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Monday
Apr082013

Former 'Mouseketeer' Annette Funicello Dead at 70

VINCE BUCCI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Actress and singer Annette Funicello, the best-known member of Disney's original Mouseketeers, has died, ABC News has confirmed.  She was 70 and had battled multiple sclerosis for many years.

A massive teen star and TV icon in her day, Funicello became a household name at age 12, starring on Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s.  According to Variety, she was the only member of the cast selected by Walt Disney himself.  She appeared in a variety of other Disney shows, and made her feature film acting debut in 1959's The Shaggy Dog; a role in 1961's Babes in Toyland followed.

As is true of Disney stars to this day, Funicello also kept up a parallel music career, releasing a string of albums and hitting the top 10 in 1959 with the song "Tall Paul."

In the early '60s, Funicello teamed up with fellow teen idol Frankie Avalon to star in a series of movies that included Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo and Muscle Beach Party.  In 1987, the two reunited for Back to the Beach.  In 1993, she and Avalon played themselves in the 1995 TV biopic A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story, based on her memoir.

Funicello's battle with MS, which she revealed in 1992, eventually robbed of her ability to walk and talk.  She's survived by her second husband, Glen Holt, and by her two sons and a daughter from her first marriage to casting agent Jack Gilardi.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio