Annette Funicello, one of the original Mouseketeers picked by Walt Disney himself, has died at the age of 70 on Monday, April 8, at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California from complications to multiple sclerosis.
“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.”
– Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company
Annette Funicello was discovered by Walt Disney when she performed in Swan Lake at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank at age 13. Mr. Disney invited her to audition for a television show called the Mickey Mouse Club. This show debuted on October 3, 1955 and very soon, Funicello was a beloved star. This set off a 25 year career in entertainment for her that included television, Disney movies, and beach party movies with Frankie Avalon.
In 1987, Funicello was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). She kept this information private until 1992 when she founded The Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases. The 1990’s also found her creating new business ventures including The Annette Funicello Teddy Bear Company and a line of perfume. As the MS became more debilitating, she backed out of the public spotlight.
Annette Funicello was taken care of by her husband Glen Holt, who she married in 1986. She is also survived by Gina, Jack Jr. and Jason, along with three grandchildren. Her loss will be felt by her family and also by the Disney family at large.
Our very own Roger Rabbit shared some of his thoughts for the Geek Minute:
Please share your thoughts, feelings, and memories about Annette Funicello below and honor her memory.