Annette Funicello, popular Disney Mouseketeer, actress, and singer, passed away today at the age of 70 from complications related to multiple sclerosis (MS). The popular actress and singer, known to her fans simply as ‘Annette,’ was one of the original Mouseketeers and the “queen of teen” for many baby-boomers.
Annette was born in Utica, New York, on October 22, 1942. In 1955, she was cast as one of the Mouseketeers for The Mickey Mouse Club. After the show finished in 1958, Walt Disney kept her under contract with the studio. She starred in Disney productions like The Shaggy Dog (1959) and Babes in Toyland (1961). She also recorded a number of hit pop singles and was the inspiration for Paul Anka’s song “Puppy Love.” In the early ’60s, Walt Disney gave her permission to star in a ‘beach-blanket’ movie, Beach Party (1963) with Frankie Avalon. After its success, they went on to star in several more together and even reunited in 1987’s Back to the Beach.
Annette was officially diagnosed with MS in the late ’80s and battled the disease until her death. She is survived by her husband, three children, and three grandchildren. For her thousands of fans, she will always be remembered as a Mouseketeer and, as Bob Iger, Disney chairman and CEO poignantly remarked, “She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney’s brightest stars.” ~Cassie Jasinski