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WEIRD AL YANKOVIC

 

 

 

 

ERIN MORAN

A retroCRUSH INTERVIEW WITH "JOANIE" FROM HAPPY DAYS


America watched Erin Moran grow up on the set of the highly rated sitcom Happy Days where she played Joanie Cunningham for 11 years. For a short time she also starred in Joanie Loves Chachi and had guest starring roles on many classic TV shows. She's also been featured on the new Vh1 reality show Scott Baio is 45 and Single. We recently caught up with her for this exclusive retroCRUSH interview.

 

Did you audition for Happy Days?

I went on and auditioned, but I didnít get it. Another girl had it, did the pilot, but I donít know the main reason. Evidently she was no longer playing the daughter. I had done a movie of the week with Anson Williams, Kay Lenz, and Anne Baxter prior to Happy Days starting. It was called, Lisa, Bright and Dark.

After this girl was no longer there Anson Williams suggested me for the role and I went in and I got it. I didnít interview for it. My dad and I met with the woman at Paramount and we walked out and I said, "Dad, do I have it?" He said, "Yup, you got it."

Did you have any idea that Happy Days would be a bit hit?

No, I had done several series before that and I also had done a pilot in between Daktari and Happy Days and it didnít go. You never know about these things, of course I did guest stars on shows that have gone on forever like Gunsmoke, Death Valley Days, Family Affair, My Three Sons, Loveboat, and Hotel.

You have no idea itís going to happen. You go for a year and then you get another year. Then next year itís a big huge hit and you keep hearing these ratings and theyíre at the top of the roof, but its like, "Oh, this is good." I never took it to heart like, "Oh my God. Iím in a hit series." No, it was just doing well and I was having fun doing it.

Did you get the star treatment?

Well, just being recognized. I donít know about star treatment. Being a celebrity of course thereís openings of movies, premieres, and all that. Youíre a celebrity. As far as star treatment I was a kid so it wasnít like, "Come this way Ms. Moran." It was who I was and it was all set up to do functions that go along with promoting the show.

Did you open supermarkets?

No, I never did that. Now, Scott Baio did that. It was a whole different situation with his upbringing as opposed to mind. There are six kids in my family. I was working a lot. My parents felt, "This was fine and enough already."

How old were you when you started Happy Days?

I started when I was 12 on Happy Days and it ended when I was 23 in 1983. Its 11 years.

Was there a particular person you liked the best on the set?

I hung out with Marion quite a bit. Weíd go in her dressing room and have tea. She was my mentor as well as being my friend and my second mom. I was getting advice from her on how to grow up, how to deal with it all.

Did you ever want your role as Joanie to expand?

Having to be tutored I wanted to be on the set more. I couldnít be so that was very difficult. Not having more to do acting because I love it so much.

Is there an episode youíre particularly fond of?

There are a couple of episodes that are my favorites. When Joanie becomes friends with Susie Quatro, and wanting to go away and tour with them which I couldnít. The other one is "Potsie Love" I had a big crush on Potsie. That whole deal was pretty darn nice because we all have crushes and to act it out was even more so. I had another nice scene with Ron at the end of Arnoldís where it was very touching and like a real brother and sister. Those are my two favorite episodes.

Did you film a lot during the week?

The first two years it was one camera so it was filming everyday and all day. Then it went to three cameras in the third year so the only filming that happened was Friday night when we filmed in front of a live audience.

Have you ever wanted to be behind the camera?

A little bit, but for the most part, the biggest percentage I really enjoy acting.

A lot of people feel the first two years of Happy Days were more true to the 1950ís era.

We all feel that way. Itís so true to the era that it seemed like that was the 1950ís. Then of course you go to a live show and itís going to take away more. You canít get in as much of the depth like "American Graffiti" for example. We all feel the same way. They were my favorites. Theyíre hysterical.

As the show progressed the hairstyles became more 1970ís.

I get that all the time. It wasnít true to the era. Well, you know they have to fudge here and there with that kind of stuff.

I read that after the first two years the show was in danger of being cancelled.

