Inside Erin Moran's 'Depressed,' Cash-Strapped Final Years: 'Nobody Cares About Me'
According to local bartenders that interacted with Moran in recent years, she would spend hours drinking at bars in the area
According to a local bartender in the Indiana area where the late Happy Days star resided, Moran used to come in for drinks and speak openly about how she had “lost all her money.”
In 2012, Moran and her husband Steve Fleischmann were living at a Super 8 motel in Corydon, Indiana. According to Amanda Richard, a bartender at O’Charley’s bar and restaurant near the motel, Moran came to the bar “nearly every day [during that period of time] and spent most of the afternoon there.”
“Always vodka, neat,” Richard tells PEOPLE. “She was fine, and then a little switch would go off, and she’d get belligerent. One of our managers asked to her leave more than a few times.”
“She told me how depressed and upset she was, mostly that she’d lost all her money,” Richard recalls. “I treated her like a normal customer, and we always bonded. She’d come in around 1 p.m. and stay most of the afternoon, drinking, and then put in a to-go order. She said she had more bottles of vodka or gin in her room at the motel. I almost never saw her husband. She came by herself. Sometimes she’d come back at night, I guess after she’d slept off the afternoon drinks and sobered up a little.”
According to Richard, Moran would sometimes get “overly loud and talk to strangers.”
” ‘You know who I am,’ she’d say, and talk about the days when she was a star,” adds Richard.
Richard says Moran would often tell her that she was “having a rough time” and was “in a rough spot,” or would say things like, “Nobody cares about me.”
“Sometimes there was a spell when we wouldn’t see her for a week, then she’d show up again,” continues Richard. “I’d ask where she’d been and she’d say something about her husband’s work. He was the only person in her life I ever heard her mention. I guess she needed something to do while he was at work. I guess he didn’t know when to cut her off, or how to stop her.”
“Her hands shook pretty badly,” Richard adds. “You could see her nerves were going down. She was rough around the edges, all right.”
Moran was eventually banned from O’Charley’s but came back anyway, according to Richard.
“I’d tell the manager, ‘Just give her a chance’ — but it never lasted,” says Richard. “She’d go up to people’s tables while they were eating and disturb them when she had too much.”
“But she was a big, kind soul,” adds Richard. “She was always trying to cheer me up, if I had a difficult table, or I was having trouble with my mom. I’d share those things with her, and she’d put her hand on my shoulder and say, ‘Tomorrow’s going to be a better day. Just smile, baby, just smile.’ “
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Up until a couple of years ago, according to bartender Stephanie Thomas, Moran was also a regular at “Bike Night” every Wednesday at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s bar and restaurant in Corydon, which featured bands playing on the back patio.
“She came for the live music,” Thomas tells PEOPLE. “She almost always came alone. The few times she came in with other people, it was never the same ones twice. She was always chipper.”
“Everybody knew who she was — it’s a small town,” adds Thomas. “When she came in, there’d be a ripple and word would go around. People would ask her to take pictures with them, and she’d always do it.”
Thomas says Moran would get a few drinks at the bar before heading outside to the patio.
“She was usually the first one to get up and dance. She loved to just dance,” says Thomas. “It didn’t matter what kind of band it was. Could be country or an AC/DC cover band. She’d dance all night.”
“When she came in, she always had money for drinks,” continues Thomas. “She was always talking to people and having a good time. Sometimes she ordered a burger to go, which she said she was taking back to her husband.”
Moran, best known for her role as Joanie Cunningham on the ABC sitcom Happy Days, died at age 56 Saturday in rural New Salisbury, Indiana. According to neighbors, the actress died in the weathered, gray trailer she shared with her mother-in-law and Fleischmann, her second husband, who is a Walmart employee. The trailer park is somewhat run-down but clean and quiet.
On Monday, a statement released by the Harrison County Coroner’s office revealed that Moran “likely succumbed to complications of stage 4 cancer.”
“Standard toxicology tests were performed and the results are pending,” continued the statement. “However no illegal narcotics were found at the residence.”