This singer and actress was born Annette Joanne Funicello on October 22, 1942. She left this world on April 8, 2013 due to complications from Multiple Sclerosis and will be sorely missed by so many people. She is recognized for playing a small Mousketeer on television, but her place in the hearts of fans was enormous.
Before she was famous
Most adult performers transformed from child actors discover difficulty. Annette did it with style and refinement. One of the many things fans did not know about her was she was a very shy child. She took lessons for singing and dancing to overcome this personality trait. When she was 12 years old all of the singing and dancing paid off in the form of landing a spot on the Mickey Mouse Club.
From the start she was very popular with the audience and her fellow actors. Viewers looked forward to seeing the little girl with the sweet personality and beautiful smile.
She worked on the show for several years.
More than a Mouse
Disney cast her in several television appearances while she was on the television show. She played parts in Zorro, The Horstmasters and more than a few others. She was also was able to do a few movies during this same time. Her movies included Shaggy Dog and Babes in Toyland. There were others which where not as popular, but she played an excellent character in each of them.
As a teenager she reached out to expand her professional career to add professional singing to her resume. Even though much of her celebrity success happened under the Disney contract, she really hit her stride when she left it and started singing professionally. She was able to get one pop hit single with “O Dio Mio” and a few more followed. Though, this slowly came to a halt and she looked other places in the entertainment industry.
Becoming a moviestar
While she enjoyed crooning and dancing, she always had her eye on the movies. She got her shot when her talented voice attracted the right people in Hollywood. Her resonating vocals were initially modified to copy Teresa Bower, a big star at the time, but did not really make Annette stand out. Her own style emerged and was a sensation for Beach Party films she did with Frankie Avalon in the 1960s. She got her wish to star in Hollywood pictures and was happy.
During the 1960s, six different smash hit films starred the two icons. This string of success was the beginning for their beach party theme. Initially she was cast in these roles and asked to wear bathing suits that were more than modest for the times. The suits needed to cover things like her navel, but as each new movie role came her way, her mode of dress became more revealing. By changing how she wore her bathing suits, she actual made a leap forward in how women dressed filming beach movies. She simply did not realize it at the time.
After the Beach Party
In 1987 these two movie icons from the 1960 Beach films tried to revamp the original symbols they were known for by partying on the sand. They toured America as a singing act to promote their dying careers. At the same time Annette worked in commercials for Skippy Peanut Butter to bring in more money.
Chronic illness revealed
The first signs of her life shattering illness reared its ugly head during this same time. While promoting the film Back to the Beach, she was sick. Her family and friends were unaware of how bad her health really was. Being the professional she was, she endured.
She revealed her secret to those close to her in 1992. Rumors were circulating that her inability to walk and talk properly was due to alcoholism in 1993. This of course was not true. This is when she decided to publically announce her battle with MS or multiple sclerosis.
When she received the diagnosis of MS she relied heavily on her friends. Her childhood friend Shelley Farbes has been at her side since catechism classes and was a bridesmaid in her first marriage. She was there for Annette throughout her battle with the horrible disease.
Her loved ones
She has three children from her first marriage. Her first husband was Jack Gilardi and they were a couple for almost 20 years before divorcing. Her second and last hubby was Glen Holt. She only has kids from her first marriage, but enjoyed the years spent with her loving second husband.
Having lost this wonderful woman to such an ugly disease is certainly heartfelt by many. She established a wonderful charity in 1993, the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders Community Foundation. This charity is gathering funds to help find a cure for this disorder.
Such a delightful and amazing person will certainly be missed by many.