Thatís with every show. What Jerry Paris, the person who directed almost every episode except for maybe a few. He was the neighbor on The Dick Van Dyke Show, so he came from a 3 camera live show. He suggested, "Well, lets do that and weíll see where it goes." He was right it took off. You can have a lot more shtick, things can be bigger. Live shows thatís what theyíre about and obviously theyíve worked in the past. He knew, he was right, it worked.

Has there been talk about a Happy Days movie?

Weíve heard very little of that, but we have heard it. Itís not like itís not out there. I donít know if itís going to happen or not. I know the fans want it with all their heart and soul thatís for sure.

Growing up everybody loved Happy Days and there were lunch boxes.

Board games, a Joanie doll came out a couple of years ago. My husband and I go and do appearances and this doll came out and was presented to me and I went, "Thereís a Joanie doll!" and they wanted me to sign it. It looks pretty darn close as opposed to some of them that donít. I was just thrilled to death that there was a Joanie doll.

I think it would be weird to see yourself as a doll.

I love it! I think itís great.

You also did a made for TV movie Twirl with Lisa Whelchel?

That was awesome. I loved it, Lisa Whelchel and Stella Stevens who was a love. Iíve met up with her recently in the last year and sheís still exactly the same. Sheís a sweetheart. Sheís so nice and Charles Haid who is from Hill Street Blues and is very good friends with Henry.

Did you practice Baton Twirling?

They had an expert in and we had sessions. We learned just what they wanted me to do; I did not go any further. Of course they brought in a double who could really do the work. They got a great double and got all the stuff I couldnít achieve unless I had been doing it for years and been a twirler.

 

Did you film that during Happy Days?

Yeah, it was. I also did a sci-fi, Galaxy of Terror with Edward Albert Jr. and Ray Walston. That I did while I was on Happy Days as well. That was Roger Corman. It was a kick I loved it.

It was your worst nightmare coming true.

It was kind of like that. It was inner things that would come in to haunt you and they werenít real. You had to deal as such and get a hold of them and not let them take over you because that was the planet that we were on, "Galaxy of Terror" go figure. We had to grasp it and get a hold of our innermost fears.

What are your innermost fears?

I donít have too much of the innermost fears or that kind of thing.

It could even be spiders.

No, well were I live we get tarantulas, scorpions, and rattlesnakes. Theyíre not that kind of a fear for me. Spiders are no big deal. I donít freak when I see them. The only fear I have is if my animals are involved. My dog was bit by a Mojave Green which is more deadly than a rattlesnake. It scared the heck out of me. I didnít want anything to happen to her and we rushed her to the emergency vet. We took care of it and did everything that needed to be done to counteract it. Yeah, losing my animal over it, that was a fear. That one particular time, yes.

Is there a particular actor or actress you liked while growing up?

I liked Cary Grant. I liked Natalie Wood, Katherine Hepburn. Thereís many, but those are pretty tops. Audrey Hepburn is another favorite of mine, Gregory Peck.

Was there a point on Happy Days when you were tired of being on it?

I think those are the years every actor goes through. Being the age that I was of course, I wanted to do that age thing. Being 18 and before that being 16. You want to go to the high school parties although that didnít work out because I was working too, wanting to expand and do more things.

The cast and crew when you have a good family unit itís hard at 18, you know you should go and do your own thing, be an adult. The same with Happy Days, I never wanted to leave and permanently get out of it because it was such a great experience and felt like a family.

I did have the experience that I did have to leave for about 13 shows. Right in between I did Joanie loves Chachi. We shot at the extreme other end of the Paramount lot and I couldnít be on our stage with my family. That was hard. It was hard for Marion as well. She said, "I miss you! I miss you!" and I said, "Well, I miss you too." It was hard not to have them around everyday like they were. It was wild.

Everybody thought since you were a popular character that the show was going to hit huge.

It was never meant to go. It was a mid season replacement. It was really on purpose what they accounted for. The show that it was, they had no intention of it to go.

Was Scott Baio a pretty good kisser?

Ah, he was alright.

Just okay?

My husband is the best.

Were there other guys that you dated at the time?

