One year ago tomorrow, Annette Funicello died. I didn’t write about her at the time, because things like that need to sink in with me. She was part of a special legendary TV show, but last year I didn’t think I had any reason to write about her.
I only knew her the same way all my friends knew her. Walt Disney happened to be in the audience when Annette was playing in an amateur production of Swan Lake. Mr. Disney knew she was destined to be one of his kid-stars for the Mickey Mouse Club show. She was the only “mousketeer” personally picked by Mr. Disney.
Annette was 12 years old then, six weeks older than me. I watched the show, but I didn’t fall in love with her. I really liked Darlene the most.
When Annette started her singing career, her first song went to #1 immediately. She was the first female “rock and roll” singer to hit #1. The song was “Tall Paul” and it’s still horrible. We were teens and so was she. My friends and I related to Annette the same way kids were into Miley Cyrus and her Hanna Montana thing…for a while.
When she started doing those silly Beach Party movies most of us were having kids, instead of surfing, so the old mouse club bonds ended.
We all have kid memories…teen memories…the heart wings beating of first love, ache and pain of lost love, and how all of our emotions as teens were multiplied and reinforced with the music, TV and movies of those times—Elvis, Jerry Lee, Buddy Holly, Paul Anka and Annette.
Each of their songs worked our imagination and we have never forgotten those feelings. We had no MTV to show us what the song meant…we allowed it to mean whatever each of us needed it to mean.
Paul Anka was hooked on Annette for a few years. He wrote hit songs for her. One of her biggest hits was a song Paul first named “Toot Sweet.” He re-worked the song and lyrics and Annette recorded it in 1959 as “It’s Really Love.”
He re-worked the song again in 1962, renamed it “Johnny’s Tune” and it became the signature opening song of the Johnny Carson Show. That tune was played five nights a week for over 32 years and supposedly Paul Anka received $200 every time it was played. Someone did the math on the total dollars paid. It came to over one million six hundred thousand dollars for the thrice-written song.
I lived 2500 miles away from those “Beach Blanket Bingo” years, and never dreamed Annette and I would grow older just 15 miles apart. One year ago, Multiple Sclerosis, which she battled for over 20 years, finally ended her life. A few months after my wife’s life was saved at Mercy Southwest Hospital, Annette’s life stopped there.
Fifteen years ago, my wife knew Annette’s step-daughter. The step-daughter’s husband was a fiddle player and a collector of fine violins. He unexpectedly passed away and his violin collection was being quietly sold. My wife purchased two lovely 18th century Italian made instruments, one of which she plays in the local symphony.
All of that information and $4 will get you a Starbucks. I’m still not sure I have any reason to write about Annette Funicello. She must have moved me, even though I liked Darlene better.