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Mouseketeer Annette Funicello Dies At 70

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Annette Funicello was the most popular member of the original 1950's "Mickey Mouse Club" television series. She's also remembered for starring in 1960s beach party movies. Funicello died yesterday at the age of 70, after decades of fighting multiple sclerosis.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco remembers her freshly-scrubbed public image.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Fans are laying flowers on Annette Funicello's Hollywood Walk of Fame star. When she received it 10 years ago, she said she owed her career to her mentor Walt Disney, who she called Uncle Walt, and his famous cartoon rodent.

ANNETTE FUNICELLO: For every important event of my life, Mickey Mouse is always by my side.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC THEME, "MICKEY MOUSE CLUB")

BARCO: Funicello was just 13 when she started on the "Mickey Mouse Club." She once told WHYY's FRESH AIR, there was a Mouseketeer code of conduct.

FUNICELLO: You're just a nice person, morally and physically. It was all good clean fun.

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BARCO: In the 1960s Funicello starred with Frankie Avalon in a string of bikini beach party movies, which they later satirized - good naturedly. She told FRESH AIR her sunny persona was genuine.

FUNICELLO: I'm not putting on any airs. I'm not trying to fool anybody. I'm a happy person.

BARCO: Funicello also sang on 32 albums, but is remembered most for her days as a Mouseketeer.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC THEME, "MICKEY MOUSE CLUB")

GREENE: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.