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Annette Funicello

Annette Funicello

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Frankie & Annette: M-G-M Movie Legends... Fun in the sun and girls in bikinis are what's on the menu with this collection... more info $39.98was $39.98 Buy Now

Fireball 500 / Thunder Alley (Double... These action-packed drive-in flicks are a must-see for the serious car lover.... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

Head: The Monkees DVD A wild assortment of musical numbers and bold adventures bring the seminal rock... more info $19.95was $19.95 Buy Now

America Lost And Found: The BBS Story -... Like the rest of America, Hollywood was ripe for revolution in the late sixties.... more info $99.95was $99.95 Buy Now

Babes In Toyland DVD Experience Walt Disney's first-ever musical, "Babes in Toyland" (1961)! Enter... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now

The Misadventures Of Merlin Jones... Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello star in this 1964 wacky campus romp. Midvale... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now



Also Known As: Annette Joanne Funicello Died:
Born: October 22, 1942 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Utica, New York, USA Profession: actor, singer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Before Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, there was Annette Funicello, the original Mouseketeer. When she burst out on the scene as the bubbly girl-next-door on "The Mickey Mouse Club" (ABC, 1955-59), America quickly fell in love with Funicello, making her one of the most recognized faces on television at that time. She was such a huge success on the show that by the end of the first season, the actress was receiving about 6,000 fan letters a week, a feat that astounded even Walt Disney himself. She re-emerged in the 1960s as a teen icon, starring in several "beach party" movies like "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965) opposite fellow idol Frankie Avalon, and would later inspire longtime fans with her courageous battle against the debilitating disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), which led to her death in April 2013. However, it was her warm, all-American persona as a Mouseketeer - her name famously embossed across her Disney sweater - that would be the Annette Funicello fans remembered best.Annette Joanne Funicello was born on Oct. 22, 1942 in Utica, NY. Her parents, Joseph and Virginia Funicello, signed up their shy little girl - nicknamed "Dolly" by her father - for dance and music...

Before Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, there was Annette Funicello, the original Mouseketeer. When she burst out on the scene as the bubbly girl-next-door on "The Mickey Mouse Club" (ABC, 1955-59), America quickly fell in love with Funicello, making her one of the most recognized faces on television at that time. She was such a huge success on the show that by the end of the first season, the actress was receiving about 6,000 fan letters a week, a feat that astounded even Walt Disney himself. She re-emerged in the 1960s as a teen icon, starring in several "beach party" movies like "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965) opposite fellow idol Frankie Avalon, and would later inspire longtime fans with her courageous battle against the debilitating disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), which led to her death in April 2013. However, it was her warm, all-American persona as a Mouseketeer - her name famously embossed across her Disney sweater - that would be the Annette Funicello fans remembered best.

Annette Joanne Funicello was born on Oct. 22, 1942 in Utica, NY. Her parents, Joseph and Virginia Funicello, signed up their shy little girl - nicknamed "Dolly" by her father - for dance and music lessons to help overcome her bashfulness. When she was four, the Funicello family moved to Southern California, where the future "beach bunny" would make a name for herself. In 1955, Funicello performed the lead role in "Swan Lake" at a dance recital at the Burbank Starlight Bowl. In the audience was Walt Disney, who was searching for talented kids to appear on his new television show, "The Mickey Mouse Club." He was so impressed by her performance that he immediately cast her as the 24th Mouseketeer. In addition to performing sketches and dance routines, she starred in a number of the show's serials including 1956's "Adventure in Disneyland." In "Walt Disney Presents: Annette" (1958), Funicello's self-titled serial, she sang "How Will I Know My Love," the song that eventually launched her singing career. Due to the overwhelming response from her fans, Disney decided to release the song as a single and gave Funicello a recording contract.

Funicello remained under contract with Disney even after "The Mickey Mouse Club" ended in 1959. She appeared on the TV shows "Zorro" (ABC, 1957-59), "Make Room for Daddy" (ABC, 1953-57; CBS, 1957-1964), "Burke's Law" (ABC, 1963-66) and several others. In "Zorro," Funicello played Anita Cabrillo, a teenager who arrived in Los Angeles to visit a father who does not seem to exist at all. Rumors swirled that the role was a birthday present from Disney since the actress was such a huge fan of the show. She also co-starred in more Disney family movies, including "The Shaggy Dog" (1959), "Babes in Toyland" (1961), "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones" (1964) and "The Monkey's Uncle" (1965), among others.

In the early 1960s, after her Disney contract expired, Funicello tested the waters as a teen star. She starred opposite actor and singer teen heartthrob Frankie Avalon in summer romance films, which included "Beach Party" (1963), "Muscle Beach Party" (1964), "Bikini Beach" (1964), and the best known, "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965). The duo appeared in so many of these sun-'n'-fun movies that the two eventually became the poster couple for carefree summers spent on the ocean. When she was cast in her first movie, insiders said that Disney himself asked the young movie star to avoid wearing any attire that was too skimpy in an effort to maintain her "innocent Disney image." Funicello reportedly did not fully comply with the request; in her second beach movie, the young actress wore a two-piece fishnet suit and in the third, she wore a blue and white bikini that exposed her navel.

