On this latest mini-episode of the Substandard, Sonny, JVL, and I discuss the passing of Erin Moran, who played Joanie on Happy Days. Moran was only 56 and had fallen on hard times. Early stardom has always had its perils—Carl Switzer, who played Alfalfa on the Little Rascals, was only 31 when he was murdered during an argument over money. Anissa Jones—Buffy on Family Affair—was 18 when she fatally overdosed. Sonny brings up Corey Haim, which leads to Jonathan remembering Corey Feldman and the time that actor bumped into his twin Matt Labash at the Playboy Mansion.
In any event, Moran's death also reminded me of the time I saw her on The Maury Povich Show in the early 1990s. Moran was clearly unstable and needed help. In fact, an older woman in the audience yelled out, "We love you Joanie!" (To which a camera operator nearby laughed and, under his breath, replied, "Yeah, too bad her name's not Joanie.")
While discussing Happy Days as an antidote to 1970s malaise, I somehow forgot to mention that other sibling, who vanished after the first season and was never spoken of again. Yes, I'm talking about Chuck. My sister always insisted the Cunninghams had two sons, the eldest being Chuck. I, on the other hand, had no recollection of him. This was before the Internet, so how else could I confirm this? I turned to my old boss John Podhoretz, who knows more about Happy Days than anyone except possibly the late Garry Marshall. Podhoretz said yes, there was indeed an older brother Chuck, who didn't make it past season one. Or as Podhoretz put it, "One day Chuck went upstairs to his bedroom. And he never came back down."