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A Tip Of The Mouse Ears To Annette Funicello, 1942-2013

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A Tip Of The Mouse Ears To Annette Funicello, 1942-2013

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A Tip Of The Mouse Ears To Annette Funicello, 1942-2013

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Annette Funicello made her mark with record albums, "Beach Blanket Bingo," and the Mickey Mouse Club.

(SOUNDBITE FROM TV SHOW, "MICKEY MOUSE CLUB")

THE MOUSEKETEERS: (Singing) Now, it's time to say goodbye to all our company.

CORNISH: The singer, dancer and actress has died at the age of 70. She had battled multiple sclerosis for 26 years. NPR's Mandelit del Barco has this remembrance.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Annette Funicello was devoted to Walt Disney, who famously discovered her when she was just 12 years old. She was the only Mouseketeer Disney hand-picked to be on its TV show in 1955.

(SOUNDBITE FROM TV SHOW, "MICKEY MOUSE CLUB")

ANNETTE FUNICELLO: And now the Mickey Mouse Club presents Annette.

BARCO: Annette became wildly popular and when the show ended, she was the only Mouseketeer to remain under contract to Disney studio. Funicello wanted to Americanize her Italian name, but Disney told her not to. She told WHYY's FRESH AIR that helped her career.

FUNICELLO: I think it was the name Funicello that stuck in their mind.

BARCO: Starting in 1962, Funicello teamed up with Frankie Avalon for a string of bikini party movies. She told NPR in 1993, she had Disney to thank once again for keeping her image wholesome by asking her to wear a modest two-piece swimsuit.

FUNICELLO: He said, would you mind not exposing your navel. He said, I know all the girls will be bikini-clad and I would like you to look different. Is that OK with you? And I said, of course, it's OK.

BARCO: Over the years, Funicello reunited with Avalon to satirize the beach party genre. She made her last TV appearance in 1986. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE FROM TV SHOW, "MICKEY MOUSE CLUB")

MOUSEKETEERS: (Singing) Y, why? Because we like you. M-O-U-S-E.

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