The indignity of dying away from the spotlight.
This week, the world lost Erin Moran. Erin was best known as Joanie from Happy Days, and then Joanie Loves Chachi.
A lot of my friends simply knew her as Erin, a fellow former child star, and good friend.
I never got to meet Erin personally, as like me, she didn’t live in LA. She had stepped away from the spotlight, and moved to Indiana. She did keep in touch with all of her friends in LA though. Many of them knew she had cancer, as Erin had told them, but asked them not to share it with the world.
Erin, like many of us, went through some rough patches. ALL of us have had shitty moments, or bad times. The difference when you’re famous is, is that the whole world knows about it. There’s something about being a child star that the tabloids are just drawn to when it comes to having a bad moment. I think some editors find it orgasmic to show a Disney star looking drunk, or being sloppy. They expect us to have drug problems, DUI’s and bad relationships. If you’re one of the many child stars who move on and go about life quietly, there’s almost a sheer disdain for how boring you are. Places like TMZ would have you believe that every child actor is a train wreck, but in reality, there are hundreds that end up just fine. You just don’t hear about them. But if you’re a kid star that fucks up even once, the public is going to hear about it forever. That one night that most people can hide and move on from will come back and haunt you constantly. People will bring it up over and over. In Erin’s case, even when she died.
Erin died of cancer. She knew she had it. Her friends knew she had it. The public didn’t though, and neither did the tabloids. So when she died, the media immediately brought up her past, and speculated that she died broke and penniless and from a drug overdose. These days, it’s not about getting the story right, it’s about being first. Fuck the memory of the person you’re covering, and screw the feelings of her friends and family.
Its tragic that as a child star, you can’t even die with dignity.
Its sad for Erin. It’s also a sobering moment for all the other child actors out there. Watching the speculation over Erin, I imagine every other child actor having that moment of “when I die, will they bring up every bad moment of my past?”
Child actors are people too. We have feelings. We have souls. We have good days and bad days, just like regular people. (Cause we ARE people, we just had jobs as kids)
Just because someone no longer works in Hollywood doesn’t mean they can’t work anymore. Many actually choose to leave, and they also choose not to share every moment of their lives with the world. We should respect that. We should also respect that when someone dies, we say nice things about them, like we do all the other people you know, and not assume they bottomed out and died disgracefully.
Don’t be like Scott Baio and put your foot in your mouth when a former co-worker dies. Even if they DID once have a problem, you can still be polite. It’s hard when someone sticks a microphone in your face before you know the facts, but maybe take a deep breath, say something kind, and sit back and wait for the truth. You don’t need to be the asshole.
It’s only April, and I’m sure there will be more celebrity deaths this year. Maybe we can all honor Erin’s memory by learning from the coverage of her death, and be a little nicer to the next person who goes.
RIP Erin. May all your future days be happy.