It's Never Too Soon
The pretty, dark-haired girl smiled to herself. A reassuring boyish whistle followed her down the street, proving once more what she already knew in her heart.
"I've grown up at last," Annette Funicello thought. It was an exciting, if somewhat frightening thought to the 16-year-old.
Entering the adult world is an exciting venture for any young girl. For Annette, becoming an adult seemed to be a sudden, rather than a gradual process, bringing her all at once face to face with the shiny new world she had dreamed of as a child.
No longer was she the cute-little Mouseketeer, with the short skirt and cheerleader sweater who had been the darling of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club. Instead, she had blossomed into a lovely young woman who makes her screen debut in the film, The Shaggy Dog. Like all teenagers, Annette was anxious to cast aside her last links to childhood and tell the world that it was true -- little Annette had grown up!
Annette decided the first thing to change would be her name. Annette Funicello was too long -- hard to remember and difficult to pronounce. Funicello would have to go, she thought. From now on, she would just be "Annette."
Next on the agenda was a new wardrobe -- skirts, sweaters, dresses, high heels -- all to show off her pretty young figure. Annette went on a shopping spree and was delighted with the results!
Now she was ready to face the new world, a world that promised so many wonderful things. For Annette, it offered more than the usual whirl of dances, dates and fun that delight the ordinary teenager. A career in television and the movies lay ahead of her. It was a challenge and Annette wondered a little uneasily if she was ready to accept that challenge.
"It's all a little frightening, growing up and being put on your own. But it's something everyone has to face sooner or later, and it's never too soon to begin," she smiles.
Never to soon ... how true this was, for Annette. Born in Utica, N. Y., Annette moved with her family to California when she was four, and began her career a year later.
Annette's first interest was dancing. She studied ballet and tap dancing and amazed her teachers with the ease with which she caught on to the steps. One of them remarked, "Annette has the gracefulness and ability to be a really fine dancer."
Annette has never lost her interest in dancing. Even today, she studies dancing, along with acting, and other subjects. But her career was to include more than dancing.
When she was only 9 years old, Annette first came to the public's attention. She won a beauty contest and was named "Miss Willow Lake." This launched a career in modeling for Annette and brought her to the attention of Walt Disney. At the age of 12, she became one of the original Mouseketeers and a television regular.
Since then, she has entered both the record and picture making businesses. Her first record, "Tall Paul," was a big hit and Annette intends to make more.
About recording, Annette says, "I feel a little uneasy when I am making a record. Perhaps after I make a few more I will get a little more confidence in myself."
The teens seem to enjoy watching Annette while she sings, if their response to her performance on the Dick Clark Show is any indication. Annette, who sang her song dressed in a typical teen outfit of a plaid skirt, baggy sweater and white bucks, received a tremendous ovation.
Another teen favorite, Bobby Darin, appeared on the show. Annette had always admired his singing and she was thrilled when she got the opportunity to meet him.
Bobby, on the other hand, was equally thrilled about meeting Annette. After they got together and began to talk shop, Bobby and Annette discovered that they really had a lot in common.
Both are tremendously ambitious and they both work hard at their careers. They take pride in their singing and neither will settle for less than a polished, perfect performance.
Neither Bobby nor Annette are the least bit temperamental. Both have reputations for having pleasant dispositions and being easy to get along with.
A friend of Annette's recalled an incident which she said is typical of her. "One evening Annette was making a guest appearance at a benefit, where it seemed just about everything had gone wrong.
"Stagehands were running back and forth, half the scenery was in shambles, and the announcer was just about ready to tear his hair out. In the midst of this, several of the stars decided to get 'prima donna.'
"In contrast, Annette remained her sweet, good-natured self. She did everything she could to help out and even put off donning her own costume and stage make-up until the last possible moment."
Another thing Bobby and Annette found they had in common was their sense of humor. Both enjoy a good laugh every now and then and both have the same zest for casual, unpretentious living.
Both dislike night-clubbing and dress-up dates. When they're away from the cameras, they like to relax in casual clothes.
With so much in common, Bobby and Annette seem very well suited to one another. Right now, however, Annette is just a little too young for Bobby. An age-gap of more than five years separates the two and only time will tell if they really are suited to one another.
Meanwhile, both are keeping busy with their careers. Annette's latest venture, as Gina on the Danny Thomas Show, has proved highly successful.
A real performer, Annette enjoys acting on television. No matter how blue she is, Annette says, she always perks up when she hears the cry, "Lights, camera, action ..."
Annette's real love is the movies. This, too, is a little frightening to her, since it is so new. However, she says playing opposite Tommy Kirk in Shaggy Dog was lots of fun.
"I really look forward to a career in the movies. There's just nothing to compare to the thrill of acting," she says.
All so new and yet so frightening ... but what has helped Annette through these trying times is the comfort and security of her family. Annette comes from a warm, loving family and her mother has done her best to make her home a haven of rest and security for the family.
The Funicello family, which includes Annette and her two younger brothers, Joe, 12, and Michael, 6, live in Studio City, California. In spite of her many activities, Annette always manages to find time to help her mother with household chores.
"I really don't like housework, but I do manage to clean my room and help a little around the house. My parents always insist that I do my share and I guess, in a way, they are right," she confesses.
"I never worried about being shy," says Annette. "Usually I would just find out what was interesting to the other person and discuss that subject for a while. Once in a while, I do find myself becoming suddenly reticient, but it doesn't happen too often."
Yes, Annette has found ways to bridge the gap into this new world. But it is still frightening to a young girl, who has taken on big responsibilities at an age when a girl's thoughts should be on parties and dates and that special boy.
Annette has been too busy to look for that special boy. She dates occasionally, but her world is too filled up with school and rehearsals and other lessons to make room for a steady boyfriend. She is too busy finding herself and getting acquainted with the new Annette, who has the courage to face this strange, exciting world.
She has the courage because she knows she is facing what every young adult before her has faced. She is young, but in her own words, it's never too soon.
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