Monday, October 22, 2012

Rant #828: Annette's Birthday

Every summer, when my family and I are ready to go on vacation, I highlight this right here with a picture of Annette Funicello in a bathing suit.

I seem to think that having a picture of her here in a swim suit signifies that summer is finally here for myself and my family.

Today marks her 70th birthday, and while her current quality of life isn't as good as one would hope it would be, her life has been a special one.

As one of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers, Funicello's popularity was one of the earliest instances of the power of television.

Kids tuned in daily to watch her and her fellow Mouseketeers, and parents tuned in to see Funicello literally grow up in front of the camera, from a child to sort of a woman-child.

Because of her obvious talents--and yes, those included her physical attributes--she became the star of the sho, and was maybe the first kid star of the new television generation to get such coverage by the mainstream press.

It just shows how good genes can really make you a star.

But she backed up her good genes with lots of talent, scoring not only with TV audiences, but also with record fans.

She placed 10 songs on the Hot 100 between 1959 and 1961, including a couple of major hits, such as "Tall Paul," "O Dio Mio," and "Pineapple Princess."

During the pre-Beatle years, she was one of the top female singing stars.

But she was no longer a kid. She was a woman, and she had to move into roles that signaled that she was no longer a little girl anymore.

With her musical career fading, she became the belle of the beach movies, those mid-1960s youth fests that showed plenty of flesh without showing much of anything.

Made on the cheap, movies like "How Do You Stuff a Wild Bikini" and "Beach Blanket Bingo" made millions, and Annette and Frankie Avalon led a troupe of viral kids in these movies.

Lots was suggested, but these movies were often as tame as "The Mickey Mouse Club" was.

But they showed Annette in her bathing suit throughout the films, which was great for the box office.

Later, she got married in real life, had a family of her own, and moved out of those films, but became a big star in TV commercials, including for Skippy Peanut Butter.

When she pitched something, you bought it. Her credibility factor was quite high.

Launching a film comeback in the 1980s with the highly successful "Back to the Beach," something was found to be amiss with Funicello's health.

She was found to have multiple sclerosis, and the disease quickly sapped her of her strength. She can no longer walk or speak, from reports that I've read, and she needs around the clock medical care.

She has fought a brave battle against various health issues for the past quarter century or so, and every once in a while, her name gets into the news.

There was a house fire a few years ago that nearly killed her, but she continues on.

Although she has been ill for so long, Funicello continues to be a popular figure on the Web.

Her Facebook site--unofficial, and not run by her or her family--has thousands of members, and her recordings continue to be re-released on CD.

And "The Mickey Mouse Club" is out on DVD, and occasionally gets airings on TV.

So now reaching 70, Funicello has hit another personal milestone.

Here's to Annette, and I hope that her quality life is as good as it can be for the rest of her life.

She deserves it.

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