Fresno Beehive

Is short-lived fame worth price it can cost?

In this June 18, 2009 file photo, actresses Erin Moran (left) and Marion Ross pose together at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ “A Father's Day Salute to TV Dads.”
In this June 18, 2009 file photo, actresses Erin Moran (left) and Marion Ross pose together at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ “A Father's Day Salute to TV Dads.” AP

News of the death of Erin Moran, 56, on Saturday made me think about the ups and downs of fame. Over the years, I have interviewed thousands of actors cast on television shows. Many of them - like a Ted Danson or Matt LeBlanc - go on to long and successful careers.

That’s not always the case. In fact, the majority will have brief success and then it’s over. How do those who don’t continue to stay in the spotlight deal with life afterward? This is a world with a lot of egos and ripping fame away could be very harmful to a person.

Moran looks to be one of those actors who had a tough time with her post-stardom years. She had hugh success early in her life on “Happy Days” and “Joanie loves Chachi.” Then the work began to dry up. According to her credits on the internet movie data base, after “Happy Days” ended, Moran only had eight acting credits over a 33 year period. Reality shows like “Celebrity Fit Club” or game show appearances don’t count as neither is adding to a person’s fame, only feeding off the celebrity status they bring to a project.

Reports in the media say Moran had personal problems and was in financial trouble. If that was what resulted in her death, then it is a sad statement of what can happen to an actor.

Most actors are swamped with attention when they are cast on a TV show. Even if it’s their first job, they are sought out by reporters. Sometimes their publicists will treat their client like they have been working for years when it’s only their first job which adds to the illusion of how big a star they are.

Some actors will go on to reach a high level of stardom. Others will fade into obscurity.

I was a big fan of Alexandra Tydings, who played Aphrodite on “Xena: Warrior Princess.” Her portrayal of the character was full of energy and played with just the right amount of sassy humor. After her work on “Xena,” Tydings has only a couple of credits. A search online has her teaching yoga and working on some of her own projects. This is not to say she’s unhappy. It’s just interesting to see how she’s dealing with life after being part of such a high profile series.

The world is full of actors who spend a short time in the blazing heat of stardom and then must adjust to life in the cold, dark realities we all face. How they deal with that can be the difference between them living full lives or dying way too young.

A few years ago, I was sitting with the cast of the short-lived ABC comedy, “Mixology.” Most of the cast had only a few credits but they were being treated like celebrity royalty by the press clamoring for interviews.

My advice to them was to enjoy the moment. I have seen so many actors think they were on their way to lifelong celebrity only to fall into an obscurity.

The lesson is that it is OK to enjoy fame when it comes but never forget it can all go away as quickly as it arrived. That can lead to stories like those of Moran whose last bit of stardom comes from sad stories about the final days of her life that include mentions of financial difficulties and homelessness. That’s the kind of fame no one deserves.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1