Erin Moran, 56, the actress who played Joanie Cunninham on the ABC hit show 'Happy Days' died of complications from Stage 4 throat cancer on Saturday, according to press reports obtained by the coroner.
One of her former costars, Anson Williams, said he kept in touch regularly with his friend since the show went off the air in 1984, and knew she was diagnosed with throat cancer around Thanksgiving. Over the past few weeks, she was fed intravenously, and could no longer talk on the phone. She's been sending him text messages the past few weeks, knowing she was losing the battle against the cancer. She had asked him to keep her illness secret from other cast members and the press when she was first diagnosed five months ago. On Saturday, EMTs responded to a 911 call to the trailer where she was living, and pronounced her dead at the scene. Her husband is the one who found her.
Moran was the subject of tabloid gossip over the past few years, including when she lost her California home in foreclosure. She moved into a trailer park in Indiana to take care of her sick mother-in-law with her husband of 23 years. Gossip columnists had said she was bankrupt, living in the streets after being thrown out of the trailer, mentally ill, and abusing heroin and alcohol. Reports said she died of a heroin overdose this weekend, which her one-time co-star Scott Baio (on the short-lived spin-off 'Joanie Loves Chachi' 1985) 'confirmed' to an interviewer on the radio Monday morning.
On the 'Bernie and Sid' radio show, Baio told the audience:
“My thing is, I feel bad because her whole life, she was troubled, could never find what made her happy and content. For me, you do drugs or drink, you’re gonna die. I’m sorry if that’s cold, but God gave you a brain, gave you the will to live and thrive and you gotta take care of yourself.”
Later he told TMZ he felt awful for ripping her apart like that, not knowing she died of cancer. He blamed the media for reporting otherwise.