|Intro||American actress and singer|
|Was||Actor Film actor Singer Television actor Autobiographer|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature Music|
|Birth||22 October 1942, Utica, USA|
|Death||8 April 2013, Bakersfield, USA (aged 70 years)|
Annette Joanne Funicello (October 22, 1942 – April 8, 2013) was an American actress and singer. Funicello began her professional career as a child performer at the age of twelve. She rose to prominence as one of the most popular Mouseketeers on the original Mickey Mouse Club. As a teenager, she transitioned to a successful career as a singer with the pop singles "O Dio Mio", "Tall Paul" and "Pineapple Princess", as well as establishing herself as a film actress, popularizing the successful "Beach Party" genre alongside co-star Frankie Avalon during the mid-1960s.
In 1992, Funicello announced that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis back in 1987. She died of complications from the disease on April 8, 2013.
Annette Joanne Funicello was born in Utica, New York, to Italian Americans Virginia Jeanne (née Albano; 1921 – 2007) and Joseph Edward Funicello (1916 – 2009). Her family moved to Southern California when she was four years old.
The Mickey Mouse Club
Funicello took dancing and music lessons when she was a child in order to overcome her shyness. In 1955, the 12-year-old was discovered by Walt Disney when she performed as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake at a dance recital at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, California. Disney cast her as one of the original Mouseketeers. She was the last to be selected, and one of the few cast-members to be personally selected by Walt Disney himself.
In 1955 she signed a seven-year contract with Disney at $160 a week to rise to $500 a week if all options were exercised.
Funicello proved to be very popular, and by the end of the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club, she was receiving 6,000 letters a month, according to her Disney Legends biography – more than any other Mouseketeer.
In addition to appearing in many Mouseketeer sketches and dance routines, Funicello starred in several serials on The Mickey Mouse Club. These included Adventure in Dairyland, the second and third Spin and Marty serials – The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty (1956) and The New Adventures of Spin and Marty (1957), and Walt Disney Presents: Annette (1958) (which co-starred Richard Deacon).
In a hayride scene in the Annette serial, she performed the song that launched her singing career. The studio received so much mail about "How Will I Know My Love" (lyrics by Tom Adair, music by Frances Jeffords and William Walsh), that Walt Disney issued it as a single, and gave Funicello (somewhat unwillingly) a recording contract.
A proposed live-action feature Rainbow Road to Oz was to have starred some of the Mouseketeers, including Darlene Gillespie as Dorothy and Funicello as Ozma. Preview segments from the film aired on September 11, 1957, on Disneyland's fourth anniversary show. By then, MGM's The Wizard of Oz had already been shown on CBS Television for the first time. Theories on why the film was abandoned include Disney's failure to develop a satisfactory script, and the popularity of the MGM film on television. Disney ultimately replaced this film project with a new adaptation of Babes in Toyland (1961), which starred Funicello as "Mary Contrary".
Post-Mickey Mouse Club
After the Mickey Mouse Club, she remained under contract with Disney for a time. She had a role on the Disney television roles in Zorro, playing Anita Cabrillo in a three-episode storyline about a teen-aged girl arriving in Los Angeles to visit a father who does not seem to exist. This role was reportedly a birthday present from Walt Disney, and the first of two different characters played opposite Guy Williams as Zorro.
She had a multiple-episode guest arc on Make Room for Daddy as an Italian exchange student.
Although uncomfortable being thought of as a singer, Funicello had a number of pop record hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s, mostly written by the Sherman Brothers and including: "Tall Paul", "First Name Initial", "O Dio Mio", "Train of Love" (written by Paul Anka) and "Pineapple Princess". They were released by Disney's Buena Vista label. Annette also recorded "It's Really Love" in 1959, a reworking of an earlier Paul Anka song called "Toot Sweet". Paul Anka was noted to have a crush on her, however, Walt Disney overprotected Annette, which broke Paul's heart. This resulted in his song "Puppy Love", which was inspired by his hopeless romantic crush on Annette.
In an episode of the Disney anthology television series titled "Disneyland After Dark", Funicello can be seen singing live at Disneyland. Walt Disney was reportedly a fan of 1950s pop star Teresa Brewer and tried to pattern Funicello's singing on the same style. However, Funicello credits "the Annette sound" to her record producer, Tutti Camarata, who worked for Disney in that era. Camarata had her double-track her vocals, matching her first track as closely as possible on the second recording to achieve a fuller sound than her voice would otherwise produce. Early in her career, she appeared on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood.
