LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – 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 CBS’ iconic series, tweeted: “OHErin…now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth. Rest In It serenely now…too soon.”
Moran was just 14 when she signed on to play Ron Howard’s sister in the family comedy, which aired from 1974 to 1984.
“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.
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, claiming they never received merchandise royalties they were owed under their contracts. The case was later settled out of court. Neither Henry Winkler nor Ron 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, sweetErin.”
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.”