The Walt Disney Co. says Annette Funicello, who went from Mouseketeer to beach party movie icon, has died at age 70. Funicello was born in Utica.
Funicello stunned fans and friends in 1992 with the announcement she was suffering from multiple sclerosis. Yet she was cheerful and upbeat, grappling with the disease with a courage that contrasted with her lightweight teen image of old.
The pretty, dark-haired Funicello was just 13 when she gained fame on Walt Disney's television kiddie "club," an amalgam of stories, songs and dance routines that ran from 1955 to 1959.
Cast after Disney saw her at a dance recital, she soon began receiving 8,000 fan letters a month, 10 times more than any of the 23 other young performers.