Hearing of the death of Annette Funicello was like learning that your first girlfriend–OK, the girl you fervently wished had been your first girlfriend–was gone.I mourn the passing of the girl and woman, but also of what she represented to boys of a certain age–that is boys currently in their 50’s and 60’s. We were all in love with Annette.
The reason was obvious. She was like the nice girl next door that blossomed into a beauty but would still talk to you.
We saw her grow up on the Mickey Mouse Club, and later in the beach movies that solidified her standing among the pantheon of first (and second and third) crushes for the boomer generation: Barbara Eden and Diahann Carroll and Tina Louise and Donna Douglas and Susan Dey and Maureen McCormick and, well, there were a lot of them. Most of them, we knew, were out of our league.
Maureen McCormick and Susan Dey would definitely be dating the high school quarterback, and Tina Louise a millionaire, though not that millionaire.
And our earliest TV crushes were often unattainable in another way: The beautiful TV moms like Donna Reed and Whitney Blake and Gloria Henry.
But Annette was like that girl you grew up with that didn’t exactly know how beautiful she was yet and might be able to look past her own mirror to see something in you that you were sure was there underneath the pimples and the squeaky voice.
She was dealt a tough hand with health problems that forced her to be both strong and beautiful.
She will be missed, and takes with her another little piece of my heart.