Erin Moran shot to fame as Joanie on the classic TV sitcom Happy Days, but the actress’ days before her death were far from happy.
Moran spent her final years reportedly broke and homeless after she was kicked out of her mother-in-law’s trailer park home in a drunken brawl, the Daily Mail reported.
The tabloid reported a source told the paper Moran died on Sunday (NZT) of a suspected heroin overdose.
Moran’s former Happy Days co-stars including Henry Winkler and Ron Howard were quick to pay tribute to her.
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The 56-year-old was found to be dead when the emergency services arrived. The Harrison County Sheriffs Department in the US state of Indiana said on Sunday: “Erin Marie Moran Fleischmann was deceased and an autopsy is pending.”
In recent years the actress who played Joanie Cunningham was in the news for her financial struggles, battles with depression and accounts of homelessness, living in hotels and even a drunken brawl with her mother-in-law.
Back in 2012 Moran was seen looking worse for wear outside a budget hotel after reportedly being kicked out of the trailer park she lived in with her husband Steve Fleischmann.
The couple also lived with Fleischmann’s elderly mother after foreclosing on their California home in 2010 and blowing through US$65,000 in settlement money from a lawsuit, reported The Mercury News.
According to Variety, Moran and three of her Happy Days co-stars – Anson Williams (Potsie), Marion Ross (Ritchie’s mother Marion), Don Most (Ralph) – and the widow of Tom Bosley filed a US$10 million lawsuit against US TV network CBS, claiming they never received merchandise royalties owed under their contracts.
It is reported the former teen star was kicked out of the trailer by her mother-in-law after a boozy brawl following a payout in the settlement of the 2012 case.
Moran and her husband were understood to be living off that dwindling sum of money.
The Daily Mail reported Henry Winkler, who played the Fonz on Happy Days, tried to help Moran get a part on his Neflix-reprised show Arrested Development as it became clear she had been bouncing around motels after the fight with her mother-in-law.
Winkler led the tribute to Moran and said she would ‘finally have the peace [she] wanted so badly’.