Friday, April 12, 2013
a pineapple princess worth remembering.
she was the most appealing mouseketeer,
a slightly spicy beach babe,
a loving wife & a devoted mother.
but annette funicello's most lasting legacy may be
in her role as a champion for people suffering with
multiple sclerosis, the devastating disease
she lived with for more than a quarter-century,
& which ultimately took her life.
annette joanne funicello was born on october 22, 1942
in utica, ny, a natural musical talent almost from the get-go.
at 2yo, she knew all the words to every song on the hit parade;
her favorite, unsurprisingly, was "ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive."
at 4yo, her parents moved to southern california,
living in a trailer park until her father, a mechanic, found work.
annette learned to dance & play the drums &, at 9yo,
was named miss willow lake at a poolside beauty contest.
she did some modeling, & was discovered by walt disney himself
at a ballet recital of "swan lake." she was 12yo.
annette was the last of the 24 original mouseketeers to be selected
for tv's "the mickey mouse club" when it began in 1955.
girls wanted to befriend this charming girl-next-door,
boys wanted to get beneath her well-fit sweater.
in 1958, when the series was coming to an end,
annette was the only mouseketeer offered a studio contract by disney.
her first movie role was in disney's first live-action comedy, "the shaggy dog."
she went on to play parts in tv's "zorro" & "make room for daddy,"
& had two top-ten singles, "tall paul" & "o dio mio."
she was youngest member of dick clark's caravan of stars tour
along with lavern baker, the coasters, the drifters, bobby rydell
& her onetime boyfriend paul anka, who wrote the song
"puppy love" for annette in her parent's living room.
meanwhile, she earned straight a's through high school.
in 1963, she starred in "beach party" alongside frankie avalon,
& a franchise was born. "muscle beach party," "bikini beach,"
"beach blanket bingo" & "how to stuff a wild bikini" followed.
in 1965, annette married her agent, jack gilardi.
she did a few more films during the 1960s, but mostly focused on
being a mom to her children, gina, jack jr. & jason michael.
aside from some skippy commercials during the 70s & 80s,
annette seemed happy being an actress-turned-homemaker.
but annette & jack divorced in 1981, & five years later,
she married horse breeder glen holt.
she & frankie reunited in 1987 for the self-mocking revival
"back to the beach." the same year, annette discovered she had ms,
but she kept it a secret for five years. once she revealed her illness,
she established the annette funicello research fund for neurological diseases
& underwent brain surgery in 1999 to try to control her tremors.
annette was inducted as a disney legend in 1992.
in 1994, she dictated & published her autobiography, "a dream is a wish
your heart makes: my story," which was made into a tv movie the following year
that featured annette herself in a finale cameo appearance.
but by 1997, she had left the public stage almost entirely.
she lost her ability to walk in 2004, her ability to talk in 2009,
& required round-the-clock care to survive by last year.
annette funicello died monday at the age of 70 of complications due to ms.
in addition to her husband & three children, annette leaves behind
four stepchildren, twelve grandchildren, & four great-grandchildren,
as well as innumerable admirers around the world.
she took with her an age of american innocence we'll likely not see again.