A few weeks ago, we previewed the Collecting Disney auction with Mike Van Eaton from Van Eaton Galleries. This past weekend, over 700 items of Disney history and memorabilia went under the hammer at this successful auction event. Two of those items were a sweater and a pair of mouse ears that belonged to Disney Legend Annette Funicello. Proceeds from the sale of those items went to benefit the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases.
Annette founded the Research Fund in 1993 to research the cause, treatment and cure of Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological diseases. In 1987, Annette had been diagnosed with MS, a chronic and often debilitating disease that attacks the central nervous system. Annette had the most severe type of MS, which eventually left her unable to walk or to speak. In 2013, Annette passed away at the age of 70 from the complications of MS.
Her legacy, however, will always be that of an actress, singer and eternal Mouseketeer. At the age of 12, Annette was the last child cast for Walt Disney’s original Mickey Mouse Club TV series in 1955. Fueled by her talent, good looks and girl-next-door charm, Annette’s popularity quickly skyrocketed, and soon she was receiving more than 6,000 fan letters per month—an astounding figure in a pre-Internet age. She appeared in numerous other Disney TV and movie projects, including Zorro, The Shaggy Dog and Babes in Toyland.
In the mid-1960s, her Disney contract behind her, she appeared in a series of popular “Beach” movies with singer Frankie Avalon. In 1965, Annette married talent agent and casting director Jack Gilardi, gradually distancing herself from show business to raise a family. The couple divorced in 1981. In 1986, Annette married her long-time friend, rancher and horse-trainer Glen Holt, who I’m happy to say is with us today in the Lounge. Glen was married to Annette until her death and helped care for her throughout her illness. Theirs is a story of great love, friendship and courage in the face of adversity. Also joining us today is Dave Mason, the director of development with the Annette Funicello Research Fund. Prior to the Van Eaton Galleries Disney auction, the three of us talked about how Annette’s personal items are benefitting the Research Fund, but most importantly, we talked about Annette herself: her life, legacy and place as one of Disney’s most iconic stars. We’re remembering Annette Funicello today in The Mouse Castle Lounge.
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