Annette Funicello passed away this week at the age of 70 from complications of MS (multiple sclerosis.) She had battled the disease for nearly 25 years. It saddened me, but also brought back happy childhood memories of watching her on “The Mickey Mouse Club.”
When my mother was young (she was a year younger than Annette,) she loved watching “The Mickey Mouse Club,” and especially enjoyed Annette. “There was just something about her,” my mother explained.
Years later, when the show went into reruns, my mother had my sister and I watching it. We too learned that there was something special about Annette. She was definitely my favorite Mouseketeer. She was sweet, pretty, could sing and dance, and had a certain way that she carried herself. We also loved watching her in “Spin and Marty,” a series from “The Mickey Mouse Club.” I loved how they had a series in a series.
She also had her own series within the show titled “Annette.” Here’s the first episode, which originally aired on Feb. 11, 1958, and co-starred Tim Considine who went on to star as Mike in “My Three Sons.”
Walt Disney discovered Annette while she was in a production of “Swan Lake.” She was 12 at the time. He promptly signed her as a Mouseketeer, and she soared to the top in popularity. When the show ended in 1959, she was the only one who stayed with the studio. They knew she had that “star” quality, whether it be her beauty, spunk, or innocence.
She went on to make several “Beach Party” movies with Frankie Avalon, including “Beach Blanket Bingo,” which I watched part of last night on the Internet for fun. I wanted to remember her as a teenager, and the sweetness and innocence she conveyed. Oh yeah, and as a sidebar, there was also an up-and-coming actress in the movie, too. Linda Evans – remember her?!
Over the years, Annette did other films and TV. She was always seen as “America’s Sweetheart” … kind, humble and classy. She gave up her movie career to focus on raising a family.
In 1992, she revealed publicly that she had MS, five years after her diagnosis. She became an inspiration for people who had the disease, and started the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases.
She was always a class act, and over the years, whenever I heard her name or saw her picture, I thought of “The Mickey Mouse Club,” and the fond memories I had of her from my childhood.
Rest In Peace, Annette.
Tell us your thoughts and memories about Annette in the comments below. Did you watch “The Mickey Mouse Club” or any of the “Beach Party” movies?