In December 1959, Funicello attempted to have her contract with Disney set aside, claiming that it was unquitable and that she was without an agent or legal counsel when she signed it. She was on $325 a week. The court refused.
Return to Disney
In 1961, Funicello returned to Zorro playing a different role. She starred in a big budget musical for Disney, Babes in Toyland (1961), alongside Tommy Sands and Kirk.
She also appeared in two television movies filmed in Europe for Disney alongside Kirk, both of which were released theatrically in some markets: The Horsemasters (1961), shot in England, and Escapade in Florence (1962), filmed in Italy.
Beach Party Series
Funicello moved on from Disney to become a teen idol, starring in a series of "Beach Party" movies with Frankie Avalon for American International Pictures. These started with Beach Party (1963), which was so successful American International Pictures signed Funicello to a seven-year contract and starred her in a series of beach party movies.
Funicello guest-starred on episodes of Wagon Train, Burke's Law and The Greatest Show on Earth, then starred in another two-part Disney telemovie with Kirk, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964). This was released to cinemas in the US and became a surprise box office hit.
Also popular were the follow ups to Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party (1964) and Bikini Beach (1964).
When she was cast in her first beach movie, Walt Disney requested that she only wear modest bathing suits and keep her navel covered. However, she wore a pink two-piece in Beach Party, a white two-piece fishnet suit in the second film (Muscle Beach Party) and a blue and white bikini in the third (Bikini Beach). All three swimsuits bared her navel, particularly in Bikini Beach, where it is visible extensively during close up shots in a sequence early in the film when she meets Frankie Avalon's "Potato Bug" character outside his tent.
Funicello made Pajama Party (1964) for AIP with Kirk, not Avalon, though it was an unofficial Beach Party movie and Avalon made a cameo. Avalon was back as Funicello's co-star in Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), then she and Kirk did a sequel to Merlin Jones, The Monkey's Uncle (1965). The Monkey's Uncle featured Annette singing with The Beach Boys and was another huge hit.
Funicello made a cameo in two AIP comedies starring Avalon, Ski Party (1965) and Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), then she did How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) with Dwayne Hickman. Box office receipts for the series were in decline, and neither Avalon or Funicello appeared in the final installment, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966).
Stock Car Racing Films
AIP tried a new formula with stock car racing films, starting with Fireball 500 (1966) which starred Funicello, Avalon and Fabian Forte. The movie was popular enough for them to try another stock car movie, Thunder Alley (1967) with Funicello and Fabian. It would be her last lead in a feature film for two decades.
Funicello guest starred on Hondo and had a short role in Head (1968), opposite The Monkees.
1970s and 1980s
During the 1970s, Funicello focused on raising her family. However she still occasionally acted, making guest appearances on shows like Love, American Style, Easy Does It... Starring Frankie Avalon, Fantasy Island and The Love Boat.
In 1979, Funicello began starring in a series of television commercials for Skippy peanut butter.
She starred in a TV movie for Disney, Lots of Luck (1985) then was reunited with Avalon in Back to the Beach (1987). The two would also perform together live.
Her autobiography, dictated to Patricia Romanowski and published in 1994, was A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story. The title was taken from a song from the Disney movie Cinderella.
A television film based on the book, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story, was made in 1995. In the final scene, the actress portraying Funicello (Eva LaRue), using a wheelchair, turns away from the camera — turning back, it is Funicello herself, who delivered a message to a group of children.
During this period, she produced a line of teddy bears for the Annette Funicello Collectible Bear Company. The last collection in the series was made in 2004. She also had her own fragrance called "Cello, by Annette".
"Now that I've gone public with my illness, they can't do enough," she said in 1994. "They even send me home remedies to try. Everyone says, `God bless you and I'm praying for you.' "
Funicello's best friend was actress and singer Shelley Fabares. She and Fabares had been friends since they were young teenagers in a catechism class, and Fabares was a bridesmaid at Funicello's first wedding. She was also very close to fellow Mouseketeers Lonnie Burr (she later claimed in an autobiography that he was her first boyfriend during the first season of the Mickey Mouse Club), Sharon Baird, Doreen Tracey, Cheryl Holdridge, her Disney co-star, Tommy Kirk, and her Beach movies co-star, Frankie Avalon. She dated Canadian singer/songwriter Paul Anka and he wrote his hit song "Puppy Love" about her. Annette was raised in a Catholic family.
