I’m in a pensive mood, peoples. Another idol of my childhood has passed on, and her demise from the world is impacting my thoughts today.Annette Funicello, wife, mother, actress and a childhood idol of mine died today. She was 70 years old. I believe that a person who affected my life in such a good way needs to be remembered for all those excellent times of my life that she played a part in creating.
Back when I was a kid, the only television colors were black and white, and there were only three or four broadcast channels available. Programming made expressly for children was just beginning to be created. There was no PBS. No Sesame Street. No Mr. Rogers. No cable or satellite services.
What was available for kids in the 1950’s and 60’s who had a television in their homes were programs like Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doodey, Sheriff John, Engineer Bill, and The Mickey Mouse Club.
The Mickey Mouse Club was my favorite. It had everything a kid could want in a program. The cast consisted of a group of talented kids of all ages along with an adult named Uncle Jimmy, who provided respectable grown up supervision. There was singing, dancing, jokes, cartoons, and Spin and Marty episodes. Anyone remember Spin and Marty? It also had a zippy memorable opening theme song. Thanks to YouTube, I can share that song with you all. Click here and sing along. I’ll bet you know all the words.
The program was created by Walt Disney. Walt actually interviewed and selected the majority of the original cast members. Annette was one of those chosen. Click here to view Annette in a 1955 episode.
The original Mickey Mouse Club was an offshoot to Walt’s entertainment empire that included cartoons like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck; movies like Cinderella and Bambi; a weekly television show on NBC called Walt Disney Presents; and, the best theme park ever, Disneyland, located in Anaheim,California.
The Mickey Mouse Club is still being produced today. It airs on the Disney Channel. A number of talented entertainers got their start in show business as members of The Mickey Mouse Club cast. Anyone ever heard of Justin Timberlake, Christine Aguilera, or Brittany Spears? They all put in time as Mouseketeers. Take a look at what The Mickey Mouse Club was like when they were kids circa1993.
Annette Funicello moved from Mousketeer to teen singing star and actress in cool movies like Beach Blanket Bingo and Muscle Beach Party, both of which I spent money to go see. Annette was the perfect teen-aged role model. She was sweet, pretty, talented. And she knew Frankie Avalon! I so wanted to be her. This is a clip from Beach Blanket Bingo. If you ever get a chance to, watch the whole movie. It was excellent.
Annette married, began raising a family, and pretty much retired from full-time acting and singing. In 1992, she formally announced to her fans via a press conference that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She died from complications from this disease.
There will doubtlessly be a few minutes of television coverage related to Annette’s death today. Brief highlights of her professional life achievements will be presented. I expect there will be lots of young folks who won’t even know who the heck Annette Funicello was.
I know who you were to me, Annette Funicello. You entertained me and you inspired me. I sang along with you and the other Mouseketeers as a little kid, danced to your music as a teen, and I do believe I saw all your movies at least once. All those pleasant moments you inspired are stored in my memory, and each time they are recalled, I’ll enjoy the moment and think of you….