When you think about entertainment biz legends who started off their career with Disney, the first names that come to mind are probably along the lines of Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, or maybe youngins like Selena Gomez. But the original queen of The Mickey Mouse Club and icon with Disney roots was none other than Annette Funicello, who died today from complications of multiple sclerosis, according to Disney's website. She was 70 years old.
Though Baby Boomers are the ones most likely sure to be remembering Annette today, we're talking about a legend here. A triple-threat who made a major imprint on film, music, and TV. An entertainer whose work was cherished by various generations.
'Course being a premiere Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club was just the beginning for Annette, who went on to become a pop singer and big-screen star in the '60s with kitschy beach flicks like Beach Party, Bikini Beach, and Beach Blanket Bingo with Frankie Avalon. Oh, and let's not forget Babes in Toyland (a personal childhood fave!) and even some fun flicks in the '80s, like Back to the Beach and Troop Beverly Hills.
Annette was also respected for taking her personal battle with multiple sclerosis public after she was diagnosed in 1987. She became a spokeswoman for treatment of the chronic, often-debilitating disease of the central nervous system. She set up the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Disorders and underwent brain surgery in 1999 in an attempt to control tremors caused by her disease.
In more recent years, she slipped away to live a much more private existence. And who could blame her after she had spent so much of her life in the spotlight?
Of the iconic entertainer, Bob Iger, Disney’s chairman and chief executive, said:
Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word 'Mousketeer,' and a true Disney legend. She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney’s brightest stars, delighting an entire generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent. Annette was well known for being as beautiful inside as she was on the outside, and she faced her physical challenges with dignity, bravery and grace. All of us at Disney join with family, friends, and fans around the world in celebrating her extraordinary life.
Sounds about right ... Though her passing is certainly sad news, it seems more befitting to celebrate the life of a woman who persevered through life's darkest moments. And who will always be remembered for making us dance, sing, and smile.
What's your favorite memory of Annette Funicello?
Image via Wikimedia