What Happened To Those Wedding Bells?—Paul Anka & Annette Funicello
Paul is eighteen. Paul Anka, that is. And I’m seventeen. I know I’m still very young but already I’ve learned a lot about love. And when I say love—I do love Paul. And he loves me. We’ve known each other for over a year now. We met at a dinner one night and right away we got along well together. I think we’ve grown up a lot in that year, but in a way we’re still kids, I know. I think maybe men are always boys and perhaps it’s the girl who has to be more mature. Like the day when Paul’s dark eyes were dancing with—well, sort of mischief, as I finished my song one afternoon recently on the Dick Clark tour.
“Annette,” he said, leading me off into a corner of the dark stage, “I have a wonderful idea. Let’s go shopping for a snake.”
Paul is completely unpredictable and full of surprises. But this time I knew exactly what he had in mind and the two of us giggled so loud we had to be shushed.
I forget the name of the town we were in. Our tour with Dick had gone on for two months and one city sort of melted into another. But anyway, we started out on our errand together, still laughing.
Ever shop for a snake? A snappy rubber one that has plenty of bounce? It’s not easy, as we found out, but finally we found one in a novelty store that was just right.
All through the evening show, I kept thinking of that rubber snake and almost laughed out loud during my song. And later that evening on the train, as I peeped through the curtains of my berth, I saw Paul tiptoe down the aisle and carefully slip our purchase near the feet of my substitute tutor, who’d been pretty strict.
Suddenly she leaped from her berth with a yell like a Comanche on the warpath and went tearing down the train aisle screaming her head off. My mother, who was in the berth next to mine, thought Jesse James had come back for another holdup.
I just lay there and laughed, stuffing the sheet in my mouth so no one could hear.
And then, as the train wheels ground out their noisy offbeat rhythm and the lights of passing towns flashed through my window I stopped laughing. I had realized something I hadn’t thought about before—men can be little boys all their lives.
A boy can be moody, and strange and complicated. Paul is. I never know what to expect or what mood he’ll be in when I see him. Or when he telephones. And even though I’ve learned to adjust to his moods, I admit it takes a lot of understanding.
Doubts and troubled waters
He’ll telephone me from New York and we’ll talk and talk, as happy as can be.
A few evenings later, when he telephones, I’ll say—and mean it with all my heart—“I miss you, Paul.”
“I’ll bet you do,” he’ll come back, and suddenly we’re back in our old routine of doubts and troubled waters again. Or maybe he’ll call and say, “Okay. Who have you got there now?” And I try so hard not to be hurt. For the truth is, when Paul is wonderful he makes up for all the bad times. And he’s wonderful a lot of the time. Odd, I admit it, but wonderful, too.
Paul calls me long-distance at least twice a week and we talk for a couple of hours. His phone bills must be terrific! We talk about our day, what’s happened to us, how we miss each other. He has usually written another song and he sings it to me over the phone. He asks my opinion and I always tell him the truth. Even if I don’t like it too much. I’ll tell him, “Paul, you’ve written better things than that.” Some numbers that I haven’t liked he’s never released. I kind of hope it’s because of me. I loved the numbers that made it—even before they did.
I look forward to his calls but I never call him. Even when I go to New York and he’s in New Jersey, I don’t call him. He knows when I’m going to New York and he finds out where I’m staying. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I don’t think girls should phone boys—unless it’s to invite them to a party or something like that.
Through Paul I’ve learned love can be a happy thing and terribly sad thing, too. Sometimes we’ll sit and talk seriously for hours and sometimes he’ll pour out his heart to me and I’ll understand and be happy. Other times, he’ll listen quietly to me as I talk. Yet sometimes he’s moody and doesn’t want to talk at all. And then I try not to feel hurt.
“Annette,” he said to me one day, “I know you through and through. I know how you think and what you’re like deep inside.”
He doesn’t. I don’t believe any boy knows what a girl is really like. And I learned this one day when he returned from New York and asked me what I’d been doing and who I’d been out with and where I’d gone.
I told him that mostly I’d been to the studio for interviews or gone to the movies with my best friend, Shelly Fabares, who is on “The Donna Reed Show.”