Marriages and children
Funicello was married to her first husband, Jack L. Gilardi (1930–2019), from 1965 until 1981. They had three children: Gina Portman (born 1965), Jack Jr. (born 1970), and Jason (born 1974). In 1986, she married California harness racing horse breeder/trainer Glen D. Holt (1930–2018). The couple was frequently seen attending harness horse races at the Los Alamitos Race Course and Fairplex in Pomona in the 1980s and 1990s.
In March 2011, her longtime Encino, California, home caught fire. She suffered smoke inhalation, but was otherwise unharmed.
After the fire, Funicello and Holt then began living full-time at the modest ranch which they had purchased decades earlier, located just south of Shafter, California (north of Bakersfield). That ranch remained her primary residence until her death.
Illness, death and legacy
In early 1987, Funicello reunited with Frankie Avalon for a series of promotional concerts so they could promote their film Back to the Beach. She began to suffer from dizziness and balance issues and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but for the next five years, she hid her condition from her family and friends. In 1992, Funicello went public with her diagnosis and announced what she was suffering from. She felt that it was now necessary for her to go public with her multiple sclerosis diagnosis in order to combat rumors that her impaired ability to walk was the result of alcoholism. In 1993, she opened the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation.
On October 6, 2012, the CTV flagship current affairs program W5 profiled Funicello following her fifteen years away from the public eye. The program revealed that her disease had severely damaged her nervous system; Funicello had lost the ability to walk in 2004, the ability to speak in 2009, and, at the time of the profile, she needed to be fed through a tube, needed to be carried from her bed to her wheelchair and required round-the-clock care in order to survive. In the profile, Holt and her closest friend, actress Shelley Fabares, discussed Funicello's state at the time, as well as the numerous medical interventions and treatments which had been attempted in order to improve her condition.
On April 8, 2013, Funicello died at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California, at the age of 70, from complications which were due to multiple sclerosis. At the time of her death, Funicello's family and Fabares were with her. Her funeral was a private ceremony which was held on April 12, 2013, at the Cherished Memories Memorial Chapel in Bakersfield, California. Commenting on her death, Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, said,
Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word Mouseketeer, 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.
Media coverage of Funicello's death was almost completely overshadowed by that of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher who died on the same day.
After her death, the Disney Channel Original movie Teen Beach Movie (2013) was dedicated to her memory.
In 1992, she was inducted as a Disney Legend.
She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures on September 14, 1993, located at 6834 Hollywood Blvd.
In the Disney Village shopping and dining area of Disneyland Paris, a 1950s themed restaurant, Annette's Diner, is named after her.
Numbers in parentheses after title indicate peak position in Billboard charts.
- Annette – Vista BV-3301 (Mono) (1959)
- Annette Sings Anka (#21) – Vista BV-3302 (Mono) (1960)
- Hawaiiannette (#38) – Vista BV-3303 (Mono) (1960)
- Italiannette – Vista BV-3304 (Mono) (1960)
- Dance Annette – Vista BV-3305 (Mono) (1961)
- The Story of My Teens – Vista BV-3312 (Mono) (1962)
- Annette's Beach Party (#39) – Vista BV-3316 (Mono), STER-3316 (Stereo) (July 1963)
- Muscle Beach Party – Vista BV-3314 (Mono), STER-3314 (Stereo) (April 1964)
- Annette On Campus – Vista BV-3320 (Mono), STER-3320 (Stereo) (1964)
