Annette Funicello starred with Frankie Avalon in a series of "Beach Party"
movies in the 1960s.

She moved from Mouseketeer ears to a "Beach Party" bikini to fame with a
generation for selling peanut butter and gently poking fun at her own
And in the end, she faced the biggest test of her life, a decades-long
battle with multiple sclerosis, with strength and courage, hoping her own
experience could help others. Actress, singer and former Mouseketeer
Funicello died Monday at age 70, The Walt Disney Company confirmed in a

Funicello "died peacefully from complications due to multiple sclerosis, a
disease she battled for over 25 years," the company said. The actress
away Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, Calif.
Born in Utica, N.Y., Funicello moved to California at age 4 and was discovered by Walt Disney himself when she was just 13. She was cast in
"The Mickey Mouse Club," which debuted in 1955, and quickly became the most popular Mouseketeer. She would move on to careers in both singing and acting, often combining the two, as when she sang and acted in the "Beach Party" movie series with teen
idol Avalon. Her attire in those films was a topic of discussion, as it was widely reported that Disney asked Funicello to cover her navel even while in swimwear, and she wrote in her autobiography that she did so. But photos and
websites point out that her navel was indeed exposed in three of the "Beach Party" films.

Funicello had a series of pop hits in the 1950s and 1960s, including "Tall Paul" and "Pineapple Princess." Liner notes on one of her albums fondly dubbed her "Queen of the Beach." She became one of the most enduring pop-culture images of that decade, starring in comic books and a series of Disney-approved Nancy Drew-style mystery books.
In 1979, Funicello starred in a series of popular commercials for Skippy peanut butter. She poked fun at the commercials in the 1987 movie "Back to
the Beach," which reunited her with Avalon and parodied their beach-party
era. It was while working on "Back to the Beach" that Funicello first noticed signs of multiple sclerosis. She was officially diagnosed in 1992, and
established the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Diseases in 1993.

Funicello was always open about the disease, saying "I think you only have two choices in this kind of situation. Either you give in to it or you fight
it. I intend to fight." Fight she did, but even the perkiest of Mouseketeers could not fight off
the ravages of multiple sclerosis. Funicello's later years saw her confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak, her hands and arms permanently curled. Her
second husband, horse breeder Glen Holt, gave a lengthy interview to "W5," a Canadian news magazine television series, in which he discussed Funicello's
> condition. In the program, Holt is seen caring for Funicello, whom he fondly calls
"Annie," brushing her hair, moving her from bed to wheelchair and taking her to the doctor and for wheelchair rides in the sun. "I talk to her," he said. "She understands me in her own type of way." Holt said that Funicello's fame made her prey to a "parade of charlatans"
with false cures, but that the couple did find some hope in a procedure that
opened up the actress' blocked jugular veins. After the procedure, Holt said he could perceive slight changes in his wife's condition -- she became
able to swallow on her own, blink on command, and appeared to be trying to respond to his questions. He noted that Funicello would have wanted her experience to help others,
saying she told him that "if we did find something that would help me, maybe we could help many, many other people."