America’s Favorite Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello, Dies at 70 From MS

What a classy gal. She was my favorite, too.

From Fox News.

Legendary Disney Mouseketeer Annette Funicello died on Monday from complications due to Multiple Sclerosis, a disease she battled for more than 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,” Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement. “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.”

Funicello died peacefully at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, Calif., the Disney company said.

Funicello stunned fans and friends in 1992 with the announcement about her ailment. Yet she was cheerful and upbeat, grappling with the disease with a courage that contrasted with her lightweight teen image of old.

The pretty, dark-haired Funicello was just 13 when she gained fame on Walt Disney’s television kiddie “club,” an amalgam of stories, songs and dance routines that ran from 1955 to 1959.

Cast after Walt Disney himself saw her at a dance recital, she soon began receiving 8,000 fan letters a month, 10 times more than any of the 23 other young performers.

Her devotion to Walt Disney remained throughout her life.

“He was the dearest, kindest person, and truly was like a second father to me,” she remarked. “He was a kid at heart.”

When “The Mickey Mouse Club” ended, Annette (as she was often billed) was the only club member to remain under contract to the studio. She appeared in such Disney movies as “Johnny Tremain,” ”The Shaggy Dog,” ”The Horsemasters,” ”Babes in Toyland,” ”The Misadventures of Merlin Jones” and “The Monkey’s Uncle.”

She also became a recording star, singing on 15 albums and hit singles such as “Tall Paul” and “Pineapple Princess.”

Outgrowing the kid roles by the early ’60s, Annette teamed with Frankie Avalon in a series of movies for American-International, the first film company aimed at the burgeoning teen market.

I watched Mickey Mouse Club re-runs as a child in the early 1960s.   This brings back a lot of memories.

Each day of the week had a different theme. Monday: Fun with Music. Tuesday: Guest Star. Wednesday: Anything Can Happen. Thursday: Circus. Friday: Talent Round-up.   I think Monday was my favorite.

Some trivia:

Annette Funicello has stated in interviews that, upon being cast for the show, she told Walt Disney that she wanted to change her last name to one that sounded more “American”. To his credit, Disney told her to keep her original last name because, “once someone remembers it, they will never be able to forget it”.

Rest in peace, Ms. Funicello.

1 thought on “America’s Favorite Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello, Dies at 70 From MS”

  1. John Egbert

    My first real crush (at age 12). And she just got better and better. (Sigh) In a slightly different universe . . .

    RIP Beautiful Lady . . .

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