Annette Funicello, one of the original Mousketeers, died on Monday from complications due to Multiple Sclerosis, which she had been battling for 25 years. She was 70 years old.
Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word Mousketeer, and a true Disney Legend. She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney’s brightest stars, delighting an entire generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent.
Annette was 13 when she gained fame on Walt Disney’s kid club series that ran from 1955 to 1959. She received more fan mail from fans (10 times more) than any of the other 23 Mousketeers. She remained devoted to Walt Disney the remainder of her life. After The Mickey Mouse Club ended, Annette appeared in Disney films: Johnny Tremain, The Shaggy Dog, The Horsemasters, Babes in Toyland, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Monkey’s Uncle. She also recorded 15 albums, two of which were hit singles like Tall Paul and Pineapple Princess.
Annette also teamed with Frankie Avalon in the early 1960s cast in a series of movies for American-International, the first film company to aim its movies toward the teen market. In 1965, Annette and Frankie performed in Beach Blanket Bingo, now a cult classic where Don Rickles starred as a skydiving school owner, and scenes from silent film star, Buster Keaton. Other titles were Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. It all ended in 1964 when Beatlemania hit America and Annette got married. However, in 1987, Frankie and Annette reunited with Back to the Beach. During the film, Annette noticed she had trouble walking – the first sign of Multiple Sclerosis.
She made it known to the public that she had MS in 1992, as it was progressing. She wrote an autobiography in 1994 entitled A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.
Funicello was born on October 22nd, 1942 in Utica, New York, and her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 4. She began taking dancing lessons when she was five, and won a beauty contest at 9. Walt Disney discovered her in 1955 when he saw her at a dance recital. Walt became a second father to her.
She passed away at the Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California.
Annette Funicello’s official website is HERE.
Two great women died on recently: Margaret Thatcher and Annette Funicello.