“Aren’t you going to ask me about my dates?” he asked me.
“No, Paul. We have our friendship and our happiness in being wonderful friends. Other things don’t matter,” I told him.
It didn’t make him happy at all. But the very next day he drove out to the house in wild excitement. He’d brought along two water pistols. For two hours we squirted each other. We were absolutely drenched, but we’d had a wonderful time. I know my mother thought we were both crazy and my eight-year-old brother Mike seemed surprised at two grown-up people behaving like kids.
But somehow, it eased all the hurts and doubts that comes from Paul’s insecure feeling for me. And mine, too, in a way, for Paul can needlessly make himself unhappy. When he’s unhappy, I am too.
I’ve talked a lot about this with my mother. Some nights I crawl into her bed and we talk about Paul for hours.
I’ve come to think that his problem is lack of assurance—or a kind of insecurity. And I don’t know why. It isn’t that he hasn’t had appreciation and affection at home. His family is thrilled at his success. Of course, he had to make it on his own, but so have most of us.
Sometimes I think Paul became a success too young in life. Did you know, he was only fourteen when his song “Diana” made him famous? Since then he’s been almost around the world on concert tours, singing the songs he wrote.
I remember one young actor talking about Paul’s aggressiveness in undertaking this tour. He seemed to envy Paul his confidence. I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking of Paul’s telephone call from Rome a few days before. “Annette, I don’t think I can finish this tour,” he had said. And he seemed so weary and so much like a little-boy-lost that I could have wept. And they say Paul Anka is forward.
I’ve learned some men, even more than women, need constant assurance. Especially about how his girl feels toward him. I’m not ashamed to say that I keep telling Paul how very much I care for him. I write him twice every week when we’re apart and, knowing how he honestly cares for me, I return his deep affection with honest sincerity.
I would no more think of playing a cat-and-mouse game with a boy like Paul than flying. It could destroy him, I know.
Yet sometimes his defenses are up even with me. One day he called me from New York with news. And I could tell from his voice he wondered how I’d react.
“Annette,” he said, and he spoke almost hesitatingly, “I’ve had my nose changed.”
“Oh wonderful,” I said, and I was really happy for him.
“I’m glad, Paul. I think I’ll have mine done, too, so I can be beautiful for you.”
And then it came. That sudden mood that can hurt so deeply. “You mean so you can look like a big movie star and be married four times before you’re twenty-one,” he snapped. I think he knew how I felt at that moment, because he added softly, “I didn’t mean to hurt you or make you cry.”
What can you do with a boy like that except try to understand and remember only the wonderful, truly wonderful, things about him?
The way he tucks my kid brother into bed at night and spends an hour or two reading him stories.
The pleasure he gets in showering me with presents. A small gold heart with a cultured pearl in the center, which I wear on a chain around my neck. The stuffed animals from every country he’s visited on tours. The bulky sweater he wore one evening and later sent me because I had admired it. The compact from India and the West Indian beads which shows he really thinks about me wherever he goes. The times he visited me during my school hours on the Clark tour, when he knew how miserable I was with the way things were. And he’d sit there just to lend me moral support.
The times we’d slip up to the ballroom of whatever hotel we were in and, together at the piano, we’d work out a song.
With Paul at the keyboard, he’d say “Think of the words, Annette. Say what comes to your mind. I’ll fit the music to it.” Together we worked out the song “Teddy” that way. And I think how carefully he wrote every song for me in my new album “Annette Sings Anka.”
How can you forget these things? Or the way he loves surprises? I remember the time my father and I were going to the Los Angeles airport to meet Mr. Feld, Paul’s agent. The evening before, when Paul telephoned, I said how much I wished he were coming, too.
“Yes, I wish I were, too,” he said, “but this time I can’t make it.” Paul, who was born in Canada, now lives in the house he bought for his parents in New Jersey and his own music company, “Spanka,” keeps him busy.
Anyway my father and I met Mr. Feld and after his luggage was finally claimed, we drove off. A block from the airport my father decided to stop for gas. And who walked out of that gas station but Paul!
I swooned. I positively swooned. With my mouth wide open in surprise, I just sat there and stared. Later, I learned my father had secretly driven Paul to the airfield and, while Mr. Feld and I saw to the luggage, he had driven Paul on to the gas station.
