If you are a baby boomer, you likely associate the name “Annette” with Annette Funicello, one of the original members of the Mickey Mouse Club. After suffering from multiple sclerosis for decades, Ms. Funicello died in her California home last month at the age of 70.
Annette Funicello began her career as a 12-year-old Mouseketeer in the widely popular television program the Mickey Mouse Club. The show appeared every weekday and, though it was canceled in 1958, Funicello went on to become one of the first celebrities identified by a single name.
After the show’s cancellation, Funicello went on to star in several television shows and started acting in films. She soon gained an even larger teen following after pairing up with Frankie Avalon in a series of beach movies. Her stardom extended into popular music as well, and she recorded several albums and had two top 10 hits. She was so popular during the late 50’s to mid 60’s that at one point she was receiving 6,000 fan letters every week.
Beginning in the mid-60s she transitioned away from the popular spotlight and focused on raising a family with her husband and former agent, Jack Gilardi.
In 1987 she found out she had multiple sclerosis and mostly withdrew from public scrutiny, though she did reveal her diagnosis publically in the early 1990’s. Funicello later remarried, but spent her last several decades fighting MS.
Annette Funicello is survived by her husband, Glenn Holt, her three children and three grandchildren.