Recently, I was playing around with an old wooden television cabinet. I am working on putting a new display in it and planning on hooking up a DVD player to the display. Watching black & white television shows from the 1950’s appeals to me.
The display is from an old computer, but the cabinet is from the time of the original Mickey Mouse Club television show. My Papa worked on televisions in much the same way as folks now build computers. It was his hobby and a form of income for him. I like touching stuff my grandfather touched.
Annette Funicello passed away last week; she was an original “Mouseketeer.”
I was born in the 60’s, but I’ve seen my share of reruns of The Mickey Mouse Club from the 1950’s. I remember Jimmie Dodd, the Head Mouseketeer. He often had little bits of advice encouraging children to make the right moral choices. It is doubtful you will find something like that regular television these days. If you do, I would be scared to think what some folks would now consider “the right moral choice.”
In the 1970’s, they came out with The New Mickey Mouse Club. I was a little old for the show by then. In the 1990’s, Disney brought in future stars Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera to be part of The All New Mickey Mouse Club. My children weren’t old enough to be interested then and neither was I (interested).
To me, The Mickey Mouse Club’s face will always be Annette Funicello. She is who I think of and who I want to see on my 1950’s television. I want to see her in black & white at 13 years old when television was better in my opinion. They say Walt Disney personally picked Annette as one of the original Mouseketeers.
In the 1960’s, Annette did a number of those somewhat hokie beach movies; everybody was doing them. They usually involved some bad guys or a funny guy like Don Rickles and of course, Frankie Avalon. They were silly; but you got to see girls in bikinis in living color.
Girls in two-piece bathing suits doing a lot of shaking and beach music seemed to be what they were selling.
Two-piece bathing suits were fine for everyone, except Annette Funicello.
Annette noted in 1987, "Mr. Disney said to me one day, Annette, I have a favor to ask of you. I know all the girls are wearing bikinis, but you have an image to uphold. I would appreciate it if you would wear a one-piece suit.”
She went on to say that she never regretted that decision.
Disney is different now. I remember watching The Wonderful World of Disney and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins. I’ve often wondered what it would have been like for Marlin to send his sidekick Jim (Fowler) down onto a beach full of bikini clad teenage girls while he (Marlin) advised from the helicopter.
Can’t you just hear Marlin saying, “Those two girls have Jim by the legs; teenagers can be a dangerous species in the summer. Watch out Jim! That seems to be a bikini top flying through the air.”
Unfortunately, we cannot regain the innocence of television of the 50’s and 60’s. However, we can control what our children watch.
Annette Funicello battled with multiple sclerosis (MS), being diagnosed in 1987. Her symptoms started off mildly, but gradually she was losing control of her balance and legs. Fearing folks might think she was drunk; she went public with the diagnosis in 1992.
She eventually lost her ability to speak and walk. Folks say, “She never lost her smile.”
We will never lose her smile.
Funicello was never hesitant to say what her faith meant to her. She even took the MS in stride, telling folks that, “He knows what He is doing.” She credited the debilitating condition with bringing her family closer together (if that was possible).
In 1999, she founded the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases. On the day of her death, the website was overloaded with visitors. Hopefully, they were being generous in helping to fund research on this evil disease.
She was one heck of a Mouseketeer and an even greater human being.
As they sing at the end of The Mickey Mouse Club, “Now it’s time to say good-bye.”
Godspeed, Annette Funicello.
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