Annette Joanne Funicello
was an Italian-American performer born in 1942. In 1955, she became one of the original Mouseketeers, the cast of child actors in the "Mickey Mouse Club",
performing various musical and dance numbers. She soon became the most popular Mouseketeer, monthly receiving about 6,000 fan letters by the end of the first season of the show. She was chosen to co-star in various television serials broadcasted as part of the show, including her own "Walt Disney Presents: Annette"
(1957-1958). The show ended in 1959 but she remained under contract with Disney.
She landed roles in television series produced by the company (such as Zorro) and various live-action films. Disney also promoted her singing career, Funicello released several pop record hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Then she moved to become a teen icon by starring in the "Beach Party" film series (1963 - 1965). Walt Disney, considered her mentor for years, requested that she only wear "modest bathing suits and keep her navel hidden" to maintain her Mousekeeter reputation. Instead she wore fishnet suits and bikinis, thrilling the male audience.
In 1965, Annette got married and went into semi-retirement, only making brief appearances in films or television for the rest of the 1960s. She made a hand full of television appearances in the 1970s and 1980s, starred in the television film "Frankie and Annette:The Second Time Around" (1978) and the film "Back to the Beach" (1987).
The later was intended to be her come-back to prominence but she started suffering from dizzy spells while promoting it. It was the first sign of her health starting to fail, ending her career prematurely.