Despite her hectic schedule, Funicello found time for romance; even inspiring the 1960 song "Puppy Love" written by Paul Anka, whom she was briefly involved with. Due to her ability to sell a song, Funicello's recording career took off in the late 1950s and early 1960s, despite her reluctance at being considered a singer. Funicello recorded a total of 15 hit albums for Disney that contained pop songs such as "Tall Paul," "First Name Initial," "O Dio Mio," "Train of Love" and "Pineapple Princess." All songs made it to the Billboard Top 100. In 1994, Disney released a double-CD retrospective called Annette: A Musical Reunion with America's Girl Next Door.

Life onscreen seemed a fairytale for the wholesome actress, until the late 1980s when she first began noticing symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as multiple sclerosis, an often-fatal neurological disorder which eventually renders one paralyzed in both speech and movement. She was in the middle of production of "Back to the Beach," a 1987 spoof of her earlier sand-and-surf films that reunited her with her co-star Avalon, when she began noticing muscular problems. She kept her condition a secret for many years, and in spite of her increasingly obvious symptoms, went on a yearlong concert tour with Avalon.

To combat rumors that her weakening state was due to alcohol abuse, the former Mouseketeer decided to go public with her illness in 1992; the same year she was inducted as a Disney Legend. She said of her decision, "When the stories about my MS came out, everyone gave me their love and their prayers. I'm human, and sometimes I can't help but ask, 'Why me?' But I believe everything happens for a reason, and I know now that my mission is to help others raise funds for MS. The more I read about MS, the more encouraged I am. When I wake up in the morning, I like to imagine, this is the day I'm going to hear about an MS cure on the news." In 1993, she created the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation.

After her announcement, Funicello stayed mostly out of the limelight, but continued to make news as a spokesperson for MS. As an ambassador for the Society's "Walk for MS" event in 2002, she formed "Annie's Angels," teams who raised awareness of the challenges of the disease. Her 1994 autobiography, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story, was turned into a made-for-TV-movie, "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story" (1995). In the movie's final scene, actress Eva La Rue as Funicello was seen riding in a wheelchair with her back turned away from the camera. She faced a group of children, delivering a message of hope. In the mid-1990s, she also produced her own line of teddy bears for the Annette Funicello Collectible Bear Company. The last collection was made in 2004 when it was rumored Funicello was getting too ill for her beloved activism. After years of bravely fighting against MS, Funicello died on April 8, 2013, leaving behind an impressive legacy of sunny optimism both on and off the screen.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

3.
 Troop Beverly Hills (1989) Herself
4.
 Back To The Beach (1987) Annette
5.
 Head (1968) Minnie
6.
 Thunder Alley (1967) Francie Madsen
7.
 Fireball 500 (1966) Jane Harris
8.
 How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) Dee Dee
9.
 Ski Party (1965) Uncredited appearance
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1955:
Original cast member of the the Mickey Mouse Club
:
Asked to leave the Mouseketeers when she hit puberty
1957:
Feature acting debut, "Johnny Tremain"
1957:
Played exchange student Gina, "The Danny Thomas Show"
:
Regular on an adventure series, "Zorro"
1958:
Star of own shortlived series, "Annette"
1959:
Played role of Gina Minelli, an Italian exchange student rooming with protagonist Danny Williams's family, for a season of the long-running sitcom, "Make Room for Daddy/The Danny Thomas Show"
1963:
First pairing with Frankie Avalon, "Beach Party"
1987:
In first feature following 19 year break she is reunited with Avalon in sleeper hit, "Back to the Beach"
1989:
Last feature appearance, "Troop Beverly Hills"
1992:
Publicly admitted having multiple sclerosis since 1987
1993:
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
1994:
Co-wrote autobiography, "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes"
1995:
Made cameo appearance in the TV movie adaptation of her autobiography
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Notes

Funicello collects teddy bears and created The Annette Funicello Teddy Bear Company to market a line of designer bears

She also has her own fragrance "Cello, by Annette". Proceeds from the sale of the perfume go to her foundation

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Jack Gilardi. Manager. Married in 1965; divorced in 1981.
husband:
Glen Holt. Racehorse breeder. Born in 1930; married in 1986.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Joseph Funicello.
mother:
Virginia Funicello.
daughter:
Gina Gilardi. Marketing executive. Born c. 1966; married to businessman Jack Portman.
son:
Jack Gilardi. Born c. 1970.
son:
Jason Gilardi. Born on October 21, 1974.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes"

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