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Annette Funicello

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Annette Funicello, OK, I admit it: Annette Funicello was my first dream crush. Mind you, I didn’t fall in love right away. Because, after all, when “The Mickey Mouse Club” premiered in 1955, I was barely out of diapers. (And as Woody Allen reminded us in “Annie Hall,” “Even Freud speaks of a latency period!”) But when the five-day-a-week series went into syndicated reruns in the early ’60s, I was a goner the first time I tuned in.

Like millions of other guys my age at the time, I fell in love with that vivacious young beauty with the bright, beaming smile. And, as the show continued, the conspicuously blossoming, ahem, womanliness.

Joe Leydon
Of course, there were other attractive ladies on the airwaves. There was Mary Tyler Moore flitting about in Capri pants throughout various episodes of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” And while some of us couldn’t understand quite why Gomez (John Astin) was so attentive to Morticia (Carolyn Jones) on “The Addams Family” — we couldn’t help paying attention to her, too.

But those and other prime-time persons of interest were women. (Like — yikes! — our moms.) Annette Funicello was different. She was our age, or close enough. And we couldn’t get enough of her.

Unfortunately, there never was enough.

British novelist and critic L.P. Hartley was right: The past really is a foreign country — and, man, we did things very differently there.

In the early to mid-1960s, an era before cable, videocassettes, DVDs and the Internet, if you wanted to follow a star, well, you had just so many opportunities for star sightings.

You missed “The Mickey Mouse Club” — and Annette — on Friday? Sorry, bud: You had to wait until Monday for another glimpse. And even later, when Annette branched out into movies — you actually had to leave home and go to a movie theater to see her.

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