Erin Moran, the 56-year old actress best known for playing Joanie Cunningham on the television classic Happy Days, who was found dead at her mother’s trailer park home in Indiana on Saturday afternoon, had refused help from at least “half a dozen” former child stars as her life spiraled out of control, a child-actor advocate has suggested.
Paul Petersen, who runs the group A Minor Consideration, wrote in a Facebook post about Erin: “She was so far away in Indiana. The help she ran from was right here, as close as a call. Those of us who knew her pain and remember it so well must tonight rededicate ourselves to the task of making sure that none of our brethren pass away unremarked or feel unloved.
“Fame won young can be a cruel mistress, often outlasting the person within the purpose. Dearest Erin, you will be remembered by all those with the humility to understand what it means to say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’”
In a later post, Petersen explicitly confirmed attempts to reach out to Moran had been made by himself and other peers, saying: “I am proud of our efforts over the years to help Erin Moran whose troubles were many and complex. Don’t doubt for a moment that we tried… sincerely tried through time and treasure… to give comfort to one of our own.
“At least a half-dozen ‘formers’ were actively reaching out to Erin in the last week of her life. These aren’t publicity photos her friends are posting, but family portraits. From Paris to London, from New York to L.A., our members were in there pitching, doing what they could to help. Do not doubt that for a minute.
“Erin had friends and she knew it. Abandonment was not the issue. The perversity of human frailty is at the root of this loss, not failure. We did our best with the resources available to us, but it was a very dark room. Some don’t find the light switch in time.”
Petersen, who was a child star on The Donna Reed Show, has run the advocacy group “dedicated to protecting the legal and human rights of juvenile performers in the entertainment industry, as well as their financial security and their physical, mental, and emotional health” since 1990.
Moran appeared in 239 of 255 Happy Days episodes between 1974 and 1984, and starred in the spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi.