April 8, 2013, - 3:34 pm

Annette Funicello, RIP: Class Act a Stark Contrast to Today’s Child Star Whores & Hollyweird Politicos

By Debbie Schlussel

Annette Funicello, who died today of complications from multiple sclerosis, had a great message for today’s teen and twenty-something actresses. She showed them how to make it in style . . . with class and dignity. She went from Disney Mouseketeer to sexy bikini-clad beach girl without becoming a skank.

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Annette Funicello, Class Act, RIP

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the movie, “Spring Breakers,” yet another tawdry example of child stars and former Disney kid actresses whoring themselves out to “transition” to adult stars. And it never works. You might say that the Annette Funicellos of this world are a relic of a day when America was king of the world, America’s golden years. And you would be right, in part, since we are now in America’s Kartrashian years. But actresses like Miley Cyrus (on this site, “Miley Virus”) and Disney-gal-turned-threesome-sex-partner-on-screen Vanessa Hudgens will never be remembered as America’s sweetheart the way so many adults fondly remember Funicello today upon news of her death. In fact, when Cyrus and Hudgens are 70 or when they die, we’ll say, “Who?”


I wasn’t alive in Annette Funicello’s heyday, but I knew her from the re-runs of the “The Mickey Mouse Club” that were on after I came home from school every day as a kid. And I know that my parents liked the former Mouseketeer and told me all about her and her later beach movies. The daughter of Italian-Americans, she was one of the first notably ethnic child stars, and as Italian-Americans took pride in her, so did Americans of other ethnicities, like my parents. But nobody really cared that her last name ended in a vowel or where her ancestors came from because she was among the best American kid actors in talent, looks, and performance. And in her bright spirit. I remember, as a kid, seeing her go on talk shows and then announce that she had MS and would be less and less active. All of America seemed to mourn her loss then as they do today.

Funicello wasn’t political, she wasn’t a feminist, she didn’t hit us over the head with bizarre, weird, anti-American views. Nope. She was proud to be American and proud and content to be a performer. She didn’t go to Vietnam and pose with our enemies, like Hanoi Jane Fonda did. She didn’t yell and scream about feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment.

She could have done all of these things. But, instead, Annette Funicello chose to stay out of those things and remain a class act.

And that’s how all of America, today, remembers her.

Annette Funicello, Rest In Peace.

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42 Responses

R. I. P.

She is in heaven now…

As goes, so goes.. on April 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

A true “class act”!

Hollywood on April 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Ditto!

Alan on April 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I am old enough to remember the beach blanket movies in the early sixties (although I was quite young). She raised money for MS, and she in a quiet, dignified manner.

Jonathan E. Grant on April 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Annette Funicello must certainly have been a teen idol to the Baby Boomers. I’ve seen some of those beach party movies she starred in, along with Frankie Avalon. Sure they were silly, but they were good-natured fun. (And who could forget the hilarious character Eric von Zipper from those flicks?)

The official statement from Disney was good. Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO 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.”

However, I read that pop singer Britney Spears, upon hearing the news, tweeted “I am DEVASTATED to hear about the passing of Annette Funicello. She was a role model for me during my days as a Mouseketeer. #Heartbroken.’ Nice thought, but from what I know about Annette, I find it very difficult to see how she could have been a “role model” for Britney Spears.

Ralph Adamo on April 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm

She and Frankie Avalon were wholesome spirited kids…. I wasn’t around when they were a phenomenon but they represented an America that’s all but gone today.

Sadly, she’ll be missed. Annette Funicello, RIP.

NormanF on April 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm

For those of my generation (early 60’s), she was every boy’s dream girl. None of the others on the Mickey Mouse Club even came close. As for her attire in the movies, she had an agreement with Walt Disney. Although most of the other girls did wear true bikinis, she always had a proper two-piece suit, and, like Barbara Eden, never showed her navel. Walt knew he had a star, and Annette had a close family. A true light of the boomer era has been doused today. She was loved from afar like probably no other actress.

Kent on April 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm

She was one of the few who stayed out of trouble. Hayley Mills she was not. I am sorry that Annette Funicello was so afflicted. May she rest in peace.

