Obit of the Day: Annette
Before Ryan Gosling. Before Britney Spears. Before Keri Russell. Before Justin Timberlake. Even before Lisa Whelchel. There was Annette.
Annette Funicello, like the other stars mentioned, earned her fame as part of The Mickey Mouse Club. She joined the show when it premiered in 1955 - she was 12. She grew to become the most popular of the group of kids who donned Mickey Mouse ears and embroidered sweaters for three full seasons. When the show was cancelled in 1958 she was the only child actor kept under contract by Walt Disney.
She would become a movie star and a pop sensation. By the early 60s, she was simply “Annette.” (Even today, before her death became public, you could type “Annette” into Google and “Funicello” would auto-fill.)
Starring in seventeen films over her career including The Shaggy Dog (1959), Babes in Toyland (1961), Muscle Beach Party (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), and her final film, a parody of the beach movies that made her famous, Back to the Beach (1987) with frequent co-star Frankie Avalon. Her musical hits including “Pineapple Princess” and “Monkey’s Uncle” were written by the Sherman Brothers who are best known for Oscar-winning hits from films like Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
For members of Generation X, Ms. Funicello is best known as the spokesperson for Skippy peanut butter in the 1980s.
In 1992, Ms. Funicello announced that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disorder. She spent the last years of her life homebound with a feeding tube. Her husband Glen Holt was her caregiver for over twenty years.
Annette Funicello died on April 8, 2013 at the age of 70.
(image of Annette Funicello, circa 1955-1958, is copyright of the Walt Disney Company and courtesy of dizradio.com)