Annette Funicello is famous as one of the first and most popular children in Walt Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club. As well as for her performances in the series of beach films that start with 1963’s Beach Party. In 1987, Annette diagnoses with multiple sclerosis. The debilitating disease that eats away at her nervous system in her remaining decades, leads to her death in 2013. Join Facts Verse as we explore the heartbreaking way Annette Funicello spent her final years.
Annette starts in the entertainment industry at an early age. She casts in the then-new Walt Disney program The Mickey Mouse Club. She becomes one of the show’s most popular performers and continues as a young adult in the film Beach Party. Starring in some Walt Disney feature films, including The Shaggy Dog.
Annette is notable for her lifetime including the time working as a spokesperson for Skippy peanut butter. It increases the public’s awareness of the star. Sadly, Annette’s career in the entertainment industry all came crashing down after 1987, when she diagnoses with multiple sclerosis. Annette spends the remaining decades of her life combatting the illness, both for her own sake and for future generations.
Annette was born on October 22, 1942, in Utica, New York. When Annette was still young, her family moved her out to the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. She’s only four years old and it isn’t long before she becomes a part of the city’s bustling entertainment industry. Her talent in singing and dancing as a youngster leads her to perform as a professional at an early age. She performs in Swan Lake puts on by Walt Disney at the Starlight Bowl, in Burbank, California.
It is 1955 when Annette performs in Walt Disney’s production of Swan Lake at the Starlight Bowl. She invites the mogul to audition for a new show that he is brainstorming. That show turns out to be The Mickey Mouse Club, Annette blows Walt out of the water during the audition. She brings the show and the significant time on the screen and becomes the most popular of the show’s performers.
The child performers on The Mickey Mouse Club dub the “Mouseketeers”. Annette is the most popular of them all during her time on the show. She is 13 years old when she takes up the gig. The children loved getting the chance to watch someone their own age performing on the screen. Not to mention the fact that Annette is an incredibly talented performer for her age!
Annette’s time on The Mickey Mouse Club took advantage of both her singing and her dancing skills. She grows to have a great deal of respect for Walt Disney during her time on the series. She stays under contract with the company for a period of time after leaving the show behind. Annette considers Walt to be something of a second father to her and claims he is a child at heart.
Her talent is going into her tenure at The Mickey Mouse Club. She claims that her time on the series is a great learning experience. Annette never shares any bad experiences about her time on the show that makes her famous, unlike other child stars. Instead, she continued to appreciate all that her time in the program had done for her career. After leaving The Mickey Mouse Club, Annette appears on other programs under the Disney brand and in some feature films.
There are other programs that Annette appears on during her time at Disney. It includes Zorro in 1957 and The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca in 1958. She plays in feature films. Her most memorable appearance in a Disney film is her turn in the 1959 comedy feature The Shaggy Dog. The Shaggy Dog is in the Disney features Babes in Toyland and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones. As well as the latter film’s sequel: The Monkey’s Uncle. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Subscribe to the channel if you’d like to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
During Annette Funicello’s later days with Disney, she decides to start appearing in features for a slightly older audience. In 1963, Annette appeared in the film Beach Party alongside Frankie Avalon. The film is a massive success, and it makes excellent that her Disney success puts her. The film ended up spawning several successful sequels, all of which Annette returned for. She and Frankie come back to the series two decades later to parody the concept in the 1980s.
The many sequels to 1963’s Beach Party include 1964’s Muscle Beach Party, 1964’s Bikini Beach, 1965’s Beach Blanket Bingo, and 1965’s How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. The films make Annette a hit with the teen audience. She capitalizes on her status as a teen idol by entering into a career as a pop singer. During this period of time, Annette released several successful singles that managed to enter the Top 40. These singles included “Pineapple Princess”, “How Will I Know My Love”, and “Tall Paul”.
Annette’s career calms down after the success of her beach films. Though she later revisits the beach alongside Frankie Avalon in the 1987 feature Back to the Beach. The film releases by Paramount and featured Annette and Frankie playing the parents of a couple of teenagers looking to get into the same kind of fun that they did in the 1960s. However, this film wasn’t the end of Annette and Frankie’s attempts to capitalize on their beach films later on in life.
Not long after Paramount’s release of Back to the Beach, Annette and Frankie teamed up for a concert tour where they performed many of the songs from their hit 1960s beach films. The tour was meant to take advantage of nostalgia for the era amongst the now-aging audience and was a modest success for the two stars. Sadly, Annette would announce some devastating news soon after the tour was over.
Having recently performed her successful tour with Frankie Avalon, Annette felt it was time to come clean to her fans about the battle that she had been waging for several years. In 1987, Annette had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. By 1992, she no longer felt like she was going to be able to hide the illness from the public, and she spent the remaining decades of her life growing increasingly more affected.
Once Annette came out with the news that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she began dedicating her life to combatting the illness. Not only did Annette attempt to ward off the effects that the illness was having on her body, but she also began fundraising for increased research into how the disease might be prevented for future generations. In 1993, a year after coming out publicly with her diagnosis, Annette founded an organization by the name of the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Disorders. As the name suggests, the point of the organization is to fundraise for increased research into neurological disorders, with a special emphasis on multiple sclerosis.
In addition to starting the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Disorders, Annette also started the Annette Funicello Teddy Bear Company. The company was created to market a range of collectible bears, much of the proceeds from which have gone to the actress’s research fund. Annette also created her own perfume called Cello by Annette, which also benefited neurological research.
Despite all that Annette did in her fight against multiple sclerosis, she still ended up gradually succumbing. Second husband Glen Holt aided her throughout her fight. The two had married in 1986, just a year before Annette received her diagnosis. Annette was previously married to Jack Gilardi, and the two had three children together. During Annette’s later years, she resided in San Fernando Valley with her second husband, the same place she had grown up.
Annette was 50 years old when she announced to the world that she had been suffering from multiple sclerosis for several years. In the time after the announcement, Annette slowly lost the ability to walk. At first, she could get around using a cane, but she eventually had to start relying on a wheelchair. Once she lost her ability to speak, the actress knew that it was time for her to leave the public spotlight.
During Annette’s battle against multiple sclerosis, she attempted many revolutionary methods in an attempt to combat the illness. One of these methods saw the actress have electrodes implanted into her brain to quell her tremors, while another saw her taking an experimental drug that resulted in a week-long hospital stay. While nothing ended up doing the trick for Annette, she remained optimistic that, somewhere down the line, a true answer to the problem of multiple sclerosis would be found. It was for this reason that Annette was so adamant about fundraising for increased research into neurological conditions.
Although Annette Funicello’s career in the entertainment industry sadly came to an end soon after her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, the actress still performed in many memorable roles during her early years. Comment down below to share how you best like to remember Annette Funicello, or if you were saddened to learn about how much she was affected by her illness during her later years. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!