I've avoided this topic my whole life. Well, not completely.
There were those few times in high school with a tellingly named Michelle Burns, with which I had comical friction of the heterosexual variety. But for the most part, I've cowered from the all-powerful vagina. The word alone induces a pinch-faced gurgle. I wasn't made that way.
Erin Moran was, though. Literally. Always the girl in possession of the symbolic pubic curl atop her head, little Joanie of "Happy Days" was puberty personified. Appropriate then that she should be heading up the touring lip of Eve Ensler's overrated "Vagina Monologues," which is more a "Love Boat" graveyard for menopausal matrons than a call for empowerment for the most misunderstood part of the anatomy. I seem to recall some mention of the smell of wet garbage and rotting wood in one of its more charming stanzas.
On the phone from Oregon, Joanie has a lot to answer for.
"I had no idea. I didn't know anything about it," she fingers herself. "I asked my agent. I kept saying 'What? What? What?' I didn't know what the heck he was talking about! I was like, 'Vagina what? Vagina? You're pulling my leg. What's going on?'"
Pulling my leg? Gross.
"Some time progressed, I found out what it was about and who had done it, and I was like 'Golly, if they can do it, I can do it.'"
"It's tough thinking about Joanie's vagina," I cringe.
"JOANIE'S VAGINA!" she cruelly overemphasizes.
"Especially with the recent discovery that Chachi means 'penis' in Korean."
"I know. I know," she knows.
"Vagina loves penis," I kill the joke.
"Yeah. And another woman yelled out, 'Where's Chachi?'"
I prefer Chachi, too. "Was it tough growing up in the scrutiny of television's public eye?"
"I gained so much more than what I didn't gain. The con about it was, personally, going through puberty and all that," she goes through puberty and all that. "It's hard enough looking at yourself in the mirror, but when everyone else is looking, it's kinda hard."
"But then things went crazy and Joanie was on two shows: "Happy Days," and the pivotal couples drama, "Joanie Loves Chachi." How ever did you cope?"
"That was kinda crazy. Not too bad, actually. Doing "Happy Days," it was just a walk on. And being that young ..." Here, Erin introduces her hatchet laugh, the peculiar sound of a mouth growing too large while a vein pops out of the head: "HA HA. I don't know about doing it now. Oh boy!"
"Anybody ever approach you about the obvious TV-star pop album? Something like, "Joanie Loves Chachi Forever!""
"Not a "Joanie Loves Chachi"s album, but an Erin Moran one," she gloats.
"Lisa Whelchel did it," I blonde back.
"She did?" And here Joanie finally impresses me, revealing a little-known fact which will forever produce a smile. "I did a movie with her! When I was 18, we did a 'Movie of the Week' together called "Twirl.""
Stop the world, I need to get off!
"We were baton twirlers, in Texas!" She crafts a miserable Southern accent, but maintains my interest. It's a Blair Warner story, after all.
"But you've disappeared since then. Por qua?"
"Casting directors just have such the blinders on for me, the cast of "Happy Days," and most other shows. They see me like I'm 12."
But our little Joanie hasn't been completely without work. She did "Lost in Yonkers." In Utah. Awesome.
"So you didn't just bound back into public consciousness with your vagina out front?" I crack myself up.
"No. HA HA," she pops a vein. "Before that, I did a guest spot on "Diagnosis Murder.""
"But you've really sealed your place in pop-culture history."
"Oh yeah. I love it," she loves it. "ABC is gonna film, on March 16, something for the 50th anniversary of ABC, and we're all going to be on it. There was supposed to be a reunion before the last Academy Awards. They got most of us together, except for Ron. He had to win an Academy Award! HA HA! Y'know, jeez."
"How does Potsie look now?" I need to know.
"We all look basically the same, really. Just a little bit older. They're the best group of people you'd ever want to be friends with, or work with."
Or sleep with. I want to sleep with Potsie. Honestly.
"Oh, and I did something recently called "Dicky Roberts," starring David Spade. The movie's about being a child star."
"Throughout these years, I've been approached by all the talk shows, Jenny Jones, you know, all of them. I said, 'No, uh-uh, you can't lump me in with those people.'"
Oh, I think we can. "If your vagina could talk, what would it say, Erin Moran?"
"HA! HA! Sit on it!"
Um, no thank you.Billy Manes writes for Orlando Weekly, where the full-length version of this feature appears. E-mail comments to [email protected]