After making a cameo in a series called “The Mickey Mouse Club” for Disney, viewers fell head over heels in love with Annette Funicello. Despite this, her life became much more challenging once she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the young age of 50.
The little girl was somewhat unknown before her debut on television; but, with her huge brown eyes and charming smile, she instantly captured hearts, which led to her being a highly popular character on the program.
Funicello grew into a beautiful young girl, which was another reason why she was admired by people from all parts of the globe. Her acting career took off when she made cameos in a number of classic beach movies starring Frankie Avalon at this time.
Unfortunately, the great actress’s life was not all rainbows and unicorns as she got older; rather, she struggled through some tough times along the way. Let’s have a look at some of the interesting things that happened in her life.
At the juvenile age of twelve, Annette Funicello catapulted to international stardom thanks to her lead role in Disney’s “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Annette Funicello represents the whole concept of what it means to be a child star.
She overcame her childhood timidity by enrolling in ballet dancing courses in the city of Utica, New York, where she was born. Following the relocation of Funicello’s family to Southern California in 1955, she was noticed by Walt Disney himself while performing at a dance performance.
The young lady was selected to star in the pilot episode of “The Mickey Mouse Club” out of around two hundred children who tried out for the role. Funicello was easily distinguishable from the other cast members of the program because of her friendly and vivacious demeanor, her bright grin, and her hair, all of which helped her stand out from the crowd.
Funicello was the most well-known of the three Musketeers, and as a result, she was showered with 8,000 fan letters each month. This was due to the fact that people watched the performance to see her sing and dance.
In 1958, she appeared in her very own television series called “Annette,” which consisted of 19 episodes. In the series, she played the role of a charming and naive orphan girl from the country who moves to a large city to live with her uncle and aunt.
She launched her singing career with the song “How Will I Know My Love” in one of the episodes. The song was the first of the gifted youngster’s many hit songs, and it was included in the episode.
In 1959, “The Mickey Mouse Club” was canceled after having been on the air for a total of four years. After that, Disney used her in a live-action fantasy film called “The Shaggy Dog,” and then, in 1961, they used her in “Babes in Toyland.”
Funicello brought her abilities and looks to American International Pictures with authorization from Disney. She appeared in a series of beach flicks including “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini,” “Beach Blanket Bingo,” and “Muscle Beach Party.”
Actor Frankie Avalon, who co-starred with her in these movies, said that the experience of working with the actress opened his eyes to the fact that she was unaware of the kind of adoration she received from both male and female admirers.
A departure from their usual genre, the couple worked together on the film “Fireball 500” in the year 1966. After another year, the actress made her debut in the film “After Thunder Alley,” After that, she stopped working as an actress and only made cameo appearances in a few films throughout the following decades.
While Annette Funicello was a guest star on the sitcom “The Mickey Mouse Club,” she became romantically involved with Paul Anka, who was also assisting the actress in developing her singing career.
When asked about her, Anka said that the actress’s reputation in the media was an accurate reflection of who she really was and that none of her virtuous appearances were fabricated by film studios or television networks. He said that “Not a malevolent word (was ever spoken against her)” in his explanation.
The actress achieved success at a reasonably early age and established herself at a time when pop music was only beginning to attract the attention of teenagers. The following is what Anka says:
“It seemed as if out of nowhere there sprang this adorable, kind-hearted, and really compassionate individual who stood out from the rest of the crowd. People were drawn to her because of her genuine nature and the endearing manner in which she carried herself.”
The couple’s relationship was frowned upon by Disney while they were only dating, and the company was unhappy with the concept that they were growing serious about their relationship.
Funicello’s heart was broken by Anka’s decision to end their relationship, and in 1960, he created the classic song “Puppy Love” about their time together as a couple. In addition, he said that his ex-lover girlfriend was charming and clever.
After that, in 1965, Funicello took everyone by surprise by marrying Jack Gilardi, who was Anka’s agent. Following that, the couple started a family and eventually welcomed Gina, Jack, and Jason into the world.
The actress said that being a mother and a wife was the most important thing in her life; yet, after 18 years of marriage, Funicello and Gilardi, who the media refers to as a rat, got a divorce. Funicello and Gilardi’s separation was widely reported in the media.
The woman who was already a mother of three went through with a second marriage when she wed Glen Holt, a thoroughbred trainer whom she had known since she was a young adolescent.
After that, she began thinking about acting in movies, but she ended up declining most of the jobs that were offered to her since the authors were attempting to modify her image by casting her in more mature and gritty roles.