Of course they had planned the whole thing together, but the pleasure it gave Paul to see me so knocked out with surprise and delight—well, I learned then that men love to surprise the one they love and see the look of real joy and happiness it brings.
So different from Frankie
When I met Paul, the humility of this famous person was so refreshing to me.
I met Paul and Frankie Avalon together one night at dinner. Mr. Feld had arranged it and I never met two boys so entirely different. Paul sat there most of the evening with his head down as if he were afraid to look up. The great Paul Anka who already had eight gold records!
“Why, he’s shy,” I remember thinking and I could hardly believe it.
But Frankie, who looks so frail, or maybe I mean girl-shy, isn’t at all. He has a direct approach and a natural quality about him that is wonderful. I know when Mr. Feld asked me if I’d like to be on the Dick Clark show and I was too stunned to answer, Frankie laughed with me—not at me.
As I came to know Frankie better, I began to realize he was the sweetest boy I had ever met. He made me feel gay and happy. Where Paul is kind of stormy and unpredictable, Frankie is always the same.
His straight-out approach with girls is wonderful. For instance, he’ll telephone me and, with no fussing about it, he’ll ask for a date. But Paul, who really looks aggressive, isn’t that way at all. Paul’s emotions seem to get in the way.
Look, I don’t want jealousy or anything else to come between me and Paul, but the truth is, I like aggressive males. I want a boy to come after me. I don’t want to keep smoothing the way.
I’m so fond of Frankie that I can’t help but compare him and Paul. For instance, when Frankie comes to pick me up for a date, he’ll notice right away what I’m wearing. If it’s a new and becoming dress he’ll say, “Gee you look wonderful.”
Paul never does. And yet, deep inside I know he’s pleased with the way I look.
Frankie never asks me about my other dates or where I’ve been.
Paul does. And we both suffer over it.
I’ve found Paul needs attention—a lot of it—and all the time. He refused to answer the phone once when I tried to explain why I couldn’t make one of his shows.
I guess if I’ve learned anything about men from Paul, it’s that each is different and each requires special understanding. Frankie is wonderful to be with on a date. And Paul is the boy who knows me best, understands me and I hope will always be the closest friend I have.
My ideal man would be a mixture of both Paul and Frankie, I guess. A boy with Frankie’s looks and fabulous personality and Paul’s wonderful understanding. A boy who, like Frankie, could laugh when it’s time to laugh and, like Paul, be serious when it’s time to be serious.
I know that Paul and I have certainly been through a year I wouldn’t have missed for the world. It’s been sweet. Bittersweet.
Recently Paul handed me one of his latest songs. It was called “Puppy Love.” “I wrote it for you,” Paul said.
I looked at the song and I thought about that title. “Puppy Love.” And all of a sudden I didn’t feel nearly so sure of myself. Is Paul beginning to think that what I feel for him is only puppy love?
It is true that lately, I’ve been asking myself if I think I’d be happy married to someone like Paul. And I decided no. You see, Paul loves his work more than anything. At least he does now. Of course, I don’t know what he’ll be like when he’s older. But I want a husband who loves me more than anything. And I don’t want to marry anyone connected with show business. I want to marry a business man. A lawyer maybe. Because I think it’s very seldom that two people in show business get along as man and wife. And I’d like to try combining marriage with a career, though I’d give it up if my husband wanted me to. I’d give it up to raise a big family.
But that’s all a long way off and it’s silly to even talk about it now. I’m only seventeen and life, as some of the kids would say, is “Real cool.” lots of boys and that’s what I decided. I want to have lots of fun before I get serious and settle down.
THIS IS ANNETTE’S OWN STORY, AS SHE THOUGHT ABOUT IT WHILE ON HER WAY FROM CALIFORNIA TO NEW YORK RECENTLY, AND THEN, RETURNING HOME, TOLD IT TO SARA HAMILTON. ANNETTE SINGS ON THE VISTA LABEL. SEE PAUL IN U.I.’S “THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ADAM AND EVE.” PAUL SINGS FOR ABC-PAR.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1960