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Annette Funicello: “Did you ever ask yourself”

With a quick, restless movement, Annette flopped over on her back on the pale green quilted coverlet and stared at the shelves on the wall above her bed. Sharon’s invitation to a party that weekend was propped up on the lower shelf, between the picture Guy Williams had given her when she did “Zorro” with him and the two throw pillows she’d gotten for her last birthday, the ones that had “Dangerous Curves Ahead” and “I-GO-4U” printed on them. “Please bring a date,” the card said. But it didn’t say where to get one.

Annette looked over at the white phone on the night table next to the bed. Should I call him, she wondered. We’d have so much fun . . . just like we used to . . . but what if it’s like that last time . . . what if he… Annette frowned at the figures on her wallpaper, couples dancing two by two . . . two by two. Why doesn’t someone else call? she questioned. Lots of boys used to call me. How did they ever get the idea I was someone’s girl . . . taken . . . out of circulation? She burrowed her head into the quiet, dark little niche made by her folded arms. She had to think. Soon thoughts became memories, lifting her out of the sun filled room with all the stuffed animals that were mementos of her appearances on the “Mickey Mouse Club” and took her back more than six months to Doreen’s swimming party . . .

Annette stood, straight and bright in her red bathing suit, at the tip end of the diving board. She was poised, just ready to jump when—Wham! Something hit her from behind and she fell into the water with a loud splash. Dazed, she came to the top and began swimming slowly toward the side of the pool. Just then a brown crewcut popped out of the water beside her. The eyes that went with the crewcut were blue, dark blue, and they were edged with thick lashes. Right now those eyes looked very worried.

“Gee, I’m sorry! I never meant to push you! Honest! The guys were just horsing around with me and, before we knew it, we were fooling on the board.”

“I’m okay,” she laughed, taking a big breath and shaking her head a little. “You just knocked the wind out of me.” He had jumped out of the pool and held out a strong looking tan hand. “Thanks,” she said. .And then she didn’t know what else to say. The boy just stood there, staring at her. She felt her cheeks grow warm with embarrassment and she lowered her eyes. Finally she said, “I. . . I don’t think we met. Doreen didn’t really have a chance to . . .”

“Oh,” he said quickly, helping her out, “I’m Sandy Howland. But I know who you are,” he continued, “You’reAnnette Funicello. I see you on the Disney show all the time. In fact . . . you know what . . . I thought you were just terrific in ‘Spin and Marty.’ I wanted to meet you an awful lot! So I’m glad this happened . . . since you didn’t get hurt, I mean. Well,” he finished, suddenly shy again, “I’ll see you later, I guess.” And he walked away.

Annette’s eyes followed him as he went back toward the others. He left in such a hurry, she thought, almost as though he wanted to get away from her. It was a pity because there was something so nice about him, a kind of naturalness or honesty. Yes, she liked him, she decided, snatching off her bathing cap and fluffing her feathercut out around her happy face. “I’ll have to freshen up my lipstick,” she reminded herself.

One hour passed—and then another. But Sandy did not talk to her again. She danced with the other boys and, as she whirled around, she searched for him, letting her black eyes inspect the little groups sitting around the edge of the patio. Once in a while she saw him, not dancing, not even talking to other girls, just standing around with two or three boys, their hands shoved inside the pockets of their fresh khakis. It was nearly time to go home before she felt someone tap her lightly on the shoulder.

“Sure you’re not mad about getting knocked into the water that way?”

“Sandy!” Annette’s tiny hand flew to her face in surprise. “Of course I’m not mad. It wasn’t your fault.” Just then Doreen put on the record for the last dance. Sandy threw his weight to the outside of his feet and rocked back and forth on the edges of his white bucks.

“I’m a lousy dancer,” he began, “that’s why I didn’t ask you before. But if you’ll be patient with me, maybe we could give this a try.”

“What makes you think you’re a bad dancer?” she asked after they had taken a few graceful turns around the patio. “You seem fine to me.”

“Gee . . . the truth is . . . I never danced this well before. You’re so light . . . almost like a little doll.”

She laughed. “It’s funny that you’d say that. My father calls me Dolly ’cause I was always lots smaller than the other kids my age.”