Worry01 on April 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm

A class act all the way. I remember her as a Mouseketeer and in all the beach movies; a time when life was simple and times were good.

RIP Annette….

IceNoMore on April 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I always thought she was very beautiful. I didn’t know of her Mickey Mouse days ’til AFTER we watched all the “Beach” movies. They used to play them on the weekends on our local UHF station in the 70s. I LOVED those movies. Avalon was so handsome then!

However, once I started watching them (in my single digits) I didn’t want to be her because I wanted to be one of the “Mice” in ‘Eric Von Zipper’s’ “Rats” motorcycle gang! I always thought they were so cool and got to wear black leather (and be outliers!).

RIP, Miss Funicello. Class act, indeed!

Ralph, I loved what you said about Britney Spears, LOL. And I am glad DS referenced Viley Virus and untalented skank Vanessa Hudgens.

Skunky on April 8, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Debbie thanks for the post. I too remember watching Ms Funicello reruns of the Mickey Mouse Club after school. Instead of turning out to be weirdo Disney skanks like Spears, Aguliera, Cyrus, and Bynes she was a class act. Beauty and grace are in such short supply in Hollyweird these days that actresses like Annette are few and far between. May she rest in peace.

Ken b on April 8, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Annette Funicello, Margaret Thatcher, ….Who’s next?

WilliamMunny on April 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm

A Princess is gone…..

Jack Dinsdale on April 8, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I never heard of this lady until today to be honest with all of you, may she RIP.

BTW, there are different varieties of feminism, feminism doesn’t mean radicalism, emasculating males, and streaming at the top of you’re lungs like a lunatic. Liberal-feminism and Conservative-feminism are very rational and reasonable, nowhere near being radical and extremist. Also the “Equal Rights Amendment” is in the 14th Amendment if my memory serves me correctly! Don’t mean to sound like a left winger, but I was just being logical on my synopsis.

“A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on April 8, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I grew up in the 60’s watching those movies with Annette & Avalon.
Drive-in’s yes, the good times. $5.00 a car load & .35 cents a gallon gasoline.

Jesse on April 8, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Annette Funicello–R.I.P.

JeffE on April 8, 2013 at 11:19 pm

It needs to be pointed out that not all of the original mouseketeers went on to lead lives as free of controversy as Annette.

Darlene Gillespie (who was as popular as Annette during the 1st season, but by the 2nd and 3rd seasons, was clearly playing second banana to her), wound up doing some time in the pokey for some questionable business dealings she got involved with in the 1990s.

The real shocker, however, was Doreen Tracey (arguably the program’s female third banana). Her post-mouseketeer existence was easily as harrowing as Brittney Spears’. She got married at 18 because, to put it politely, “she had to.” The marriage barely lasted a year, and she never remarried. I won’t go into all the gory details of her struggles with mental illness and substance abuse throughout the 60s and 70s, but will mention that she wound up having to pose for a couple of “lower tier” men’s magazines in the mid 70s to pay a few bills (I don’t recommend typing her name into a Google image search with the family filter turned off). Happily, she has been on the straight and narrow for the last 35 years, and just celebrated her 70th birthday.

Annette will always be a category unto herself. She and Nancy Sinatra were living proof that not all Italians are into heavy emoting when they sing. There was something almost unintentionally comical (but endearing) about their decidedly deadpan deliveries. Annette also was usually saddled with some not particularly inspired material. This Goffin & King tune was one of her more bearable efforts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPGRlAJkwVQ

Irving on April 8, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Annette was my favorite Mouseketeer!

PaulaMalka on April 8, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Don’t forget that Annette and Frankie routed arch villain Eric Von Zipper and his gang of RATS and MICE in one of my favorite childhood movies, “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.” Frankie just happened to be on “naval-reserve duty” in the film. ;-)

Joe on April 9, 2013 at 12:29 am

I loved Annette too and being only 4 years younger than she, I definitely was a watcher of MMClub. In fact, several of my friends and I used to get together on Fridays after school to watch the show with our Mouse Ears firmly in place. The fact that she was Italian helped a lot because in the ear of Marilyn Monroe and other “blond bombshells,” it was nice to see someone who looked like me being so widely liked.

