Annette Funicello, child star/Mouseketeer on “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s for a number of years and in her late teens teamed up with Frankie Avalon in a series of ‘60s teen based movies from titles of titles like “Beach Blanket Bingo” and “Bikini Beach,” she also had cameos in in some the those great campy movies like Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and even “Back to the beach” in late 1989. She passed away this Monday morning at Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield California. By her bedside were children who held her hand and she slipped away into history.
Funicello stunned fans and friends in 1992 with the announcement about her ailment. Yet she was cheerful and upbeat, coping and coming to terms with the disease with a courage that contrasted with her lightweight teen image of old. The dark-haired Annette was 13 when she gained fame on Televisions “The Mickey Mouse Club,” a late-afternoon variety show aimed towards children by Disney that ran from 1955 to 1959. She also had a wonderful recording career as a singer as well with, 15 albums and hit singles like “Tall Paul” and “Pineapple Princess.” Outgrowing the kid roles by the early ’60s, Annette teamed with Avalon in a series of movies for American-International, the first film company to exploit the burgeoning teen market. The filmmakers weren’t aiming for art, and they didn’t achieve it. As Halliwell’s Film Guide says of “Beach Party”: “Quite tolerable in itself, it started an excruciating trend.”
The films had songs, cameos by older stars and a few laughs. The 1965 “Beach Blanket Bingo,” for example, Among the other titles: “Muscle Beach Party,” ”Bikini Beach,” ”How to Stuff a Wild Bikini” and “Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.” featured subplots involving a mermaid, Gulligan, a motorcycle gang and a skydiving school run by comedian and wiseguy Don Rickles, with some comicical scenes with silent film star Mr. Buster Keaton.
The beach films also featured ample youthful skin. But not Ms.Funicello’s. In an 1987 interview Ms. Funicello mentions, “Mr. Disney said to me one day, ‘Annette, I have a favor to ask of you. I know all the girls are wearing bikinis, but you do have an image to uphold. I would appreciate it if you would wear a one-piece suit.’ I did, and I never regretted it.”
Ms. Funicello married her agent, Jack Gilardi. Together they had three children, Gina, Jack and Jason. However the couple did divorced 18 years later. Then 1986 she married Mr. Glen Holt, a harness racehorse trainer. Soon after her acting career ended, she became a devoted mother and wife to her family. She and her children have also been seen in some of the Skippy Brand Peanut Butter Commercials from back in the mid to late 70’s I remember watching them myself back then. This particular blogger is going to miss her cheery disposition and outlook on life.