‘Happy Days’ Actor Ron Howard Has Interesting Connection to Viral Netflix Series ‘Cecil Hotel’

by Suzanne Halliburton

Ron Howard played lovable Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. But he’s behind a far darker television show streaming now on Netflix.

Maybe you’ve heard of the creepy popular true-crime docuseries on Netflix. It’s called “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.” Ron Howard is the executive producer.

Netflix’s tweet about the show is super scary.

“In the span of 10 years, at least 80 people died at The Cecil Hotel. Missing persons, overdoses, and murders happened over and over — but why? Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is now streaming.”

Ron Howard, Post-Happy Days, Rarely Spends Time In Front of the Camera

It shouldn’t be a surprise to Happy Days fans that Ron Howard is an executive producer. He basically quit acting as soon as he stopped playing Richie Cunningham. That was back in 1980. He’s now considered one of Hollywood’s finest directors. His first big movie was Night Shift. He followed that up by directing hits like Splash, Cocoon, Backdraft and Apollo 13. His best movie, to date, was A Beautiful Mind, which won him an Oscar for best director. The film also was named best picture.

But all of the work from Ron Howard is mostly fiction, although some of his movies have at least some toes in reality.

However, this Ron Howard production is horrific and fact based.

The four-part series from Ron Howard and directed by Joe Berlinger centers on the 2013 disappearance of Elisa Lam. She was from Vancouver. At age 21, she took a solo trip through California. She was last seen alive at the Cecil Hotel in Skid Row, just east of downtown Los Angeles.

On Feb. 19, 2013, a maintenance worker discovered a body in a water tank on the hotel’s roof. It was Lam. A coroner’s report released four months later said there was no evidence of physical trauma. There was a surveillance video showing Lam gesturing in a hallway. It also showed her getting on and off an elevator. Lam took medication to treat her bipolar disorder. Authorities called Lam’s death an accidental drowning.

Cecil Hotel Is Old and Site of Numerous Deaths

The hotel is huge and nearly a century old. It features 700 rooms. When it first opened, the hotel catered to tourists and business travelers. The rates are cheap. It has a history of attracting some unsavory characters like convicted serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger.

Ramirez was known as the “Night Stalker.” In 1989, a jury convicted him of 13 counts of murder, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries. A judge sentenced him to death. But Ramirez died of lymphoma before the state of California could execute him. Unterweger, who was from Austria, committed suicide in prison in 1994. He was suspected of killing three Los Angeles sex workers.

Neither of those men were responsible for the disappearance of Elisa Lam. They were long dead. But some of the Cecil Hotel guests still were shady. That’s what makes this Ron Howard production so gripping.

Amy Price, who ran the hotel from 2007-17, said about 80 deaths happened there while she was general manager. She said “there were thousands of 911 calls” to the hotel.

She said a maintenance manager gave her a tour of the hotel. “Along the way, he would just point and say, ‘Someone died here, someone died there,’” Price said. “Suicides. Overdoses. Murders. At one point I think I just asked him, ‘Is there a room here that maybe somebody hasn’t died in?’”

The docu-series definitely isn’t a Ron Howard and Happy Days kind of fantasy.