- Annette At Bikini Beach – Vista BV-3324 (Mono), STER-3324 (Stereo) (September 1964)
- Pajama Party – Vista BV-3325 (Mono), STER-3325 (Stereo) (November 1964)
- Something Borrowed Something Blue – Vista BV-3328 (Mono), STER-3328 (Stereo) (1964)
- Annette Sings Golden Surfin' Hits – Vista BV-3327 (Mono), STER-3327 (Stereo) (July 1965)
- Annette Funicello – Vista BV-4037 (1972)
- Annette Funicello Country Album – Starview 4001 (1984)
- Best of Annette – Rhino RNDF-206 (1984) (also released as a picture disk on Rhino RNLP-702)
- Annette: A Musical Reunion with America's Girl-Next-Door – Vista 60010 (1993)
- A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes – Time/Warner 520564 (April 16, 1995)
- The Best of Annette – Vista (August 14, 1991)
- A Tribute to Walt Disney – Promised Land – Glanco Music (2013)
|Year||Titles (A-side, B-side)
||Record Label||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1958||"How Will I Know My Love"
|"That Crazy Place From Outer Space"
|"Jo Jo The Dog Faced Boy"
|"Lonely Guitar" /
|"Especially For You"
|"First Name Initial" /
"My Heart Became Of Age"
|The Story Of My Teens|
|1960||"O Dio Mio"
|"Train Of Love"
||Vista 359||36||47||Annette Sings Anka|
|"Talk To Me Baby"
||Vista 369||92||98||Annette Sings Anka|
||Vista 375||—||—||Non-album track|
|"Blue Muu Muu"
|"Dreamin' About You"
||Vista 388||106||—||Non-album track|
|1962||"That Crazy Place From Outer Space"
|"The Truth About Youth"
||Vista 394||—||—||The Story Of My Teens|
|"My Little Grass Shack"
|"He's My Ideal"
||Vista 405||—||—||Non-album tracks|
|"Bella Bella Florence"
|1963||"Promise Me Anything"
||Vista 427||123||—||Annette's Beach Party|
||Vista 431||—||—||Muscle Beach Party|
|"Muscle Beach Party"
|"Bikini Beach Party"
||Vista 436||—||—||Annette At Bikini Beach|
|1965||"Something Borrowed, Something Blue"
||Vista 438||—||—||Something Borrowed, Something Blue|
|"The Monkey's Uncle"
||Vista 440||—||—||Annette At Bikini Beach|
|"Boy To Love"
||Vista 442||—||—||Golden Surfin' Hits|
|1966||"No Way To Go But Up"
||Vista 450||—||—||Non-album track|
|1967||"What's A Girl To Do"
||Tower 326||—||—||Thunder Alley (Soundtrack)|
|1981||"(Together We Can Make A) Merry Christmas"
||Pacific Star 569||—||—||Non-album tracks|
|1983||"The Promised Land"
||Starview 3001||—||—||Country Album|
- Mickey Mouse Club (1955–1959; 1977; 1980; 1990; 1993)
- Elfego Baca: Six Gun Law (1959) (compilation of episodes from Wonderful World of Color serial) – Chiquita Bernal
- The Danny Thomas Show (cast member in 1959) – Gina Minelli
- Zorro (1959–1961) – Anita Cabrillo / Constancia de la Torre
- The Horsemasters (1962) – Dinah Wilcox
- Escapade in Florence (1962) – Annette Aliotto
- Burke's Law (1963–1965) – Anna Najensky / Dorrie Marsh
- Wagon Train (1963, Episode: "The Sam Pulaski Story") – Rose Pulaski
- The Greatest Show on Earth (1964, Episode: "Rosetta") – Melanie Keller
- Easy Does It... Starring Frankie Avalon (1976 (four-week summer variety series)
- Love, American Style segment "Love and the Tuba" (with Frankie Avalon, 1971) – Millie (segment "Love and the Tuba")
- Frankie and Annette: The Second Time Around (1978, TV Movie) (unsold pilot) – Annette
- Fantasy Island episode "Ghostbreaker" (1978)
- The Mouseketeer Reunion (November 23, 1980)
- Lots of Luck (1985; made-for-TV movie)
- Growing Pains episode "The Seavers and the Cleavers" (guest star, 1985)
- Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (guest star, 1988)
- Full House episode "Joey Goes Hollywood" (guest star with Frankie Avalon, March 29, 1991)
- A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story (1995; made-for-TV movie) – Annette Funicello (final film role)
- The Mickey Mouse Club Story (1995; documentary)
- Funicello, Annette and Patricia Romanowski. A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story 1994, ISBN 0-7868-8092-9
- The Annette Mysteries: Includes The Desert Inn Mystery, The Mystery at Moonstone Bay, The Mystery at Smugglers' Cove, Mystery of Medicine Wheel and Sierra Summer