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article imageOp-Ed: San Francisco musician pays tribute to Annette Funicello Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Apr 10, 2013 in Entertainment
This reporter was saddened to hear the recent news about the death of Disneyland movie star and original Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello. What saddened me even more was the fact that she represented an era that is no more.
When on April 8, I read the initial report on line from TMZ as it appeared on the news billboards of AOL, Yahoo, etc. I was disappointed that a few things were omitted. Perhaps, I might be wrong, but I realized for a moment that the point of reference is changing. Or, rather it has changed and that the "institutional memory" of the contemporary media is at times absent.
For this reporter, the recollection of Funicello as the 'spokes-mom' for Skippy Peanut butter when I was a kid, stands out most in my mind. TMZ did not have that at first on its initial report. And, I also realized that when a movie star or celebrity dies or is immersed in tragedy, often that person's highlights or best attributes are over-shadowed. No offense to TMZ, the report was tabloid like, very similar to what people see at the checkout line in the supermarket. Mention of her struggle with Multiple Sclerosis and the damage to her home in 2011, in which some of the neighbors filed a law suit, against her. All that seemed foremost, while the more positive and upbeat of her life was dimmed.
I thought to myself, "I wish I could find someone who remembers Annette Funicello, that way I can write an article. Fortunately for this reporter, local San Francisco Bay Area musician and vintage rock and roll singer Dave Crimmen, paid tribute to Funicello on his web site. He noted that Funicello "charted 10 singles, three albums and starred in 19 films." Importantly for authenticity, Crimmen grew up in that era of Disneyland. When he is not on stage singing rock-a-billy songs, he is working as a historian for his beloved hometown of Broadmor Village an unincorporated part of San Mateo County, only minutes south of the City of San Francisco and near the Peninsula towns of Colma, Daly City and South San Francisco. He has also written a book of those days growing up in the 1950's entitled "Broadmor Village."
I have faint recollections because I was born at the end of the Baby boom generation in those post Second World War years. By the time I got to see Disneyland for the second time in 1973, its best days of what it was with Walt Disney were coming to an end.
I also remember that in the 1970's Walt Disney studios released re-runs of the original Mickey Mouse Club on TV. I recall my older brothers, sisters and cousins being thrilled at the news. Yet as we sat and watched those original episodes, they commented on how simplistic the program was. And, that the 1950's was a much simpler time, compared to the 1970's and TV programs like "All in The Family" and "Maude."
Still, regardless of its simplicity and "dated" aspects, Disney studios was savvy in forming a new Mickey Mouse Club, some years later for their Disney Channel venture in the 1980's. That new club spawned a new generation of pop stars, like Britney Spears, Christina Aguelera, Justin Timberlake and so on.
While, at the time in the 1970's when I was about 11 or so, I thought the "series" part of the original Mickey Mouse Club was the best. The original Mickey Mouse Club featured a set of series like "Spin and Marty," which often featured Funicello among other regulars like Tommy Kirk, Tim Considine, etc. The show also had guest appearances by the Lennon Sisters of the Lawrence Welk Show.
The Mickey Mouse Club was at the time of its inception a vehicle for Walt Disney to promote his most ambitious project at that time, "Disneyland."
On his web site  San Francisco Bay Area singer/performer pays tribute to screen and pop icon Annette...
On his web site, San Francisco Bay Area singer/performer pays tribute to screen and pop icon Annette Funicello who died on April 8, 2013 at age 70.
Thanks to the show's three-year run, Disneyland indeed became a success. Yet the original Mickey Mouse Club also provided Disney with some stars for his growing movie-making enterprise. Among those stars was Annette Funicello. She and Hayley Mills were the few young stars Disney kept in the traditional studio contract. Whereas, others were signed on to productions one contract at a time. All of the original Mickey Mouse Club members were released from contracts and only Funicello remained under a long-term contract. Fortunately for Considine and for Bobby Burgess, they were able to find work. Considine on the hit show TV "My Three Sons" and for Burgess on the Lawrence Welk Show. While the other original members went back to ordinary life, leaving stardom behind.
Interestingly, it was said, if I recall correctly, that she maintained the morality clause with Disney in her "beach blanket" films, even though she had moved on from Disney. This is why Funicello in those movies, never appears in a bathing suit or bikini that shows her belly button. Some sources dispute this. Yet, whether Disney himself did have influence or not, Funicello maintained the image.
Perhaps, that was the times because another popular actress of the time also did not show her belly button. That was Barbara Eden of the hit TV show "I Dream of Jeannie." Whether censors of the time permitted or not, Funicello maintained that boundary.
This is sort of ironic, because the celebrities of today, (especially those who got their start from the New Mickey Mouse Club of the 1980's) often show off more than a belly button. And, yet Funicello was stunning and alluring without having to do that.
In the 1990's when Funicello disclosed to the press that she had Multiple Sclerosis her sprit was still radiant. She showed courage and hope that perhaps ground-breaking medical treatment was on the horizon. It is in that hope and courage that I pray her life will inspire the future to find a cure for the illness that impacts millions of lives.
Funicello's generation represented an optimism and genuine character that is not present today. The troubles of contemporary America these days are froth with complexities and problems that make the 1950's a faded memory. This is why Funicello's death is a loss. Yet, through her films, music and of course Disneyland, she will be remembered.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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