Disney has confirmed via Twitter that Anette Funicello, former Mouseketeer who was also a popular singer and big-screen star of the 1960s, has passed away at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California at the age of 70.
We’re sorry to report beloved Disney Mouseketeer and iconic teen star Annette Funicello has passed away at age 70: twitpic.com/chyte0
— Disney D23 (@DisneyD23) April 8, 2013
Though best remembered as the original Mickey Mouse Club’s best-loved Mouseketeer, the actress was immensely popular thanks to her roles in the “Beach Party” films alongside co-star Frankie Avalon, including Beach Party (1963) and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). Her popularity was also owed, in large part, to her status as a fashion plate within the sand-and-surf genre, famously baring her navel in trendy two-piece bikinis over the course of three films, against the expressed wishes of Disney.
In addition to her status as a TV and film star, Funicello would also go on to become a fairly successful singer, producing a successful string of hits such as “Pineapple Princess” and “Tall Paul” in the 1960s.
In 1992, Funicello refuted claims that her diminished capacity was the result of alcoholism, announcing to the world that she had been suffering from multiple sclerosis since 1987.
Though she had been out of the public eye for close to fifteen years, Canada’s CTV provided an update on Funicello’s condition in 2012, revealing that the one-time Disney star had lost the ability to walk in 2004, followed by the loss of speech in 2009.
Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, spoke warmly about Funicello, in a statement:
“Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word Mouseketeer, and a true Disney Legend. She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney’s brightest stars, delighting an entire generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent. Annette was well known for being as beautiful inside as she was on the outside, and she faced her physical challenges with dignity, bravery and grace. All of us at Disney join with family, friends, and fans around the world in celebrating her extraordinary life.”
Via: LA Times