22, 2017, after a long battle with cancer. The actress had been diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. She died from complications of this cancer.

    An autopsy report from the Harrison County Coroner’s Office showed no illegal narcotics were involved in her death. The Harrison County Sherriff’s Department also said in a statement that no illegal narcotics were found in her residence.

    Moran died in her sleep beside her husband, who wrote a heart-wrenching open letter where he revealed the actress’s cancer had gotten worse:

    “Erin could no longer speak or eat or drink. She had a feeding tube implant, and I fed her 6 to 8 times a day. When she died, the coroner said her cancer had gotten worse. It spread to her spleen, she had a lot of fluid in her lungs, and part of her brain was infected.”

    Erin Moran at her trailer park home in Corydon, Indiana during her last days alive | Source: Edition

    The coroner revealed that even if Moran had been in the hospital receiving treatment, she would not have survived cancer. In his letter, Fleischmann also explained how Moran knew she had cancer, with symptoms such as bleeding from her mouth, which they thought was tonsillitis.

    At the time of her death, Moran was living in the trailer park home she had shared with Fleischmann’s mother when they moved to Indiana. In a few pictures taken when the actress was ill, she looked thin— having lost weight—and she had also lost some of her hair.

    In her last moments, Fleischmann remembered laying next to Moran and holding her hand, but he woke up an hour later to see his wife dead.

    Inside Edition visited the home Moran was living in before her death. They spoke briefly to the actress, who did not want to communicate with the media.

    The video, shared on YouTube, received several comments, and people said it was “hard to watch.” Another user noted, “She obviously didn’t want to be filmed. I stopped watching when I saw that.”

    Fleischmann, aged 49 at the time of the actress’s death, was spotted looking tired and disheveled outside their trailer park home in New Salisbury a few days after Moran died.

    As much as she could not speak, Moran kept in contact with her friends via texting. The actress’s co-star and friend Anson Williams said he was shocked to hear she died because she seemed to be fighting cancer and doing really well:

    “I was just shocked when I got the call she had passed. I had no idea it was that bad. She kept very quiet. We all kept quiet, too, out of respect for Erin. She couldn’t speak, but her texts were very positive.”

    Williams also praised Fleischmann, saying he and Moran went through so much together but came out strong: “She found a good guy in Steve, who really really loves her and really really is there for her.”

    Erin Moran in Hollywood in 2009 | Source: Getty Images

    Williams added that as much as Moran was fighting her own demons, she always brought light to a room. “She always gave before she took, she was a very kind, generous person,” he said.

    He also said in a statement that he would miss Moran: “Erin was a person who made everyone around her feel better. She truly cared about others first, a true angel.”

    The “Gunsmoke” actress was eulogized sweetly by her other friends and co-stars. Don Most, who starred in “Happy Days,” said losing Moran was painful as she was a “wonderful, sweet, caring, and talented woman.”

    Co-star Winkler also eulogized Moran as a lady whose sweet smile never faded. He also tweeted his condolences, writing, “Oh Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth. Rest in it serenely now…too soon.”

    Co-star Howard also spoke out after Moran died, saying the news of her death was sad and unexpected. He shared in a tweet, “RIP Erin. I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs, and lighting up tv screens.”

    Despite the hard and challenging times Moran faced after she moved away from Hollywood, the actress’s friends and co-stars describe her as ever-caring, loving, and sweet. They added that Moran left a legacy of good feelings and light for anyone who watched her on TV.

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