Funicello made the devastating admission that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological condition, in the year 1992, when she was 50 years old. The stunning and lively TV celebrity had the most severe type of the condition, and as a result, she progressively lost the capacity to walk over the course of the subsequent years.
At first, she used a walking stick to help her get about, but as the condition progressed, she needed a wheelchair to go around, and she finally lost the ability to speak as well. After then, the singer and the actress mostly disappeared from public view.
The actress Annette Funicello was the subject of a biographical movie titled “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story,” which was released in 1995. Actress Eva LaRue portrayed Funicello in the movie, and she is quoted as saying:
“She was enraged despite the fact that this was not her normal temperament, and she believed that this was because she was imprisoned in this body. Her intellect was functioning perfectly, just as it always had, but she was stuck in this body that wouldn’t let her talk, wouldn’t let her move, and wouldn’t let her do anything at all.”
Fans were left wondering what had become of the formerly vivacious personality when her husband, Holt, stepped out to explain how the effects of chronic progressive multiple sclerosis (CPMS) had shown themselves in the celebrity’s life. Holt, who has been at his wife’s side ever since she received the first diagnosis, stated:
“When she was given the diagnosis… I assured her that I would look after her and that I would help her in every way that I could.”
Because of the severe decline in Funicello’s health, she required round-the-clock medical attention and had to be fed via an intravenous tube. Additionally, she required assistance getting from her bed to her wheelchair.
Even though she was in a very severe state, her husband, Holt, never gave up hope that one day she might get well. As a result, when he found out that Dr. Zamboni had developed a revolutionary and extremely controversial therapy, he was interested in learning more about it.
He had spent the previous 25 years attempting various therapies in the hope that she would get well. One of these treatments included having Funicello undergo surgery to implant electrodes in her brain in order to control her tremors.
Even an experimental medication that put her in the intensive care unit for eight days did not bring about any noticeable improvement in her condition. After reading as much as he could, Holt came to the conclusion that they would make an effort to get Zamboni’s therapies if he believed they might make a difference.
Following a discussion with Funicello’s primary care physician, Jeffrey Salberg, Holt accompanied his wife to see an interventional radiologist at Tri-City Hospital in Oceanside, California, by the name of Dr. Donald Ponec. The latter had some prior exposure to the innovative therapies.
Following examinations of the actress in September 2011 at a private hospital, Dr. Ponec came to the conclusion that her right jugular vein was obstructed, resulting in just a thirty percent increase in blood flow. Blood was flowing backward into her brain since her left vein had a total blockage, which caused the problem.
Funicello’s blockages were freed up in the hospital using a balloon, and a stent was placed in a vein in order to keep the vein open. However, the physicians did not share Holt’s optimism about his wife’s condition, even though Holt began to see improvements in her health quite quickly.
After the treatment, Holt’s wife was able to make it through the night without his assistance, while before, he would have to remain up for many hours throughout the night in order to remove saliva from her mouth in order to prevent her from choking. Nevertheless, in an explanation provided by Funicello’s physician, Salberg, he stated:
“Holt is aware that there are variations from day to day. I mean, to be quite honest, I am unable to see them; but, it is important to keep in mind that she has had this injury for a very, very long time; as a result, it has caused dreadful things to happen to her nervous system, and this damage cannot be undone.”
However, when she went back to see Dr. Salberg for her six-month follow-up appointment in October 2012, he found that her condition had significantly improved. Holt, who was steadfast in his belief that there had been advancements, stated:
“I notice changes. And you know that to me when you can see some changes as they usually say, where there is smoke, there is fire, I see something that is really good, and it needs to be examined more because it needs to be investigated.”
After that, Holt made the decision to go public with the information about her struggles in the hope that the actress’s devoted fans would make financial contributions to the “Annette Funicello Foundation for Neurological Diseases,” which he had established for the purpose of conducting additional research into the treatment that had helped her.
Dr. Ponec said that financing further research is the best way to find out whether the CCSVI medication developed by Dr. Zamboni may benefit patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. He was speaking in reference to Holt’s choice to ask fans for assistance. In addition, the actress’ spouse reported the following:
“I want to make an emotional connection with them so that they would come out and support our fund-raising efforts. I shall keep working to fulfill her dream of contributing to the search for a cause and a treatment. It is exactly what she would have wanted in that situation.”
1998 was Annette Funicello’s last appearance before the public, and it was the first time she did so at a Disney event. The next day, September 13, she was seen visiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society in California, where she was escorted by her renowned co-star Frankie Avalon. The tragic news broke on April 8, 2013, that the actress had gone away at the age of 70.