Irving, Annette didn’t sing “Italian” songs so of course she didn’t “emote” but Italian songs, specifically Neapolitian ones are, by definition, emotional. It’s not a genre that’s to everyone’s taste but don’t criticize what you don’t understand. I don’t care for Klezmer, but I appreciate the musicianship of an Andy Stadtman playing it, not just when he plays something more mainstream.

Oh, and I hesitate to say this because I DO think Annette was a “class act” but in 1962, that picture of her and Frankie was considered quite racy what with them in bathing suits and his head in her lap. At the time there was some flak from the Catholic Church, about her appearing thus.

One last thing, Barbara Eden actually fought with the censors to allow her to show her belly button. She felt the costume would be more “authentic” based on belly dancing costumes, but she and her Lebanese husband, Michael Ansara, were shot down and so she covered up.

Italkit on April 9, 2013 at 1:01 am

    Actually, one of her biggest hits WAS an Italian song, which she crooned with her usual relaxed delivery:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f01-Oy0C6E

    Compare that to any Connie Frances (Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero) record from that period. She always had a cry in her voice, even when belting out stuff like “Where The Boys Are” and “I’ll Follow The Boys” which both had lyrics that really didn’t even require such intense performances.

    Irving on April 9, 2013 at 4:07 am

      Yaa, Irving, I was no Connie fan with that tear you talk about. That’s just bad singing regardless of the ethnicity f the songs or singer. But then there’s Luciano Pavarotti who is one of the few NON-Neapolitans who understands the expression and interpretation the music deserves. I don’t know of a single female who has been able to convey those songs properly or even tried. BTW, ” O Dio Mio” is not an Italian Art Song like the ones Connie murdered. It is Italian Euro Pop from the 60’s and she did it right for what it was. She had neither the voice quality or training to sing the Classics.
      I remember Annette saying she loved Country Western and her father was a band leader, I think. I don’t remember exactly but he was in the music field.

      Italkit on April 9, 2013 at 4:17 am

“She doesn’t look Druish”

(Sorry, I recently watched Space Balls for the first time, and I actually thought it was fun.)

skzion on April 9, 2013 at 8:06 am

Amen, Debbie. I saw those same reruns as a kid and had a crush on her. RIP to a classy lady.

Sean M on April 9, 2013 at 9:08 am

Pure class off and on the camera. A great person and role model. The type person you prayed your son finds.

Bill Ford on April 9, 2013 at 9:30 am

Annette was beautiful, talented and classy. Today’s stars could learn a lot from her example. Rest in Peace, Annette.

Jean on April 9, 2013 at 9:35 am

My favourite part of this thread are all the rad peeps who remember Eric Von Zipper and his motorcycle gang. It is making my day! :D

Skunky on April 9, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Skunky, I had to look up the actor who played Eric Von Zipper after reading your posts. The actor who played him was Harvey Lembeck and he died back in 1982 at the age of 58. After reading his bio I realized why I thought that the person who played Von Zipper hadn’t done much else besides those beach movies. The reason was that Lembeck was such a good actor that he was completely different in every role that he played– so I didn’t realize he was the same actor. In each role that he played he WAS that character. Thus, I didn’t recognize that he played in one of my favorite classic wartime movies, Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17 (1953), in a memorable role as Sgt. Harry Shapiro.

    Ralph Adamo on April 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      LOL, Ralph. Great post! I was glad you shared that. He was indeed great. They played those movies over and over again and his “gang” and those “Mice” gals always left an impression on me. They were not that much in the story (much to my chagrin!) but they were sooooo cool to me back then. No wonder I because a (misspent) feminist! I wanted a leather jacket as those gals did!

      Harvey Lembeck. Great to know and I will look up his other works because I agree with you, he WAS a talent. He looks separated at birth with Richard Bey! (Remember that guy…he has a CrAzY talk show in the 90s that I loved because it was so wacky and weird!!)

