Thursday, June 6, 2013

Annette Funicello: America's Sweetheart by Marc Shapiro

I am thrilled to have published this wonderful, rich biography of Annette Funicello that was 16 years in the making.

When Annette was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1997, one of Marc Shapiro's publishers approached us about writing her biography.  Marc did the work and conducted a series of original interviews, and then they decided to shelve the book.

When Annette passed away in April (on my birthday), we set about getting the rights back and Marc filled in the missing 16 years in record speed, and with new perspective.  This book is his loving tribute to an amazing woman who both defined her time and was a product of it.

During her four decades in the spotlight Funicello literally defined pop culture, but biographer Shapiro makes clear it was not always an easy ride. Annette Funicello: America’s Sweetheart looks at her life and career from all angles all sides, the ups and downs.

Shapiro’s stories gain power and rare insight through the author’s exclusive interviews with fellow performers Carl Gardner (of the group The Coasters), Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, Tommy Sands, songwriter Richard Sherman and many others from Funicello’s colorful life. The beloved Disney star and TV and movie icon has told her story before, but it has never been told this way.

Shapiro takes readers through her early days as Mouseketeer in the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club. Chosen for the role in 1955 by Walt Disney himself, she became the most popular Mouseketeer. She then ushered in a new era of teen-friendly movie high jinks in the Beach Party movies with her co-star Frankie Avalon. As a pop singer her biggest hit was 'Tall Paul,' which was a huge hit in 1959, and 'Pineapple Princess,' which was a big success in 1960.

“If there was a constant in Annette Funicello’s relationships with men, it was that they were older, inclined to encourage and yet control,” Shapiro says. “Beginning with her father, Joseph, through her first big romance with singer Paul Anka, her first marriage to Jack Gilardi and second to Glen Holt, the common denominator was that the men encouraged her and, in their own ways, guided her in personal and professional directions that they felt were best for her. And Annette, being the good Catholic girl, coming from a very sheltered upbringing, felt most comfortable with men who would make decisions for her. This is part and parcel of a 50s and early 60s attitude when young girls stayed with their parents until they married and then moved in with their husband. Annette knew as much when, in the wake of her divorce from Gilardi, she indicated that she might have been a different person if she had spent some time on her own,” Shapiro adds.

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