When Walt Disney began arranging his troupe of Mouseketeers, he wanted “real” kids who were not necessarily Hollywood types. So he sent his talent scouts to school recitals and plays to find the Mouseketeers. A vocal group within the studio, however, insisted that the group would need a few seasoned “ringers” who had professional experience- like Darlene Gillespie.
Darlene Gillespie had been groomed since birth to be famous, trained by her parents to sing and dance. They moved from Canada to Los Angeles to allow their daughter to be “discovered”. When she was selected by Walt Disney’s scouts as their ringer, it was preordained that she would become the star of the show. The company hired studio singers to perform on the early Mouseketeer albums, but Darlene would be the one true Mouseketeer to sing on them. The studio had huge hopes for her future.
But kids are an unpredictable bunch. As it turned out, the studio heads were wrong and Walt Disney was right. The kids would crown their own queen of the Mouseketeers and it would not be the ringer, but one of the “real” kids who would find herself on top- Annette Funicello.
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