Today, the Magic Kingdom — and the nostalgic boomers who yearned to make her either their girlfriend or their best friend — are mourning the death of Annette Funicello, the teen idol whose sunny, perky screen presence defined the ’50s and ’60s. The boys in Stand By Me lusted after her; Grease‘s Rizzo mocked her (“would you pull that crap with Annette?”); Paul Anka, whom she dated, wrote “Puppy Love” for her in 1960, thus setting the boyfriend bar impossibly high.
Funicello succumbed to complications of multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease from which she’d suffered since 1987. Her MS effectively removed her from the public eye; after appearing in an episode of Biography in 1996, Funicello stayed offscreen until last year, when a documentary about her aired on Canadian TV.
Given how long it’s been since Funicello was well enough to act, it might be tough to remember why she was beloved enough in her heyday to receive more than 6,000 fan letters a week. But, thanks to YouTube, it’s easy to look back at the highlights of Funicello’s career — starting with the song that introduced the tweenage future star to audiences across America.
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