We lost a beautiful person today when Annette Funicello left us. From her earliest childhood, she was physically lovely. But her true beauty was of her spirit as it shown from her remarkable eyes.
Okay, I'm old enough to remember the very first episode of The Mickey Mouse Club - seriously. On that day I was six years old and in the first grade. The program came on in the afternoon. So, like most kids of my generation, I came home and plunked down in front of the television set. Of course, there were days when cowboy shows were on and I grabbed my cowgirl hat, cap pistols and my rocking horse to ride along with them, but that's another story.
But as usual, I digress. I watched The Mickey Mouse Club, mesmerized to see the talented kids perform. But there was this one girl, clearly she had to be a princess she was so beautiful. And this was no golden-haired blue-eyed princess (the media standard of the day). This girl's eyes were as dark as mine, with hair to match. Wow! My eyes followed her every move. Her shirt had "Annette" written on it. Seriously, watching that show helped me learn to read faster as I learned the names of the Mouseketeers.
I was hooked and watched the show every time it was on the air. This went on for several years. As she grew up, she started appearing in serials on the show, putting her in situations of teen aged life. I watched them all. My mom got me products with Annette's image on them. I always got an Annette item or two for Christmas.
When I was a young teenager, I went to see Annette in the Beach Party movies. All you had to say was Annette was in it and I went to see it. Even though I knew the movies were pretty silly, I loved them anyway.
Eventually even Annette grew up and lived a grown-up life with a husband and children of her own. You'd see her once in a while in tv commercials. She was a spokesperson for Skippy Peanut Butter and made several commercials for them. They would have nostalgia pieces about the Mickey Mouse Club or the Beach Party movies.
In the late 1980's she was teamed again with Frankie Avalon in a new Beach Party movie in which they played the parents of teen aged children. It was fun and good to see them again. But it was during the publicity tour for that film that Annette showed her first symptoms of muscular sclerosis.
I remember after her diagnosis was made public Frankie Avalon gave an interview and talked about her difficulties in doing the dance steps during the tour. They toured with a live show in conjunction with the film.
In the 1990's, she appeared on QVC selling her own line of teddy bears. I used to love to watch the shows. She was so sweet with everybody, the show hosts and the customers who called to talk to her. But then she started calling in to the shows instead of appearing in person. And finally, they presented her bears without her at all. She was having issues with her speech. And then she stopped selling her beautiful bears completely. She wasn't able to participate in the company she had built.
I read today that she lived twenty-five years after being diagnosed. Her husband was her caregiver.
In the obituaries and tributes I've read today, everyone said she was a sweet, genuinely kind person from childhood through her illness. She was said to have a smile for everyone she met.
She started a foundation for research and assistance to people who have the disease that ultimately took her life.
I knew that lovely princess could do no less.
Thank you Annette for sharing your gifts with us, not only your performing abilities, but your sweet and gentle spirit.