Funicello, c. 1975
|Born||Annette Joanne Funicello
October 22, 1942
Utica, New York, U.S.
|Died||April 8, 2013
Bakersfield, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Complications from multiple sclerosis|
|Spouse(s)||Jack Gilardi (m. 1965; div. 1981)
Glen Holt (m. 1986; her death 2013)
|Children||Gina Portman, Jason Gilardi, Jack Gilardi Jr.|
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 had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. 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) and Joseph Funicello. Her family moved to Southern California when she was four years old.
The Mickey Mouse Club
Annette took dancing and music lessons as a child in order to overcome 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. She 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.
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, Walt Disney Presents: Annette (which co-starred Richard Deacon), and the second and third Spin and Marty serials – The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty and The New Adventures of Spin and Marty. 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".
Singing and acting
After the Mickey Mouse Club, she remained under contract with Disney for a time, with television roles in Zorro, Elfego Baca, and The Horsemasters. For Zorro she played 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. Annette also co-starred in Disney-produced movies such as The Shaggy Dog, Babes in Toyland, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Monkey's Uncle.
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"; Anka reworked the song for a third time in 1962 as "Johnny's Theme" and it opened The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on television for the next three decades. 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.
Beach icon and spokeswoman
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 was followed by Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), Pajama Party (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965).
When she was cast in her first beach movie, Walt Disney requested that she wear only 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.
She and Avalon became iconic as "beach picture" stars and were re-united in 1987 for the Paramount film Back to the Beach, parodying their own surf-and-sand films two decades earlier. They toured the country as a singing act.
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 made-for-TV movie 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".
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. Annette was raised in a Catholic family.
Marriages and children
Funicello was married to her first husband, Jack Gilardi, from 1965 until 1981. They had three children: Gina Portman (b. 1965), Jack, Jr. (b. 1970), and Jason (b. 1974). In 1986, she married California harness racing horse breeder/trainer Glen Holt. The couple was frequently seen at Los Alamitos Race Course and at Fairplex in Pomona in the 1980s and 1990s attending harness horse races.
After the fire, Funicello and Holt then began living full-time at the modest ranch that they had purchased decades earlier, located just south of Shafter, California (north of Bakersfield). That 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 to promote their film Back to the Beach. She began to suffer from dizzy spells, but kept her failing health from her friends and family. In 1992, Funicello announced that she was suffering from multiple sclerosis. She had kept her condition a secret for many years, but felt that it was necessary for her to go public 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 as an update on her after she had spent fifteen years out of the public eye. The profile 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 required round-the-clock care in order to survive. In the profile, Holt and Fabares discussed Funicello's state at the time, as well as the numerous medical interventions and treatments that 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 due to multiple sclerosis. At the time of her death, Annette's family and her closest friend and actress Shelley Fabares were with her. Her funeral was a private ceremony held on April 12, 2013, at the Cherished Memories Memorial Chapel in Bakersfield, CA. 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.
She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures on September 14, 1993, located at 6834 Hollywood Blvd.
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)
|Year||Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
|Record Label||Peak chart positions||Album|
|US Billboard||US Cashbox|
|1958||"How Will I Know My Love"
b/w "Don't Jump To Conclusions"
|"That Crazy Place From Outer Space"
b/w "Gold Doubloons and Pieces Of Eight" (Non-album track)
b/w "Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me"
|"Jo Jo The Dog Faced Boy"
b/w "Lonely Guitar" (first pressings)
"Love Me Forever" (later pressings)
b/w "Wild Willie"
|"Especially For You"
b/w "My Heart Became Of Age"
|"First Name Initial" /
"My Heart Became Of Age" (from Annette)
|The Story Of My Teens|
|1960||"O Dio Mio"
b/w "It Took Dreams" (from Annette)
|"Train Of Love"
b/w "Tell Me Who's The Girl" (from The Story Of My Teens)
|Vista 359||36||47||Annette Sings Anka|
b/w "Luau Cha Cha Cha"
|"Talk To Me Baby"
b/w "I Love You Baby"
|Vista 369||92||98||Annette Sings Anka|
b/w "Please Please Signore"
b/w "Mama Mama Rosa (Where's The Spumoni)" (from Italiannette)
|Vista 375||—||—||Non-album track|
|"Blue Muu Muu"
b/w "Hawaiian Love Talk" (Non-album track)
|"Dreamin' About You"
b/w "Strummin' Song" (from The Story Of My Teens)
|Vista 388||106||—||Non-album track|
|1962||"That Crazy Place From Outer Space"
b/w "Seven Moons (Of Batalyre)" (by Danny Saval and Tom Tyron, non-album track)
|"The Truth About Youth"
b/w "I Can't Do The Sum"
|Vista 394||—||—||The Story Of My Teens|
|"My Little Grass Shack"
|"He's My Ideal"
b/w "Mister Piano Man" (from The Story Of My Teens)
