Mickey’s Best Friend

Annette Funicello passed away on April 8 from complications from multiple sclerosis.  She announced she was suffering from the disease in 1992 and spent the last fifteen years of her life out of the public eye.  But, oh, what a life.450px-Annette_Funicello_Former_Mouseketeer_1975

Those who are old enough, remember Annette as one of the original Mouseketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club.  Those soft eyes, that sweet smile, those big ears.  She was the last of the cast chosen for the popular children’s television show, handpicked by Walt Disney himself.  She became the one we remember best.

She could sing.  She could dance.  She did both in the beach movies in the sixties pairing up with Frankie Avalon.  There was Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo, and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.  And, yes, although she promised Uncle Walt to dress modestly, Annette showed off her navel in a pink two-piece from the get-go. That’s what teen idols do.

Annette had a crush on Fabian, but fell in love with Paul Anka.  The feeling was mutual.  When Disney, acting as a father figure broke them up, Anka wrote “Puppy Love,” singing rather melodramatically, but with true feeling, for millions of young people:

Someone help me, help me please

Is the answer up above

How can I ever tell them

This is not a puppy love.

Whatever fortune brought Annette, she never forgot whence she came.  Of her relationship with the world’s most famous rodent, she once proclaimed, “Mickey is more than a mouse to me.  I am honored to call him a friend.”

Annette married at 23 and had three children, occasionally appearing in commercials and making movies, including the 1987 spoof “Back to the Beach”. She divorced and remarried, settling down just north of Bakersfield, California, in a modest ranch.  She was survived by her caring husband, her adoring children, four stepchildren, twelve grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Annette led the good life, inspiring millions to do the same.  “Whatever dreams I have wished have come true,” she once declared.* May she rest in peace.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

* As quoted in Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish on Following their Dreams, Making it Big, and Surviving in Tinseltown.

Summer’s coming.  Let’s bring back the Jamaica Ska – for Annette:



  1. judy linden says:

    i look forward to reading the new book.congrats on the wonderful review. lets talk soon. judy linden

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