Off Beat: Amboy resident remembers fellow Mouseketeer Annette fondly

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During the last week, many members of a certain demographic were remembering a pop-star princess.

A local man was remembering a friend.

You only needed to hear their first names to know who they were: Cubby and Annette. They were among the original Mouseketeers when Walt Disney launched a kids' variety show on ABC television in 1955.

"We were all just kids. We used to play football and baseball together. We were having fun," said Cubby O'Brien, now an Amboy resident. "We weren't in cliques, we didn't have managers and agents."

O'Brien was the only working musician in the group as a 9-year-old drummer, but it was Annette Funicello who became the show's breakout star.

She died a week ago as a result of multiple sclerosis. O'Brien said he wasn't surprised by the news.

"We were put on alert," O'Brien said. A friend and former publicist of Funicello's "called us three days before and said she was in the hospital, and said they would stop life support to see if she could breathe on her own."

After "Mickey Mouse Club," O'Brien continued to perform, but rarely crossed professional paths with Funicello.

"When we did the 25th anniversary show for ABC, she was part of that."

Some of the former Mouseketeers did shows at Disneyland during the 1980s.

"We did that three or four years in October," he said. "It was always a lot of fun. Annette never really participated, but we'd bring her up on stage and everyone would go nuts," he said.

Funicello was a crowd-pleaser for decades, starting when she captured the hearts of millions of guys in the 1950s.

That concept — teen develops crush on TV star — went both ways, as it turned out. Disney had another popular series at that time, "Zorro."

"Annette had a big crush on Guy Williams," the actor who played the title character, O'Brien said. "She would go to the set and watch him film."

— Tom Vogt

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.