When I was 5 years old and saw Annette Funicello dance on the "Mickey Mouse Club," I felt as if I were witnessing perfection. Even viewed on my family's boxy, black and white television, she was like a goddess: beautiful, graceful, polite and exuding an innocent sensuality that seemed mysteriously powerful. She was the "It Girl" for us Boomers emerging into consciousness.
At 8, I wrote to Walt Disney at his office in Burbank, requesting an audition and asking him to please not let my parents know I had sent the letter. Unfortunately, Walt passed my entreaty along to someone in public relations, who sent me materials on Disney's upcoming show, "Zorro." "Zorro?" Who wanted to be in a show with a foppish man in a cape when you could sing and dance next to Annette?
In time, I learned to dance with my girlfriends to Motown, copying moves way sexier than Annette's. In fact, by the time I was 15, Annette's age when I first watched her, I couldn't imagine being a Mousketeer and wearing those ridiculous ears or nerdy pleated skirts and having to sing and dance with Jimmy Dodd and Uncle Roy -- ugh!
The country had also changed irrevocably by 1966, making the innocence and pluck of Annette and the other Mouseketeers seem like a bygone era. And it was.
But it turns out, Annette was a consummate entertainer without all the hype associated with young entertainers ever since. She didn't have a rap sheet or platinum status at an exclusive rehab center, or allow every inch of her body and soul to be branded. Annette was simply a talented and lucky girl who made the most of her opportunities, and was grateful for them.
You keep dancing, Annette Funicello...