On April 8, 2013, actress and singer Annette Joanne Funicello passed away. Born in Utica (NY) on October 22, 1942, to Italian-Americans parents - Virginia Albano and Joseph Funicello - she moved with her family to Southern California when she was only four years old. They lived in a trailer park until her father, a mechanic, found work.
Annette loved dance and music; at an early age she took dancing lessons and learned to play drums. At 12, she performed as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, California: Walt Disney was in the audience and he personally cast her as one of the original "Mouseketeers" of the Mickey Mouse Club, the extremely popular children’s television show that began in 1955.
At 16, Disney offered her a studio contract: first a role in “The Shaggy Dog,” Disney’s first live-action comedy, then “Zorro”, the famous television series, and a part in Danny Thomas sitcom “Make Room for Daddy.”
She transitioned to a career as a singer with the singles “O Dio Mio”, “Tall Paul” and "Pineapple Princess", and became the youngest member of Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars Tour, which included LaVern Baker, the Drifters, Bobby Rydell, the Coasters and Paul Anka. Paul Anka became her boyfriend; he wrote “Puppy Love” for her in her parents’ living room. She was seventeen.
Annette and Frankie Avalon starred in a series of beach movies together, beginning with “Beach Party” in 1963.
On January 9, 1965, she married her agent, Jack Gilardi and they had three children, Gina, Jack Jr. and Jason Michael. She apperead in a few movies and occasionally on television, but her main concern was to be a mother.
In 1981, she divorced Mr. Gilardi, and in 1986 she married Glen Holt, a horse breeder.
In 1992, Annette announced that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She died from complications of the disease 21 years later; Mr. Holt, who cared for Annette in her later years, survives her, along with her 3 children, 4 stepchildren, 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
WWW.ANNETTECONNECTION.COM is the official website of Annette Funicello and The Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases.