Susan Booth Staff Writer
A true Mickey Mouse icon’s light has gone out, Annette Funicello has passed away from complications related to multiple sclerosis. Disney confirmed her death on Monday via Twitter.
Annette Joanne Funicello was born Utica, New York to Virginia Jeanne & Joesph Funicello, and her family moved to southern California when she was 4 years old. By the time she was 5, her parents had invested in dance and music lessons to help her overcome being shy. She became a Mouseketeer by the time she was 12 years old and was handpicked by Walt Disney himself. In a serial she did for The Mickey Mouse Club, she sang the song “How will you know my love”, it got such positive reviews from fans that Walt Disney decided to issue it as single, and gave Annette a recording contract.
The actress/singer remained with Disney for quite some time, and had TV roles in Zorro, Elfego Baca, and The Horsemasters. She also starred in the Disney films Babes In Toyland, The Shaggy Dog & The Misadventures Of Merlin Jones to name a few. After her stint at Disney, Annette would move on to become a teen idol and become a beach icon. When she was first cast in the “Beach Party” franchise, Walt Disney insisted that she only be allowed to wear modest bathing suits that covered her belly button. She starred alongside Frankie Avalon in Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, and many more. She re-united with Frankie Avalon in 1987 for the film Back To The Beach, which was a parody of their earlier films.
She had been married twice, and has 3 children, Gina, Jack Jr. and Jason. After keeping her illness from her friends in family, it was in 1992 that she came out and explained that she had multiple sclerosis, after reports had surfaced claiming she was an alcoholic. It was also in 1992, that she was inducted as a Disney Legend. One year later, she opened the Annette Funicello Fund For Neurological Disorders in California. Her auto-biography came out in 1994 titled “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story and was very well received. Her parents died within 2 years of each other and it was at that point that she would spend the next 15 years out of the public eye. Annette passed on April 8th, 2013 and will forever be in our hearts.
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