It's funny how the passing of someone from your childhood that you never met can affect you greatly. I'm talking about the death of Annette Funicello from The Mickey Mouse Club.
In the old days (15 years ago), you didn't find out about the demise of famous people until you watched the 5 o'clock news. Today, all news is instantaneous if you spend time online. There's all those cover stories on the way to my email and when Annette's face appeared, I stopped to read and it immediately saddened me.
When The Mickey Mouse Club came on TV in 1955, I was 6. But I remember going two doors down to my friends' house, where we girls would all sit in their living room to watch it.
Our neighbors were Italian and I remember just about every time that we turned on the show, one of them would remark proudly, "You know, Annette's Italian. I'm Italian."
I don't believe at that age I even knew what the heck I was, but I was always a little jealous that they seemed to have some connection with that little mouse-eared brunette star that I didn't share.
The Mickey Mouse Club was a common denominator for people my age. Back then, it was what one gathered together and talked about the next day at the "water cooler" - which for us was the playground at recess.
We talked about the most recent episode of "Spin and Marty" or what went on with Darlene (who was my favorite) in the serial "Corky and White Shadow." But Annette is the one who we followed into the teenage years. Who can forget all those bikini blanket movies that she starred in that we went to see while in high school?
Now, this wasn't the first time I had heard that Annette had died. I was probably about 8 when the rumor surfaced that she, Cubby, and Karen had been in a car accident and instantly killed. I remember we were all shook up about it. It was such a rampant rumor that they even squelched it on the evening news.
My mother explained that it was just a made-up story. Thinking back, with communication being what it was in the 1950's, to have a rumor spread so widely, so quickly, is kind of amazing.
The new Mickey Mouse Club that my daughters watched produced some name stars, such as Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, and Britney Spears (Walt must be turning over in his grave), while many of the original Mouseketeers from the 1950's have battled alcohol and drugs. But Annette remained scandal-free.
We all thought she would have a charmed life. Yet she had her own battles, with multiple sclerosis leaving her unable to walk and, eventually, even unable to speak. Recent photos of her, at 70, show she was still beautiful and more importantly, was always a lady who exuded nothing but class.
So a loving and fond farewell to our Annette, a childhood icon. You'll always be remembered.
Why?. . .because we like you.