“You know,” Sandy began after a few minutes of comfortable silence, “this probably sounds pretty silly. But . . . did you ever go steady with anyone?”

“No. I know lots of the kids do, but going steady never made much sense to me. There’re so many interesting people to know . . .”

“Maybe you’re right. But,” he argued, sounding puzzled, almost disappointed, “I still think it’s wonderful for two people to really get to know each other and share everything they do.”

“It is wonderful,” she answered, “but I think that can happen even when two people aren’t going steady.”

Sandy grinned at her, a big grin that seemed to say thank you, thank you for agreeing with me, even just a little.

“Do you think I could call you sometime?” he asked just as the last notes of the record died away. And inside Annette, something seemed to collapse for relief, relief and happiness. Sandy did want to see her again.

On their first date, they laughed together at Jerry Lewis in “The Geisha Boy.” Other dates—horseback riding, tennis, a barbecue. Soon Sandy began dropping in at the Funicello household almost every Saturday afternoon.

“Dolly,” Mr. Funicello said, one Saturday, coming into the kitchen where Annette and her mother were polishing silverware, “there are four young men outside who look like they might tear the house apart if you don’t get out there and quiet them down.”

“Is one of them Sandy?”

“Sandy—hum. Does he have a crewcut?” her father teased. “I might as well admit it; one of them’s Sandy.”

“At least wipe the silver polish off your nose first,” her mother called after Annette.

“Hi!—all of you,” Annette shouted to the four boys who were standing on the porch. “What’re you doing over here? I thought this was the day of the big game. Ouch!” She bent over to examine her bare foot. “Darn it! I’ve got a splinter. Be right back.”

Instantly, Sandy’s face turned white. “You guys wait a minute . . . okay? Annette! Is it bad?” He dashed into the house after her. “Let me do it, Mrs. Funicello,” Sandy urged, his voice faint and tense. “I’m a first rate splinter surgeon. Honest!”

Surprised, Mrs. Funicello exchanged a quick glance with Annette’s father. But she moved back good-naturedly and handed a needle to Sandy.

“Here!” In a few seconds, he had it. He held up the tiny piece of wood, grinning proudly at the patient.

“Well, that emergency’s over,” Annette announced with a laugh. She and Sandy went out to the yard where the other boys were playing “keep away” with Annette’s younger brother, Joey.

With each date, Annette felt more and more sure that Sandy was somebody very special. He had a sweetness, an air of wanting to really be with her. Even when he had to overcome shyness, he seemed honest about his feelings. And he began asking her for two or three dates a week. “You know,” she confided one day to her friend Doreen, “Sandy asks me out so often I don’t seem to have time to see anyone else.”

“Before you know it, you’ll be going steady,” Doreen predicted.

“Oh, no, Doreen. You know how I feel about that. See you at my party on Saturday!” she called over her shoulder as she left Doreen at the soda fountain.

For months Annette’s friends had been looking forward to her sixteenth birthday party. At about six o’clock, they began to gather, filling the Funicellos’ yard with cheerful laughter. “How about some croquet?” someone called. And soon there was a game going at the end of the yard.

“Gee, Sandy never takes his eyes off you!” Annette’s friend, Sharon, said to her with a sigh that was almost envious.

Annette nodded proudly. She glanced toward the end of the yard where Sandy was playing croquet with the other boys. It was true. He kept watching her, his dark blue eyes tracing her steps as she went back and forth from the house to the patio with trays of hamburgers and rolls. “You’re prettier than any picture I ever saw,” he whispered after he came to help her with the heavy trays. A slow, sweet smile was her answer. And it was the only one he needed.

After they had eaten, the hayracks arrived, big lumbering wagons piled high with sweet-smelling hay and drawn by gentle old horses. “I want the front! I want the front!” someone yelled.

“But the back’s better!” was the answer. Yelling and shouting, they climbed up onto the hay, scrambling, stumbling over each other while they looked for their friends in the dark. Annette and Sandy curled up in the back of the wagon near their special friends, Doreen and Sharon and their dates, and Sandy’s friend, Terry Ralston. Annette and Sandy exchanged a long look of contentment. She smiled to herself as the hayrack swung slowly down the road. It rocked with a peaceful motion almost like a cradle.

