Today’s essay was inspired by Annette Funicello’s Facebook page. I was marveling at how a teen idol and Disney child star could have such a large following and leave such large footprints on social media when she is not only all grown out of her child-stardom, but is actually quite dead. I, however, who am technically still alive, work very very hard at this author-self-promotion-thingy, and I hardly make any headway at all in the ocean of the internet. So, I did what I always do when faced with the imponderables of this writing life. I drew a picture. I drew Annette naked. Well, that’s not entirely accurate either. I put clothes on her because, well, young-adult-genre authors don’t always have to think like a teenager.
You see, I am not mad at Annette. And my hormones no longer control the other things that once made me deeply regret the fact that Disney never let Annette appear in movies in a bikini, even the movies that were not Disney movies. When you’re twelve, there are different priorities than when you are 58. Hormones don’t do all of my thinking any more… at least, that’s what I tell my wife.
And part of what I still love most about Annette is the music. The Mickey Mouse Club was always about talented kids. They could sing and dance and play the drums, and they were as easily professional quality as many of the adults… and cuter to boot. Talented children have been a significant portion of my life. As an English teacher in middle school, I taught kids that were Annette’s MMC age. I taught them how to write and how to read, and occasionally I had to find other talents to promote and help those kids become winners in the great game of life. And, it may be cruel to say it bluntly, but some kids are downright ugly. Not merely ugly in terms of what they looked like, but how they acted and how they thought and how they felt about things. Racism runs deeply through children who’ve been taught thoroughly by parents before the teacher even meets them. Sometimes you have to dig around really deeply in the black pits of their personalities to find something bright and shiny enough to put the spotlight on. But it is always worth it. ALL CHILDREN HAVE TREASURE BURIED INSIDE THEM. And it deeply hurts that too many adults in every community can’t be bothered to dig for it.
I grafted a background on my picture of Annette to stress the fact that she is not naked in my picture. She was a very public figure and a good portion of her personal treasure was that screen personality that showed through and sparkled in every role. My favorite Annette piece is the movie Babes in Toyland which I saw for the first time at Grandma Beyer’s house in Mason City on her color TV. The songs from that movie still play in my dreams.