Annette Funicello, who starred on TV on “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s and later became a regular in the surf movies of the 1960s, has died. The New York Times reports that Funicello died today of complications from multiple sclerosis. She was 70.
“As an adult Ms. Funicello described herself as ‘the queen of teen,’ and millions around her age agreed,” the story reports. “Young males enjoyed watching her blossom into womanhood, while females liked her because she was sweet, forthright and plain nice. Parents saw her as the perfect daughter.
“She was the last of the 24 original Mouseketeers chosen for ‘The Mickey Mouse Club,’ which began in 1955, when fewer than two-thirds of households had television sets. Walt Disney personally discovered her at a ballet performance.”
The report adds: “Sometimes called “America’s girl next door,” she nonetheless managed to be at the center of the action during rock ’n’ roll’s exuberant emergence. She was the youngest member of Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars tour, which included LaVern Baker, the Drifters, Bobby Rydell, the Coasters and Paul Anka. Mr. Anka, her boyfriend, wrote ‘Puppy Love’ for her in her parents’ living room.”
Walt Disney offered a studio contract to Funicello as “The Mickey Mouse Club” was winding down in 1958, and she went on to appear in a number of Disney productions, starting with “The Shaggy Dog.” She became a frequent guest on TV series such as “Zorro” and “Make Room for Daddy,” and also pursued a recording career. She had two singles that made the top 10: “Tall Paul” in 1959 and “O Dio Mio” in 1960.
In her later years, Funicello became an active campaigner in the fight against multiple sclerosis, the disease from which she suffered.