Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Rant #938: Goodbye, Annette
I am in mourning today, I really am.
Annette Funicello, who at least to me was America's sweetheart, died yesterday of the affects of multiple sclerosis. She was just 70 years old.
The lovely Annette first came on the scene in the mid 1950s as one of the kid stars of Disney's "The Mickey Mouse Club." She was one of numerous kids who were on the show, but she stood out from the rest, not just because of her singing, dancing and other theatrical talents, but because of ...
Well, yes, because of them.
In a much more conservative era than those that succeeded it, the 1950s were one where voluptuous women's figures seemed to be in vogue.
Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, Sophia Loren and others epitomized that era, and that led to America's fascination with Annette.
On the show, right before our eyes, Annette was maturing, and let's say, maturing very, very well. Even adults started to watch the show with their kids to see this phenomenon happening.
Yes, this young girl could hold her own in the figure department next to Monroe and the others, and America reveled in Annette's evolving figure.
Both during and after the show, Annette was building up a nice resume. She had become a singing star, with a couple of hits to her name. Sadly, the only record of hers that I own, "First Name Initial," has a beat up picture sleeve that kind of obscures her loveliness, but it is all that I have.
Anyway, she appeared in many, many movies and TV shows, including the remake of "The March of the Wooden Soldiers, "Babes in Toyland," which was far inferior to the original, its only asset, or assets, being Annette.
She also was on many TV shows, and had a semi-regular gig on "Make Room For Daddy."
But even the early 1960s weren't as conservative as the 1950s were, and people seemingly wanted to see what kids were doing in their spare time, especially California kids, and the exploitative genre of the beach movie was created, and was seemingly created to highlight Annette ... and her now very voluptuous figure.
A whole series of cheapo beach movies were released, such as "Beach Blanket Bingo" and "How To Stuff a Wild Bikini." Annette and her long-time pal Frankie Avalon starred in many of these, basically portrayed as the virginal couple against the forces of some type of evil.
Now, while these films showcased the figures of Annette and other women--including a very young Linda Evans--Annette's character was such that they had to downplay her assets, so if you watch the films, she is probably the most covered up of any of the female stars of those films.
Sure, those bathing suits showed plenty, but Annette didn't show as much, and that was done purposely.
But whatever the case, these films were like printing money, and each made millions upon millions of dollars in an era where you could show a lot, but couldn't show everything yet on film.
During this period, she married, had children, and rumor has it that she turned down Hugh Hefner's plea to have her pose nude in Playboy. She said she wouldn't do it because, to paraphrase, "Walt Disney wouldn't like it."
As the 1960s wound down, she kind of wound down too. She felt the need to become more of a full-time mother, so she kept her appearances to a minimum. She did appear in one of my all-time favorite films, the Monkees "Head" film, as one of the guest stars, and she was pretty ubiquitous in numerous commercials for Jif peanut butter. And she also appeared on numerous game shows too.
In the 1980s, with nostalgia running high on the 1960s, she was cast with her old pal Avalon in "Back to the Beach," a retro comedy about the beach.
Annette was missing lines, missing her cues, didn't feel well all the time and reports are that she had herself checked out, and the diagnosis was not a good one.
She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the debilitating illness that can rob one of muscle control, among other things. She finished the film--the movie was so successful that there was talk of more films and even a TV show based on the film--did promotions for it, but then faded off to deal with her illness.
She set up her own MS foundation, and progressively got worse with the disease.
Annette became the face of MS for as long as she could, but then the illness got her, and got her really badly.
At the time of her death, she reportedly was in an MS coma from the effects of the disease. She could not walk, could not speak, and needed around the clock care.
To me, Annette was one of the world's great beauties. She could have used her assets for all they were worth, but at the height of her fame, she decided that domesticity was her preferred way of life.
She will live on forever in all her movies, music and TV appearances as an icon for a different era, one where we knew when to stop when it came to personal sexuality.
Annette, to me, is one of the major symbols of that era, and I don't think that anyone who was around during that period will ever forget her.
I know that I won't.
Posted by Larry at 2:59 AM