“You know, Sandy . . .” It was Paul Carlson, Doreen’s date. He was always full of jokes. “I never have been able to figure out what you did to deserve Annette. She looks pretty special to me.”

It was not so dark that Annette couldn’t see Sandy’s face. For a brief, terrible second, he looked absolutely foolish. He took Paul’s teasing seriously—and there was no answer. Annette glanced at both of them quickly and then— “It’s because Sandy’s pretty special himself!” she shot back. “But thank you anyway.”

Just then the hayrack jolted to a stop beside a wooded area over which the full moon seemed to grin like a jolly man. “How’ll this do for a fire?” the driver called. They all agreed that it was perfect. Sandy jumped down and took the marshmallows out from under the driver’s seat while the other boys went off to pick up firewood. The girls shook the hay out of their hair and freshened up their lipstick with the help of pocket mirrors and flashlights.

Watching Sandy show the boys how to build the fire made Annette feel proud. She hadn’t been wrong; Sandy was special, very very special. And he didn’t have to tell her how much he appreciated what she said to Paul Carlson. Each time his eyes met hers across the firelight, they seemed to say thank you, thank you and perhaps much more.

Soon, the fire was blazing, sending up curling tongues of flame that lit the faces of the couples who formed a circle around it. “Let’s sing,” someone suggested. “How about ‘Mandolins in the Moonlight?’ ” Their voices joined and rose in one song after another until, finally, only four or five people were left singing. A peaceful quiet fell over the group as the fire gradually crackled and shrunk away into nothing more than a few glowing coals.

“I guess it’s time to go,” Annette said finally. She pulled herself reluctantly to her feet.

“Aw, gee! So soon!” several voices murmured. But they got up anyway, making rustling sounds as they walked back to where the hayracks waited at the side of the road.

When they got to Annette’s house and the others had gone home, Sandy asked if he could stay for a few minutes.

“Of course. Here, let’s sit on the swing,” Annette suggested. “Wasn’t it a beautiful party, Sandy?”

“It sure was.” He was staring into the distance, hardly aware that he was pushing the swing slowly back and forth with his foot. “I want to ask you something,” he said. Seeing her nod as if to say “go ahead,” he began: “This is pretty important to me, Annette. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and . . . well . . .” He faltered and began pushing the swing a little faster. “Well . . . I’d like to go steady with you.”

“Oh, Sandy!” she answered, laying her head back against the swing and taking a long breath, “I don’t know what to say.” She looked at him. “You know I like you very much. Well . . . more than I ever liked anyone else.” For a few seconds, the only sound was the creaking of the comfortable, old swing. “But—” She shook her curly head slowly from side to side. “I just can’t decide.” She waited—but Sandy didn’t seem to know what to say. “Maybe,” she suggested, “I could tell you later—next week—at the prom?”

“It’ll be a rough week for me,” he said, standing up. “At the end of it, I’ll either be the happiest guy in Studio City or the most disappointed one.”

And they said goodnight—softly. Annette watched him go down the walk and get into the car. She liked Sandy so much . . . and yet, she didn’t really want to go steady. How could she decide?

The dress Annette got for the prom was green, mint green linen—and the tiny, yellow rosebuds Sandy brought her were perfect. “What happened to my Dolly with bare feet and mussed up hair?” her father asked when she came down the stairs carefully, ever so carefully on high heeled pumps. As for Sandy, he could only say “Wow!”

As they were leaving, there was a phone call for Annette. She took it in her room and was back in a few seconds. “Ready?” she asked, thinking how handsome Sandy looked in his white dinner jacket.

Sandy nodded. But when they got outside the house, he stopped and turned his tense, white face toward her. “Who was that on the phone? What did they want?” he demanded. She thought he sounded timid—as though he thought he shouldn’t ask but couldn’t help himself.

“Who was it?” she echoed. “Well, if you really think it’s important, I’ll tell you.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Let’s forget it.”

They both tried to forget about the phone call. “It’s going to be a beautiful night!” Annette whispered as they entered the gym. The room was aglow with frothy paper lanterns. Strips and strips of gay crepe paper looked like clouds above them, while a whole constellation of stars twinkled down from the ceiling. Annette hadn’t been so excited since she was fourteen and went to the Foreign Press Awards in the Cocoanut Grove. “My first prom!” she murmured as they swung around the glossy dancefloor. “And I’m so glad I’m here with you!”

