ANNETTE FUNICELLO——–22 October 1942—-8 April 2013
(PHOTO CREDIT: listal.com)
On one hand, learning about the death of Annette Funicello, just a few short days ago, came as no surprise. She had prepared us for this via press announcements several years ago, taking the type of responsibility that she had grown up with as a person in the public eye, at a very early age to let us know that she was up against something that would claim her. She handled this with confidence & grace, befitting an entertainment star. On the other hand, nothing at all could have prepared many of us for the sorrow & sadness of this huge, symbolic loss of our childhood. Growing up under threat of nuclear attack, Cold War insanity, Fallout Shelters– amidst all that grown-up-centric horror, was the sweet innocence of the Mousketeers, televised on The Mickey Mouse Club. While the entire cast & crew contributed to the wonder & success of that show, none came close to the popularity, nor will be as present in the collective memory of us aging ‘Baby Boomers,’ than the fun & perpetually buoyant presence of Annette Funicello.
She simply stood out from the others in a way that cannot be totally articulated, animated, bright, someone you might daydream about as being a special friend. Perhaps, on some level, it was show business, but children who grew up with this special friend, I think, felt a connection to a happy time that was unfettered by the clutter of technical distractions, a respite of fun & child-like fantasy enjoyed & cherished by millions of little souls oblivious to the political & social forces that would sweep them as a generation into the Viet Nam Era & a country ripped apart by the inequities of racism, economic philandering, and political ineptness.
Now, all that joy has dimmed. It’s too long ago & too far away to touch us in the way it did when we were “age appropriate.” Many of us are already gone, and what is left of that youth for those of us still around who are old enough to remember Annette, is fading. Her loss is a not-so-gentle reminder of this inevitability. Yes, we do need to hug each other, while we can.
The way she faced up to the disease that eventually claimed her far too soon was admirable, fully dignified. She faced adulthood, not as a child star scarred with insurmountable problems, but as a grownup who had a past that was a treasure that endured, but did not seem to overwhelm her, nor totally define her person. She had moved on. So, must we all, but some time of sadness & quiet grief over her loss is appropriate. She will be missed.
Goodbye, Annette Funicello, as we sing M I C K E Y M O U S E, Rest in peace.