Annette Funicello

Annette Funicello

Actress ANNETTE FUNICELLO has died at the age of 70.

The former Mickey Mouse Club star, who became a national treasure in America thanks to a string of 1960s cult beach movies, including Beach Blanket Bingo and Muscle Beach Party, passed away at a Bakersfield, California hospital.

Funicello battled multiple sclerosis during her final years and reports suggest she slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness.

The actress went public with her condition 20 years ago.

Multiple sclerosis robbed her of her ability to walk and talk.

Funicello was one of the first Disney darlings after making her debut as a Mouseketeer in 1955 and went on to launch her own kids show, Annette, as well as other Disney vehicles throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, when she also enjoyed music success on the charts with songs like Puppy Love, Tall Paul and Put Your Head On My Shoulder.

Her movie career began with a string of hit surfing films, which often featured teen idol Frankie Avalon as her love interest.

Away from Hollywood, Funicello romanced singersongwriter Paul Anka, wed twice and had three children with her first husband, Jack Gilardi.