Annette Funicello’s death, at age seventy, occurred one day after the Sunday night premiere of season 6 of Mad Men. The pilot of the show, you will recall, was set in the year 1960: the same year Annette Funicello segued from The Mickey Mouse Club (which aired from 1955 to 1959) to her career as a singer and performer in a passel of musicals produced in Hollywood, before the British Invasion transformed youth culture. Mad Men’s narrative trek through the decade now compels its protagonists to face the increasingly surreal and riotous mayhem of America’s social and political panorama in the late 1960s: the shift from “We Shall Overcome” to black power. Our total plunge into Vietnam’s quagmire. The generation gap. Two assassinations in 1968: the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Plus, of course, the incipient women’s movement. All that, set against a sound track ruled by the Doors, the Stones, and the White Album incarnation of the Beatles, whose aural evolution defined the whole epoch.
According to one school of thought, the “real” 1960s did not unfold until well after JFK’s death, definitely after the onset of the Beatles’ psychedelic phase in 1966 (“Strawberry Fields Forever” in lieu of “She Loves You”), and eons after the earlier half of the decade was sweetly personified by Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in a slew of beach movies, replete with “Twist”-era rock-and-roll dance music. Of course, it was that earlier part of the 1960s—the Annette Era, so to speak—that first created Mad Men’s buzz. The meticulous re-creation of the fashions, manners, and mores of 1960–63 reminded (or taught) viewers how drastically different the first part of the decade was from the latter. Read More