Apr 8, 2016

Americas Sweethart Annette Funicello passes away at age 70

I heard the news three years ago today, that Annette Funicello had passed away.  She had lost her long battle with multiple sclerosis, which I vividly remember her first announcing back in 1992.  Even though Annette Funicello was a star of the Baby Boomer generation, it certainly didn't mean that me.. a Generation X-er, wasn't just as enthralled with her.  Even though I was a child of the 70s and 80s, and was very much a lifelong fan.

I vividly remember going to my grandparents house after school back in the early 70s, flipping on the TV, and watching old reruns of The Mickey Mouse Club.  Annette was always my favorite Mouseketeer.  There was just something about her that seemed comforting, relaxing, and real.

She came across as so sincere in her acting, that it actually felt as if she was speaking directly to me.  I was a huge fan of Disney's Zorro, and a two part episode Starring Funicello became one of my favorites as a kid.

Fast forward to my preteen years of the early 80s.  Many a Saturday afternoon was spent in front of the TV watching Monster movies, when somewhere around summer 1982.. I discovered surf and beach party films.  When I saw the movie 'Beach Party' starring Annette and Frankie Avalon, Annette once again caught my eye (albeit for totally different reasons than when I was six years old).

'Beach Party' got me hooked on the campy 60s surf flicks like 'Beach Blanket Bingo' and 'Bikini Beach'.  Those movies sure showed plenty of skin, but were wholesome enough to sit down with Mom to watch, and watch she did.

Whenever I was watching surf movies like this, my Mom would sit down and spend the entire time reminiscing about her youth.  She would tell me about how she would go hang out with friends at the beach as a teenager.  She would explain slang and vernacular that I wasn't familiar with.  She would also laugh at the hairstyles, clothes, music, and dance that she herself was in the thick of during the 60s.  I cherish those times, as it was at that point of my life that I realized my Mother was once someone else other than "Mom".  It made her more human to me, and from that point on I related to her much easier than ever before. 

Through the 80s and 90s, I remember seeing Annette everywhere on television.  She was an incredibly popular spokesperson for 'Jif' peanut butter, she would often be seen at Disney events and specials, and I recall on more than one occasion seeing her at Mousketeer reunions.  I specifically remember folks getting excited or fondly smiling and reminiscing when she appeared on television programming.  The mere sight of her would almost always garner responses from my parents like "Hey look it's Annette!"  It was always obvious to me that she had quite an effect on many folks besides myself.

Annette Funicello had that "special something" that very few actors have.  She could sing, dance, and act, but above all that, she was endearing.  Countless folks fell under her spell, and she is ingrained in pop culture and Americana as a result.  She will continue to be missed, but not forgotten.  Rest in Peace Annette. 

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