No, not really. Only because of who I was and what I was doing. The intimidation factor of course is always going to be there and understandably so. There was little to none.

Did your parents keep you on a pretty tight leash?

They were real strict. I went to a catholic school for 8 years. They were very protective. There are people out there that are a threat to all actors since the beginning of time with movies, shows, and all that. I couldnít date until I was 16, of course that didnít happen, that was okay too. They were good about it. In general they were real good about keeping the reigns not too tight and not too loose where I got the morals and the rights and the wrongs. Whatís good and whatís bad.

Happy Days is such a wholesome show, yet in the 1970ís kids were experimenting with Marijuana and drugs.

Since the 1960ís dude, itís been around for longer than that, since the '30s. Of course itís always there and itís up to your discretion and your parental guidance, what youíre going to do with it and how far you go with it.

I remember in elementary school smoking pot.

With elementary school I believe that is the way with most kids. Thatís not unusual, experimentation and all that. I think every kid is experimenting whether he goes near it or not. Itís around and whether he does he does. Thatís just life. Thatís part of life. Thatís what is in life. Just like alcohol, everything, cigarettes, what have you, prescription drugs. Itís all there available. Itís all around you. Thereís no getting away from it.

So you did experiment a little?

Not much at all. It was around me and I didnít want to go there because it just never felt right. I saw it around me and I didnít want any part of it, that wasnít me. The only thing that was there was alcohol and cigarettes. In my family with 6 kids and all there were no drugs. No one had a drug problem. No one got into it. Thank goodness with my family that wasnít there.

Of course friends in grade school experimented. It was around me, but I didnít want a part of it. It was there and I didnít care for it. I didnít need to go there. I had so much energy and happiness. I saw what it did and how it affected them, pot and quaaludes where a big deal. I didnít like what I saw.

No Hollywood parties?

It was more the premieres of movies. Jerry Paris would invite all of us over, the cast and weíd play team charades. That was our Hollywood parties. I wasnít at Hollywood parties. I didnít do that.

A lot of people wonder what happened to Chuck Cunningham?

Well, there were two of them. There was enough of the cast that worked. They didnít need him. There wasnít any more of an addition. Thatís as simple and as basic as it gets. They didnít need that additional character.

 

What about Linda Purl later on?

That is so weird that you say that. She is a wonderful lady. My husband and I had just gotten back from a two week cruise of the Greek Aisles with Marion Ross, Florence Henderson, and Susan Olson. We christened The Emerald Princess. We were waiting outside for our ride to take us back home and she had come out the door and I went, "Linda!" She said, "Oh my God!" because she had just come from abroad doing something else. We hugged and I introduced her to my husband. Sheís a lovely woman. Sheís awesome.

I think she does a lot of Lifetime now.

Yeah, she does. Sheís a wonderful actress. God sheís good.

We would LOVE to talk with her.

Youíd enjoy yourself talking to her. She is so warm and down to Earth.

Have you had any stalkers?

Oh yeah. I have, Scott as well. He had to hire a bodyguard while we were on the Paramount lot while we were filming all those years. Thatís all he got were threats, Henry Winkler as well, but not to the extreme as Scott had. Just recently I was experiencing a stalker.

Iím so sorry.

Thatís life. That happens. Iím fortunate enough Iíve had a good life, a wonderful husband, and you keep it good and you donít go there. Not to say you donít acknowledge it. Itís wrong. Acknowledging it and know where itís at. Donít give into it because youíre not going to have a life and Iím not going to do that. You can take care of it. Itís just a matter of being aware and being smart about it.

Was Robin Williams as Mork pretty cool to watch?

Excellent and funny, thank goodness I was done with my 3 hour schooling. Being a child you have to have 3 hours of tutoring a day until youíre 18. I was done with my 3 hours and I got to spend time on the set. Man, this guy is hysterical. He had us on the floor. Sticking to the script wasnít really the deal with Robin. Heíd stick to it enough, but every time he did a scene it would be different. It was hard to go on with it because he was constantly coming up with these funny words and expressions. Heís hysterical and so brilliant.

His mind races so much.