|Vista 405||—||—||Non-album tracks|
|"Bella Bella Florence"
b/w "Canzone d'Amoure"
b/w "Walkin' and Talkin'"
|1963||"Promise Me Anything"
b/w "Treat Him Nicely"
|Vista 427||123||—||Annette's Beach Party|
|1964||"Merlin Jones" (with The Wellingtons)
b/w "The Scrambled Egghead" (with Tommy Kirk)
|Vista 431||—||—||Muscle Beach Party|
b/w "Rebel Rider"
|"Muscle Beach Party"
b/w "I Dream About Frankie"
|"Bikini Beach Party"
b/w "The Clyde"
|Vista 436||—||—||Annette At Bikini Beach|
b/w "The Clyde"
|1965||"Something Borrowed, Something Blue"
b/w "How Will I Know My Love" (New version of Annette's 1958 recording)
|Vista 438||—||—||Something Borrowed, Something Blue|
|"The Monkey's Uncle" (With The Beach Boys)
b/w "How Will I Know My Love" (from Something Borrowed, Something Blue)
|Vista 440||—||—||Annette At Bikini Beach|
|"Boy To Love"
b/w "No One Else Could Be Prouder"
|Vista 442||—||—||Golden Surfin' Hits|
|1966||"No Way To Go But Up"
b/w "Crystal Ball" (from Something Borrowed, Something Blue)
|Vista 450||—||—||Non-album track|
|1967||"What's A Girl To Do"
b/w "When You Get What You Want"
(Annette's name is misspelled on both sides as "Annettte")
|Tower 326||—||—||Thunder Alley (Soundtrack)|
|1981||"(Together We Can Make A) Merry Christmas"
b/w "The Night Before Christmas"
(Duets with Frankie Avalon)
|Pacific Star 569||—||—||Non-album tracks|
|1983||"The Promised Land"
b/w "In Between and Out Of Love"
|Starview 3001||—||—||Country Album|
- The Shaggy Dog (1959)
- Babes in Toyland (1961)
- Elfego Baca: Six Gun Law (1962) (compilation of episodes from Wonderful World of Color serial)
- The Horsemasters (1962) (compilation of episodes from Wonderful World of Color serial)
- Beach Party (1963)
- The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964)
- Muscle Beach Party (1964)
- Bikini Beach (1964)
- Pajama Party (1964)
- Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
- The Monkey's Uncle (1965)
- Ski Party (1965) (Cameo)
- How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965)
- Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) (Cameo)
- Fireball 500 (1966)
- Thunder Alley (1967)
- Head (1968)
- Back to the Beach (1987)
- Troop Beverly Hills (1989) (Cameo)
- Mickey Mouse Club (1955–59; 1977; 1980; 1990; 1993)
- Zorro (1959; 1961)
- The Danny Thomas Show (cast member in 1959)
- The Horsemasters (1961)
- Escapade in Florence (1962)
- Wagon Train episode "The Sam Pulaski Story" (1963)
- "Rosetta", The Greatest Show on Earth (1964)
- Easy Does It... Starring Frankie Avalon (1976) (four-week summer variety series)
- Love, American Style segment "Love and the Tuba" (with Frankie Avalon, 1973)
- Frankie and Annette: The Second Time Around (1978) (unsold pilot)
- "Ghostbreaker" episode Fantasy Island (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)
- 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, and Sierra Summer
- McLellan, Dennis (January 9, 2009). "Cheryl Holdridge dies at 64; popular Mouseketeer". Los Angeles Times.
- Virginia Jeanne Funicello. Pqasb.pqarchiver.com (September 6, 2007). Retrieved on April 20, 2013.
- "Annette Funicello Biography (1942–)". Crystal Reference, Biography.com. A&E Television Networks. 2003. Retrieved March 30, 2007.
- Disney Fake Book. New York: Hal Leonard Corporation. 1996. p. 74. ISBN 0-7935-4521-8.
- "Annette Album Release". Discogs.com. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "Oct 22nd Happy 65th Birthday Annette" (VIDEO INTERVIEW). You Remember That.com. Archived from the original on December 24, 2007. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
- ''Disneyland'' segment on YouTube (August 4, 2007). Retrieved on April 20, 2013.
- Cotter, Bill (1997). The Wonderful World of Disney Television. New York: Hyperion Books. ISBN 0-7868-6359-5.
- Gary A Smith, American International Pictures: The Golden Years, Bear Manor 2013 p 211
- "The Myth of the Hidden Navel". Beachpartymoviemusic.com. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "History of Skippy". Unilever. 2012. Archived from the original on May 18, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
- Annette Funicello. People.com. Retrieved on April 20, 2013.
- Oldenburg, Ann (March 12, 2011). "Annette Funicello suffers smoke inhalation during fire". www.usatoday.com. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- Jennifer Self, "Annette Funicello's family: She fought until the end", The Bakersfield Californian, April 8, 2013.
- "Annette Funicello Fund For Neurological Disorders". California Community Foundation. 2008. Archived from the original on January 23, 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2008.
- "Annette Funicello Research Foundation".
- "Annette Funicello: Her life with multiple sclerosis". CTV. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
- "Disney Icon Annette Funicello From Utica Dead At 70 Years Old". WODZ. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
- Silverman, Stephen M. (April 8, 2013), "Annette Funicello Dies at 70 After Long Battle with MS". People.com. Retrieved on April 20, 2013.
- "Funeral Services For April 11, 2013", The Bakersfield Californian, April l1, 2013. Retrieved on April 23, 2013.
- "Beloved Disney Mouseketeer and Iconic Teen Star Annette Funicello Dies at Age 70". D23. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
- "Disney Legends". Disney. 2005. Retrieved September 27, 2007.
- "Billboard Artist Annette Funicello". Billboard.com. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- TV.com (March 3, 1979). "Fantasy Island: Birthday Party / Ghostbreaker – Season 2, Episode 20". TV.com. Retrieved February 7, 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Annette Funicello.|
- Annette Funicello at the Internet Movie Database
- A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story at the Internet Movie Database
- Annette Funicello
- Annette Funicello on LifeStory.com Share how she touched your life.
- Obituary from Disney D23
- Annette Funicello at Brian's Drive In Theatre
- Annette Funicello at Find a Grave