These black-and-white photo cards, featuring Annette Funicello (and her facsimile signature: Best Wishes, Annette Funicello) as she appeared in her starring role on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” were sent in response to fan letters directed to the actress and received by the Walt Disney Studios. This particular card, however, was the popular Disney star’s personal file copy that she was given as a memento in 1957, and kept until her death in 2013. The item was then hand-selected by her surviving husband, Glen Holt, to be auctioned off for the exclusive benefit of the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases.
Funicello was born in Utica, New York, in 1942. Her family moved to Southern California a few years later, where she was discovered by Walt Disney at a dance-recital performance of “Swan Lake.” He signed her to his new weekday television show, “The Mickey Mouse Club,” which went on to become a runaway hit. Annette stood out as the most popular of the Mouseketeers, at one point during the show’s run receiving more than 6,000 fan letters a week. After the show ended in 1959, she transitioned into a successful music and television and film career, recording two top-ten hits (including the Sherman Brothers’ “Tall Paul”) and starring in television shows like “Zorro” and “Make Room for Daddy,” and films such as The Shaggy Dog, Babes in Toyland, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Monkey’s Uncle. Some of her best-remembered work outside the Disney Studio came in the 1960s, starring alongside Frankie Avalon in the successful series of Beach Party films. She acted from time-to-time in the decades that followed, but focused most of her attention on her home and family life. She was named a Disney Legend in 1992, the same year she announced that she’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the disease that would claim her life a little more than a decade later.