Everyoneís mind just races where sometimes on the bad side you canít get anything done. This guy it didnít stop and it was brilliant all the time. It all stuck within the realm of where it should be. He was funny. I always enjoyed him.

Was there anyone dating on the set weíd be surprised to hear about?

No, I donít think so. Scott and I did. When he came on board right off the bat we got together and we dated for a little less than a year, and then stopped it. It was all pretty right and normal and stuff. Of course Anson Williams, a girl that came on and did a part that sang with him. They got together and got married, but then it didnít work. Thatís not any surprise so thatís no big deal.

Scott seems like quite a ladies' man. Was that a challenge?

At the time I just wasnít ready for what he wanted to have in a relationship. I was very young and so was he. Being Italian of course he wanted a stronger and more in depth relationship. I wasnít there for that. Of course it changed years down the road because we were very good friends. Getting more maturity, I would have liked to have gotten back with him and so would he.

Thereís time for you and it didnít allow it. It was a little difficult in that respect. We knew each other very well. We were good friends and it was very comfortable being his friend and hanging out. After we turned 18 we couldnít have it together. That was a little hard yeah.

Was there a direction you thought your career was going to take once you left Happy Days?

Actually, I didnít have a specific direction. I just wanted to work. I wanted to act. No one would let me. Being typecast it made it quite difficult. I did get to do Love Boat, Hotel, and stuff. It didnít suit my acting needs because it wasnít enough. Of course you want to delve into more drama or more comedy. I like to act, but it wasnít any specific direction no.

There might have been some other pilots you did after Happy Days.

Well, there was one. This little show that became a huge hit was Married with Children I remembered that at this very moment. I had forgotten all about it. I was crossing on the lot and in crossing Linda Blair was going out because sheíd interviewed for it and I was going in and she said, "Hi Erin" like weíd known each other for years and I said, "Hi". I knew who she was because I went in and interviewed for The Exorcist. To do what Linda Blair had done.

You were almost the possessed girl in The Exorcist?

Was not almost, my mom didnít allow it. My mom said, "Youíre not going to do this whether you get it or not."

Sheís had a rough time with that one when you think about it.

Well, itís pretty weird stuff. Sheís a great girl. I did a play with her.

What a change that would be from your character of Joanie.

Tell me about it, quite the exciting stuff. The other one was The Blue Lagoon of course they cast it perfectly. I wasnít right for that, but that was another one.

You wrote a childrenís book?

No, I havenít done that. I want to write a movie more than a book. Iím not sure yet. Iím in the process little by little itís great. Itís different for me. Thereís a reality show Iím working on and itís awesome. Weíre going to find out if theyíre going to get picked up. I believe they will. Itís a darn good show. Itís helping people, giving them advice in their lives. What to do, how to deal with their, for example mother in law or having another child, adopting. These three women, well senior citizens will give their advice on where they should go with it. Hopefully, theyíll solve or at the same time create more of a direction for them on where to go and not be stuck in their predicament. We find out if that sells in the middle of July.

Thatís a reality show.

Itís a darn good one. I donít know if youíve ever heard of Hellís Kitchen?

Isnít that the cooking show?

I met with the president of ITV and they do Hellís Kitchen and Iím a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Thereís several. I met with the president of ITV and theyíre interested in me doing "Hellís Kitchen". I love to cook. The chef is brutal, but I donít care. Itís different and itís fun. I might be doing that in September.

Thereís another show called Ventura County and Iím waiting to hear on that. I would play the aunt. Itís a brand new show that will be on Cartoon Network. Theyíve already sold 155 shows. Iím just waiting to hear on that.

Also, the San Diego Comicon, Iíve never done that one. Iíve known about it and heard about it for years. Iíve done DragonCon, Iíve done Chiller. Those are the other two biggest ones along with the San Diego Comicon. Iím pretty excited about doing that.

What activities do you enjoy?

I like hiking, I like cooking, I love tennis, rollerblading, ice skating, horseback riding. I love it all.

When you talk cooking is there a food Erin Moran loves?

I love spaghetti sauce and I love tacos. Those two I make very well.

Randy Waage
randy@retrocrush.com