Annette Funicello, who won America’s heart as a 12-year-old in Mickey Mouse ears, captivated adolescent baby boomers in slightly spicy beach movies and later championed people with multiple sclerosis, a disease she had for more than 25 years, died on Monday in Bakersfield, Calif. She was 70.
Her death, from complications of the disease, was announced on the Disney Web site.
As an adult Ms. Funicello described herself as “the queen of teen,” and millions around her age agreed. Young audiences appreciated her sweet, forthright appeal, and parents saw her as the perfect daughter.
She was the last of the 24 original Mouseketeers chosen for “The Mickey Mouse Club,” the immensely popular children’s television show that began in 1955, when fewer than two-thirds of households had television sets. Walt Disney personally discovered her at a ballet performance.
Before long, she was getting more than 6,000 fan letters a week, and was known by just her first name in a manner that later defined celebrities like Cher, Madonna and Prince.
On Jan. 9, 1965, Ms. Funicello married her agent, Jack Gilardi. They had three children, Gina, Jack Jr. and Jason Michael.
In 1981 Ms. Funicello divorced Mr. Gilardi. In 1986 she married Glen Holt, a horse breeder. Mr. Holt, who cared for Ms. Funicello in her later years, survives her, along with her 3 children, 4 stepchildren, 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
Ms. Funicello learned she had M.S. in 1987 but kept her condition secret for five years. She announced the illness after becoming concerned that the unsteadiness the disease caused would be misinterpreted as drunkenness.
She set up the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases and underwent brain surgery in 1999 in an attempt to control tremors caused by her disease.