Tuesday, April 9, 2013
To Absent Friends: Annette Funicello
In the world of the Internet and Social Media, the 18 hours or so since the death of Annette Funicello at the age of 70 was announced can seem like a million years ago. If you are at all interested, you already know of her death, and I am breaking no news here. However, the mere fact that the news of her death was so ubiquitous (my own Facebook news feed, and I have fewer than 200 friends on FB fairly exploded with posts and comments about Annette) caught me by surprise, but after reading the obituaries, perhaps it shouldn't have.
Discovered by the Disney folks in 1955, she became the breakout star among all of the adolescent Mouseketeers. Only a single name, Annette, was needed to identify her, and in that sense, she predated people like Cher, Madonna, Prince, and Bono by decades! She went on to star in the benign Beach Party movies with Frankie Avalon in the early 1960's, and released a few record albums, but for the most part, TV commercials for Skippy peanut butter aside, she devoted most of the rest of her adult life being a wife, mother, and grandmother, and when she was dealt a bad hand and stricken with multiple sclerosis as an adult, she devoted much of her time and energy raising funds for medical research to find a cure for the disease.
It was an admirable life that ended way too soon, so no wonder this news created the stir that it did.
As it happens, I was at the car dealer this morning while my car was being inspected, and Paul Anka was on the CBS Morning Show to plug his newly released autobiography (which sounds like it will be a good read, by the way). Anka and Annette were romantically linked as teenagers back in the 1950's - Annette was the inspiration for "Puppy Love" - and he spoke very warmly of her.
Now, if you live in Pittsburgh and were regular listeners of the O'Brien and Gary morning radio show, you know that Annette's fame received a sort of "rebirth" for local listeners when that regularly played one of her recordings from many years ago. I present it here as a final tribute.
RIP Annette Funicello.