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    Annette Funicello, Iconic Mouseketeer, Dead at 70

    Annette Funicello AP Photo

    She was the original Disney girl.

    Annette Funicello, the iconic Mouseketeer and 1950s teen idol, died on Monday. She was 70.

    A rep at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, CA, confirmed the passing, saying that Funicello died from complications due to multiple sclerosis. The official Disney fan club initially broke the sad news via Twitter.

    A founding member of TV's Mickey Mouse Club, the dark-eyed, dark-haired Funicello stood out among her white-bread costars, and became the ensemble's breakout star.

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    Like Miley Cyrus and others who would follow, Funicello used her TV fame as a springboard into music and the movies.

    On the pop charts, Funicello had a top 10 hit in the G-rated celebration of size, "Tall Paul." In the movies, she and fellow crooner Frankie Avalon rode the teen wave with a string of colorful and campy flicks, starting with 1963's Beach Party.

    All told, Frankie and Annette, as they were known to moviegoers, appeared together on screen 12 times. Owing to the relative influence of Beach Party, five of their opuses featured the words "beach" and/or "party in the title: Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Ski Party, Beach Blanket Bingo and the 1980s nostalgia trip, Back to the Beach.

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    One notable credit that was beach- and party-free: Funicello's inexplicable turn in the hippie-trippy 1968 Monkees movie, Head.

    Funicello was diagnosed with M.S. in her mid-40s, going public with her fight in 1992. Perhaps owing to her Disney upbringing, Funicello remained upbeat in adversity. The title of her 1994 memoir spoke to what she viewed as a fairy-tale life: A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.

    "My years growing up in the business were some of the happiest times of my life," Funicello said in the book, Who's Your Fave Rave?, "and having a boss like Walt Disney was a dream come true."

    Born Oct. 22, 1942, in Utica, N.Y., Funicello was 13 when she was anointed one of Disney's goodwill TV ambassadors.

    In March 2011, she was hospitalized for possible smoke inhalation following a house fire.

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