“You’re glad! Annette, you’re the prettiest, the liveliest, the most wonderful girl here! I keep pinching myself to make sure you’re real.” And he gave her a proud, tender look that made her feel like singing.

But as the evening went on, Annette found she couldn’t get the phone call out of her mind. Would going steady be like that? she wondered. Would she have to tell Sandy everything she did? Of course, she had always known he was jealous—but that was one of the things she had liked most about him in the beginning.

She could see the other dancing couples, some of them trading partners, getting to know lots of people I want to do that, too, she realized as she wached them.

“Hey, wake up!” Sandy gave her hand a little shake. “It’s intermission.” Hand in hand, they wove their way through the little groups of laughing couples. still standing on the dance floor. Annette could almost see Sandy’s chest swell with pride when he introduced her to some boys who had graduated a couple of years ahead of him. One, Tom Morris, was a tall blonde boy with clear grey eyes and a teasing smile. He looked a little like Tab Hunter, Annette thought, mischievous, but serious too. She liked him. And when he asked her to dance, she said “yes.” It wasn’t until later that she thought of Sandy!

“Have you ever grown up since you were twelve and I first saw you on the “Mickey Mouse Club!” Tom exclaimed. “Tell me about making ‘The Shaggy Dog.’ You must have quite a schedule to keep up with.” Tom’s interested mantle his quick smile made him very likable. Annette was sorry when the dance was over and he took her back to where Sandy was standing alone, watching them. He suggested going home right away.

They made the long drive in complete, painful silence. What hurt Annette most was that Sandy, he who had always been so frank and open, would not even look at her. Her hands began to tremble. How was she going to tell him she could not go steady with him? And she felt stiff, almost numb. Already, a kind of loneliness caught her up, swept her into an imaginary corner where she would have to sit alone.

It seemed like a week before they reached her house. Sandy parked the car, as carefully as ever, and just sat there, without a word, waiting for her to begin. She took a long breath. “I guess you won’t be surprised—” She heard her own voice as if from very far away. It was faint and weak behind the gathering pressure of unshed tears. “Well, Sandy, my answer to what you asked me last week . . . its no.” Of course, he would not look at her. But she had to make him understand! “Sandy,” she added softly, “as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t mean we can’t see each other anymore.”

“Yes it does,” he murmured, turning his unhappy face even more sharply away from her. “If you really liked me, you’d want to go steady with me.”

There was no answer.

“If I didn’t like you very much,” she began, suddenly feeling tired from the effort of trying to make him understand, “If I didn’t like you very, very much, Sandy, I wouldn’t go out with you at all.” But her words were useless. She couldn’t break through his terrible, hurt silence.

In a flash, she felt a new understanding of Sandy. “You can’t force people to love you!” she explained, her voice rising. “You can’t get people to like you by cutting them off from the rest of the world.” But he could not understand what she meant. She gave up, got out of the car, closing the door gently, and ran up the steps into the house.

And that was how it ended, Annette remembered, as she still lay, face downwards on the bed in her room. Lying there, she, thought, thought and realized that . . . no . . . she couldn’t take the chance that it might happen again.

She sat up and brushed back a curl that had fallen across her forehead After all . . . it wasn’t so surprising the other boys had stopped calling. Sandy had asked her out so often; she was usually busy when they tried to date her anyway.

Her eye fell on the small, white card inviting her to Sharon’s party. “Please bring a date.” Was it really a choice between asking Sandy or staying home? Hadn’t Sharon said something about her boyfriend’s cousin not having a date? Why not? Annette stood up and straightened her red capri pants with a decisive gesture. She caught sight of her own face in the mirror. It surprised her. For the first time in weeks, she looked almost happy. She walked over to the white telephone and dialed Sharon’s number.

Hello . . . Remember what you said the other day about Terry’s cousin—from San Francisco? . . . Oh; good! . . . I might not like him a lot, but that isn’t the point… Gee, thanks, Sharon . . . It makes a big difference to me . . . You know what? . . . I just realized something; it takes time to get back into circulation.” It takes courage, too, she said to herself as she hung up the phone.





It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MAY 1959

1 Comment
  • zoritoler imol
    24 Nisan 2023

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