It was an odd and emotional week, with the return of Mad Men, and then the death of Annette Funicello. I think it's fair to say the '60s may officially be over.
The AMC series -- for those fanatics who find the clues where we can -- seems to have reached the beginning of 1968. It is the year many also considered the beginning of the end of all that peace and love. And Annette? Well, for many of us, she represented that innocence we would soon lose forever.
I remember the very day my mother insisted I stop playing ball with the boys, and stuck me in front of our small black and white TV set. "Why can't you watch this show like every other girl in America"? she asked. An hour later, I was hooked and never looked back.
Full disclosure: Sharon was my favorite Mouseketeer. Maybe it was my first act of rebellion, but somehow I knew everyone else was in love with Annette. I was drawn to the spunky little one who was also the best dancer on the program. Annette was almost too perfect and she didn't need my vote.
My mother later said she rued the day, as I became nothing less than obsessed. I sent away for the ears, the pleated skirt, the white shirt (which said Sharon instead of my own name). I forced my mom to call The Disney Studios to see if I could try out to be a Mouseketeer. (Forget the fact I had no talent of any kind.) My best friend Maudie and I used to wear our costumes to school and spent much of the fifth and sixth grade performing songs that were done on the program. Scrapbooks? You don't want to know.
One of the greatest days of my life was when my parents took me to the recently opened Disneyland. The great surprise was that the Mouseketeers were doing a live show that day. I still remember every song each performer sang. Annette was in a pink tutu while Jimmy Dodd (the grown-up one) crooned, "Ask the birds and ask the bees and ask the stars above. Who's their favorite sweet brunette?" (Sharon was in a cowboy outfit and sang "I didn't know the gun was loaded...")
We ran from land to land to stand in line for the Mouseketeers' autographs. There was one that seemed to go on for miles. It was, of course, for Annette. My mother found someone in charge to ask where Sharon was. Panting with excitement, I found her sitting with Roy -- Jimmy's rotund cohort in the show -- and not one person was waiting for an autograph. Sharon was adorable, if surprisingly chubby. I still have the photos. I don't think I smiled that hard for the next 20 years.
The Mickey Mouse Club was only on the air about five years, which is amazing since I remember every routine, every serial, ("Spin and Marty," anyone?) every discarded member of the B-team of Mouseketeers. In the end, there were only nine. Cheryl and Annette, arguably the two prettiest, have now passed.
More than anything in the world, I wanted to be a Mouseketeer. But what is it like to have been one? I recall showing up to do an interview at a record company where I was greeted by a rather dowdy, middle-aged secretary. The placard before her said "Doreen." I thought, "It couldn't be." And then I noticed the framed photograph of her in the Mouse ears. Yep, Doreen Tracy, who, by the way sang "chante, chante, sing a little Paris song" that day at Disneyland.
There is no denying the fact that when one thinks Mickey Mouse Club, one thinks Annette. She was the only one who remained a real star, at least as long as she wanted to be. I bought her records, saw the movies. It was not so much that I was enamored of her as it was that she was my youth slipping away.
And now, she is gone.