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Annette Funicello: America's Sweetheart: An Unauthorized Biography

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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 C 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. Marc Shapiro is The New York Times best-selling author of We Love Jenni - An Unauthorized Biography, The Secret Life of EL James, Who is Katie Holmes? An Unauthorized Biography, Legally Bieber: Justin Bieber at 18, J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter, Justin Bieber: The Fever! and many other best-selling celebrity biographies. He has been a free-lance entertainment journalist for more than twenty-five years, covering film, television, and music for a number of national and international newspapers and magazines.


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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 C 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. Marc Shapiro is The New York Times best-selling author of We Love Jenni - An Unauthorized Biography, The Secret Life of EL James, Who is Katie Holmes? An Unauthorized Biography, Legally Bieber: Justin Bieber at 18, J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter, Justin Bieber: The Fever! and many other best-selling celebrity biographies. He has been a free-lance entertainment journalist for more than twenty-five years, covering film, television, and music for a number of national and international newspapers and magazines.

49 review for Annette Funicello: America's Sweetheart: An Unauthorized Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    Pre-read thoughts: I need to start checking authors on NG more often when I request, but this is by the same biographer who wrote E.L. James's unauthorized biography that I read earlier this year. I'm going to give it a try though since this is written on someone I grew up listening to (some stories there, but too many to go into in this reflection), so we'll see how it goes. Post read thoughts: Bad enough I read a biography from this author that I completely didn't like, but he also managed to s Pre-read thoughts: I need to start checking authors on NG more often when I request, but this is by the same biographer who wrote E.L. James's unauthorized biography that I read earlier this year. I'm going to give it a try though since this is written on someone I grew up listening to (some stories there, but too many to go into in this reflection), so we'll see how it goes. Post read thoughts: Bad enough I read a biography from this author that I completely didn't like, but he also managed to screw up presenting details on a person I actually admire. Honestly, it's worth your time to read A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story, Annette Funicello's own autobiography versus this book, because all this book presents is just a compilation of information from that and from various secondary sources, plus the author's own biases. And there is under the bus throwing in this, which - despite him not naming names, doesn't make much of a difference if he's still doing it. Full review: I think the biggest way to sum up Marc Shapiro's biography of Annette Funicello is that it's poorly written, sensationalistic, and just downright patronizing, at least in it's respective tone. Shapiro evokes this image of Funicello as "America's Sweetheart," but it's almost like he's talking down to the reader and telling them what to think about her respective history and such, using the language of "we know she was/did such and such" and everything else. He doesn't approach her legacy with any kind of maturity. Annette Funicello had much to give to the world, not just with her sweet demeanor and portrayals on screen, but for the causes she worked for as well. I have a connection to Funicello in that her first name is a part of my name, and a close member of my family was named after her since my family member was born the same year that Funicello first appeared on the Mickey Mouse Club. I grew up listening to some of Funicello's songs like "Pineapple Princess," which was recorded in 1960. Some people may remember my status update where I posted part of the lyrics to that song on the day she died. The loss definitely hit home with me, and I do remember memories of seeing animations put to her music (some might remember DTV which broadcast back in the 80s, where various songs were set to Disney animations - Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and pretty much all the Disney gang were emotionally matched in fun, sometimes emotional montages to the music.) But tangents aside, my biggest disappointment was that there really wasn't anything new or constructive in Shapiro's narrative. You could just as well read Funicello's autobiography "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" and get more from that than you could in this narrative, even with the listing of her filmography and recordings included at the end of the narrative. Plus, Shapiro somewhat sensationalizes relations and makes it more of a "trainwrecky" narrative with great liberties taken in the delivery - taking shots at Walt Disney among a number of other figures, and it really is inappropriate in terms of showcasing Funicello's legacy and contributions. I'm not even sure why he went there. For a biography, that is not how you write it, and the biases were really in full view here. About the only thing that would be newer in terms of Funicello's life offered in this was more narratives leading up to the time she died. She was diagnosed with MS and suffered from complications in silence for quite sometime before she disclosed it to the world. There's a mention of when she made her last sitcom appearance on the TV series "Full House." (And I actually remember that episode.) She did so much to bring light to discussions and research for a cure to MS through her life, and with all that, Shapiro focuses somewhat on it, but then turns around and puts a bird's eye view on her debilitation condition, even saying at one point she "wasn't pretty." By that point I was just glad I was almost done with the narrative. Long and short story of the matter, skip this one. It does nothing to contribute itself as a good biography of a wonderful person and entertainer. Overall score: 0.5/5 stars Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Utena

    I loved Annette. I admit I grew up watching re-reuns of The Mickey Mouse Club from the early Disney channel and the beach movies my Mom would rent during the weekends whenever my Dad was out in the field on military maneuvers. So it was exciting to find a new biography out of Annette. I was disappointed. This book held nothing new that I didn't know by means of other books or by the movie she had on her life a few years ago. All it was just the same stories done by the point of view of the autho I loved Annette. I admit I grew up watching re-reuns of The Mickey Mouse Club from the early Disney channel and the beach movies my Mom would rent during the weekends whenever my Dad was out in the field on military maneuvers. So it was exciting to find a new biography out of Annette. I was disappointed. This book held nothing new that I didn't know by means of other books or by the movie she had on her life a few years ago. All it was just the same stories done by the point of view of the author. Nothing worth entertaining. It just fell flat.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    Very informative

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    It was a trip down memory lane, but so poorly reported and badly written. What a disappointment.

  5. 4 out of 5

    William K Russ

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sue Green

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tina

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie

  9. 5 out of 5

    Angela Mcghan

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christine Maxant

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karen Shelton

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  13. 5 out of 5

    Analy Medina

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kimberley

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stacie Shipman

  17. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carole Ann Kilichowski

    great insight into Annette's life and the obstacles she faced. She truly was a great role model for teens in the 60s....for me she truly was!!! Great person. So sad to know how her life took such a turn with MS; Yet her faith got her through. Reminds us to cherish the moments when we can. Life is not predictable. great insight into Annette's life and the obstacles she faced. She truly was a great role model for teens in the 60s....for me she truly was!!! Great person. So sad to know how her life took such a turn with MS; Yet her faith got her through. Reminds us to cherish the moments when we can. Life is not predictable.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lori Perkins

  20. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

  21. 5 out of 5

    Darcee Kraus

  22. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Zitsch

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Gates

  24. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kim Coomey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Doris

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Ranf

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carole Anderson

  31. 5 out of 5

    Shayna

  32. 4 out of 5

    Bernadette

  33. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Supinger

  34. 5 out of 5

    Diane

  35. 5 out of 5

    Barry

  36. 4 out of 5

    Renee Booker

  37. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer beck

  38. 5 out of 5

    Maria Elena

  39. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Stickann

  40. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  41. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Bawelkiewicz

  42. 5 out of 5

    Amber

  43. 5 out of 5

    Heather Roberts-Tortorello

  44. 5 out of 5

    Karen Supinger

  45. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Hover

  46. 4 out of 5

    Darby

  47. 4 out of 5

    Kayt18

  48. 4 out of 5

    Kari

  49. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Erickson

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