      Skunky on April 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        Jeez! Sorry for the typos. Brain cramps!

        “No wonder I BECAME a (misspent) feminist! I wanted a leather jacket as those gals HAD!”

        Skunky on April 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I do remember her and yes she was class personified. Thanks for the tribute Debbie.

Naomi R. on April 9, 2013 at 11:59 am

Go to youtube and look up Annette’s song ‘Jamaican Ska’ from the movie Back To The Beach. She still had it.

luagha on April 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

i only watched the mmc if annette was on because we all loved her and wanted to marry some one just like her.i got luckey and found a girl just like annette and we have been married for 43yrs.RIP annette.

bruce on April 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I remember her from my earliest memories. Her movies were entertaining to me too. Although I was more apt to see the Johnny Quest show or James Bond movies in my spare time. She was so great. The behind the scenes environment may have played a bigger role too. Rest in Peace Annette, sweet Annette.

jake49 on April 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I was 5 years old when the Mickey Mouse Club came on the air, and I can remember to this day that first look at Annette–it was absolutely the 1st time I’d ever noticed the opposite sex–for being the opposite sex! It’s impossible to get a sense today of how unbelievably charismatic that kid was. From Day One she pretty much stole the show from the rest of the cast. It’s rotten what a rough life she ended up enduring.
My mother used to say, “You should write to Annette, I’ll bet she’d answer and send you a picture…” I figured she couldn’t be bothered (how did I know Disney had a whole public relations department for that sort of thing?) Today I kinda wish I would have sent that letter after all.

Joe Guiney on April 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm

When I was growing up, Annette had become the commercial spokesperson for Skippy peanut butter – and her “classy” reputation clearly carried itself over to her gig there. (Not to mention “MMC” reruns airing on one of the three local “indie” stations in town.) Whether due to her or not, Skippy remains my favorite peanut butter brand to this day (and I’ve tried the others).

As far as her recording career, one of her many records was the title track from the 1965 Disney film “The Monkey’s Uncle,” with The Beach Boys on backing vocals and members of the “Wrecking Crew” providing instrumental accompaniment. In addition, on the album cover for the soundtrack of “Muscle Beach Party” in which she co-starred, the guy to her left holding her up (along with another muscleman to her right) was the future “Willy Armitage” of the original (1966-73) Mission: Impossible, Peter Lupus.

ConcernedPatriot on April 9, 2013 at 7:38 pm

A Muscle car and Annette Funicello. What more would a teenage boy of the 60’s dream of!

Rochelle on April 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm

She worked for Walt Disney.

Conventional wisdom amongst Jews of my generation (and the one before) was that Disney was an anti-Semite. I’m not so certain of that; the record is mixed.

“Funicello wasn’t political, she wasn’t a feminist, she didn’t hit us over the head with bizarre, weird, anti-American views. Nope. She was proud to be American and proud and content to be a performer. She didn’t go to Vietnam and pose with our enemies, like Hanoi Jane Fonda did. She didn’t yell and scream about feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment.”

Was she a Zionist? Just asking.

Regards,

There is NO Santa Claus (aka TINSC)

There is NO Santa Claus on April 9, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Great piece and so right. I loved her from the Mouskateer on – there are few like her today

Mark

Mark D on April 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm

PM, where did you get these ideas? Any sources. Surely there would be something somewhere if those were even rumors. Frankie Avalon (Avallone) was discovered and developed as a talent by Bob Marcucci. Marcucci died at a hospital in Ontario, California, of respiratory complications at the age of 81. Frankie Avalon married his wife Kathryn in the 1960s and they’re still marrried. They have eight children – Frankie Jr., Tony, Dina, Laura, Joseph, Nicolas, Kathryn and Carla–and they have 10 grandchildren. If you have a different story to tell, especially one nobody’s heard before, then you should support it with some sources.

Ralph Adamo on April 8, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Ralph, PM is an unfunny sh** disturber who thinks he’s clever but obviously isn’t.

I say peeps should ignore him and read your fun posts instead. Loved all the info you shared!

Skunky on April 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm

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