By Danger Coolidge
Unbelievably Bad Editor
Erin Moran, the actress who played Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days, died on the weekend from a suspected heroin overdose. She was 56 and reportedly homeless having been kicked out of a trailer park for partying too hard.
By some coincidence, Sydney punks Chinese Burns Unit are just about to release a new track, “Joanie Hates Chachi”, which was written and recorded three years ago. The first line goes, “Joanie, baby, what went wrong?”
“Shithouse,” says CBU guitarist/vocalist Glenno Smith. “It’s taken this long for everything to happen for the band to get the song finished but now it has, Erin Moran dies!”
UB helped console Glenno with talk of the good old Happy Days…
UB’s favourite episode of Happy Days is the epic two-parter where Fonzarella jumps the shark. Did you enjoy the spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi?
I remember that episode – it just seemed that my favourite shows would go one better by going on holidays to Hawaii. Same thing with Sesame Street. I remember when Big Bird went to find Snuffleupagus Mountain in Hawaii (Snuffie travelled all the way there in a net under a helicopter – somehow that was plausible. Anyway, back to Happy Days. I didn’t really dig the spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi. I didn’t think Chachi was a good match for Joanie in my pre-adolescent head and I sort of liked the Happy Days dynamic better. I just watched the episode where Richie left home to go become a scriptwriter and I got a bit teary. After watching all these YouTube videos documenting Erin Moran’s decent into oblivion, I was a bit emotionally vulnerable.
Remember when Brady Bunch went to Hawaii and got cursed by an evil Tiki?
I forgot that one. I reckon it was a lack of scripts/ideas, as well as a chance to holiday.
How did you become aware of Erin / Joanie’s struggles post-TV stardom? Bombed-out former TV stars are common.
Child stars – you look at the child on screen in all their pure optimism and charm and then fast forward to an adulthood of abuse and regret. I knew that Erin had been relegated to the wasteland of used-up child stars but I didn’t know she had been living in a toxic relationship with a man and his mother in a trailer park of all places. You couldn’t write this sort of tragedy for fear of being accused of stereotyping and inventing the obvious. Imagine growing up under that much scrutiny and being love-bombed by everyone around you – strangers, enablers and many predators, which seems to be the case with many child actors. Fuckin’ heroin – perfect for dulling reality and securing suicide.
Tell us about these “Joanie Hates Chachi” 7” tracks?
These songs are almost four years old if you can believe it – recorded about three years ago – “Love From Nigeria” is even older. “Joanie Hates Chachi” came about after I thought it would be cool to write from Chachi’s point of view, a confession to Joanie that Fonzie wasn’t really his cousin, but his lover (and sometimes Potsy). We recorded it with Jay [Whalley, bass/vocals] at the old Troy Horse. Jay and myself have demoed a few hundred songs and we have slowly been picking out the gems in the shitpile. The next album is finished and we are about to start on the next, which is written but not recorded. The other two songs are “Boyfriend Chair”, which I wrote while sitting on a boyfriend chair as my wife Gina shopped for shoes in Melbourne and the fourth song is “Ambrosia Salad”. The first verse is the actual recipe for it and the rest talks about my aunty’s house in Thornleigh, which was a fun place for me to visit when I was 10.
Who is putting out the single and will there be some live hoopla to accompany its release (i.e. a “launch”).
We are putting it out – when I say we, it’s me (Blu-ish Green-ish label that Lawnsmell put stuff out on) and Jonny T [guitar/vocals]’s label Rhyming Logic – a split label release – his first and my eighth maybe? We have had some great friends pre-order this and help out with cash flow. Our band just doesn’t play that much and when we do, for peanuts…the odd cashew. The launch in Sydney is at the Botany View on May 20 with two other bands not scared of melody and fun – Thee Evil Twin and Shaky Handz.
Listen to “Joanie Hates Chachi” 7″ here:
“Joanie Hates Chachi” gets launched at The Botany View, Newtown, on May 20 w/ Thee Evil Twin and Shaky Handz