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Disney Mouseketeer Annette Funicello Dies at 70; Fought Multiple Sclerosis (CLIPS)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 8, 2013 at 1:40PM

I grew up with Annette Funicello. She was my favorite older girl on "The Mickey Mouse Club," a friendly face with a sweet voice. She started on the show in 1955 at age 13, the only cast member selected by Walt Disney himself after he saw her dance the lead in Swan Lake at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank. She also appeared frequently on long-running weekly show "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color."
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Annette Funicello
Annette Funicello


Oscar®-winning composer Richard Sherman, who, with his late brother Robert, wrote many of Annette's biggest song hits, said:

"Annette's sweet, unassuming spirit, her love of people, and her capacity to exude kindness and good feelings to everyone she met was part of her beautiful charisma. Because the songs we wrote for her brought us to the attention of Walt, Bob and I always referred to Annette as our 'lucky star.’  My wife, Elizabeth, joins me in sending a heartfelt aloha with much love to our 'Pineapple Princess.'"

Funicello went on to parody herself in Bob Rafelson’s 1968 film “Head,” opposite the Monkees. Funicello and Avalon returned to the beach in 1987's “Back to the Beach.” She and Avalon played themselves in “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story,” a 1995 telepic based on her memoir. 

She is survived by her second husband, Glen Holt and three children from her marriage to Jack Gilardi: sons Jack Gilardi Jr., a producer, and Jason Gilardi and daughter Gina Portman, and three grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations in Annette’s memory can be made to The Annette Funicello Research Fund.

See Variety's obit here.



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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.