Apr 14, 2013

The Mickey Mouse Club

When Annette Funicello died on April 8, 2013, the world mourned one of the iconic figures of the Boomer generation.  She was the first crush for many heterosexual boys and gay girls who watched her every week on The Mickey Mouse Club, and later in the beach movies with Frankie Avalon

If you are too young to remember, The Mickey Mouse Club (1955-59) was the first children's television program that starred real children, "the Mouseketeers."  They wore wore mouse ear-shaped caps and white sweaters emblazoned with their first names, and performed song-and-dance numbers interspliced with Disney cartoons, amateur talent contests, and dramatic serials.

24 kids were hired in 1955, but only nine made it to the Red Team, the starting lineup.  Four were boys. In the hyper-masculine 1950s, singing and dancing were widely labeled "sissy" pursuits, so they were all gay-coded, though none are apparently gay.

1. Bobby Burgess (born 1941), who was very tall, well-scrubbed, and always smiling.  He went on to dance on The Lawrence Welk Show.

Here's a shirtless shot of Bobby in middle age.

2. The short, sandy-haired Lonnie Burr (born 1943) was the intellectual of the group (his website commemorates Annette Funicello's death with the Latin phrase "ave atque vale"). He is a poet and playwright as well as an actor.

3. Tommy Cole (born 1941) was hired primarily for his singing ability, though had a handsome face and the hunkiest physique among the Mousketeers (left). After MMC, he had a stint in the air force and then became a makeup artist.

4. Cubby O'Brien (born 1946), the kid of the show, became a professional drummer.

Many Boomer kids also remember the boys who stayed for a year, or less, including : Don Agranti  (Don Grady), Johnny Crawford (right, with his older brother Bobby), Dickie Dodd,  Larry Larsen, Mike Smith, Paul Petersen (The Donna Reed Show), Jay-Jay Solari, Ronnie Steiner, and Don Underhill.

Davis Day, the only original Mousketeer who has come out as gay willingly (Tommy Kirk was outed), stayed for two years

The dramatic series (Spin and Marty, The Hardy Boys, Clint and Mac, Annette) typically offered cute boys in shirtless and semi-nude swimming pool shots:  Jonathan Bailey, Tim Considine (left), Kevin Corcorran, Tommy Kirk (right), Larry Larsen, B.J. Norman (top photo), Sammy Ogg, Steve Stevens, David Stollery.

And some even offered some strong buddy-bonding subtexts, counterpoints to the heterosexism of the main song-and-dance numbers.


  1. I remember the revival in the 90s.

  2. Dennis Day died in 2018 in Phoenix at age 76, after attempting to evict 36-year-old live-in handyman Daniel Burda, who had moved in with Day and his husband Henry "Ernie" Caswell. Husband Caswell, who had lived with Day for more than two decades and has since passed, was suffering from dementia and staying in an assisted living facility at the time. Pretrial testimony characterized Burda as a serial predator with a pattern of taking advantage of elderly male homeowners. Burda was initially found unable to participate in his own legal defense and transferred to Oregon State Hospital, but has since last August been released from Jackson County Jail on supervised release. He is charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree abuse of a corpse, first-degree criminal mistreatment and aggravated identity theft. Shockingly, a trial date has not yet been set.


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