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The Mickey Mouse Club Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

Though "The Mickey Mouse Club," the weekly TV variety series produced by Walt Disney Productions, has been on the air in various permutations for decades, the original series ran for just four years on ABC from 1955 to 1959. A 1977 revival, "The New Mickey Mouse Club," only lasted a year, though the third iteration of the series, "The All-New Mickey Mouse Club," aired for half a decade between 1989 and 1994. The most recent Stateside take, "Club Mickey Mouse," screened exclusively on social media and lasted a single season, as did a 2015 Korean adaptation.

"The Mickey Mouse Club" has remained a popular property for its parent company for a number of reasons, from its positive attitude to its usefulness as a showcase for vintage Disney animation. However, the series is probably best known as a teen idol factory, generating decades of well-loved young actors and singers. Among the best known "MMC" alumni are Justin Timberlake, Annette Funicello, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. These performers, along with many of their fellow alumni, remain active in entertainment, while others have taken different paths. Still others have passed on, especially from the original "Mickey Mouse Club" series, which debuted more than a half-century ago. Following is a list of "Mickey Mouse Club" actors you may not known passed away.

Jimmie Dodd was the grown-up Mouseketeer

Songwriter and actor Jimmie Dodd was the grown-up host of "The Mickey Mouse Club" during its three seasons on television. A boundlessly enthusiastic figure, Dodd not only hosted the show, but doled out homespun advice for Mouseketeers and viewers alike as part of his duties. Dodd also displayed his talents for art, singing, and songwriting on the series, and also penned "The Mickey Mouse Club March," which closed out each episode.

When "MMC" ended in 1958, Dodd was enlisted by Disney to travel with several of the original Mouseketeers to Australia, where the show had been a syndicated hit. Upon his return, Dodd again teamed with Disney to promote half-hour syndicated versions of the original "MMC" on American TV, while also working on his own kid's show, which was slated to film in Hawaii. However, illness upended his plans for the new series, and the 54-year-old Dodd died in a hospital in Honolulu on November 10, 1964. Dodd was honored as a Disney Legend in 1992.

Roy Williams: from cartoon artist to comic sidekick

Broad-shouldered, bald-headed Roy Williams seemed like the least likely person to serve as a children's entertainer. But Williams did just that for all four seasons of "The Mickey Mouse Club," where he was affectionately known as Big Roy. Williams' tenure with Disney began in 1930, when he was hired as an artist and gag writer on numerous cartoons. In the 1950s, he was tapped to draw storyboards for the "Mickey Mouse Club," and also weighed in on casting decisions. Eventually, his role was expanded to on-camera comic relief, in addition to providing sketches for the stories and advice that Dodd spun at the end of each episode.

When "MMC" went off the air in 1958, Williams returned to his art duties with Disney, and continued to work there until his retirement in the 1970s. He remained friendly with his former castmates as they grew to adulthood, and participated in the occasional reunion special or interview. Williams died at the age of 69 on November 7, 1976. A privately-owned, public-use airport in Joshua Tree, California, was named after Williams by its owner, Park Richardson (who was Williams' son-in-law).

Johnny Crawford: a mouseketeer of many talents

Johnny Crawford's stint on "The Mickey Mouse Club" was brief, but he enjoyed greater stardom after departing the series. Tapped to join the primary cast in 1955, Crawford was dismissed after a single season, but quickly found work in features and on television, most notably TV Westerns like "The Rifleman," which earned him an Emmy nomination in 1959. In addition to acting, Crawford became a rodeo performer with the American Junior Rodeo Association, and enjoyed a modest second career as a pop star with three Top 20 singles between 1962 and 1963.

When "The Rifleman" ended its network run in 1963, Crawford worked as a guest star on numerous television series, and appeared in the occasional feature like "Village of the Giants" with fellow ex-Mouseketeer Tim Rooney. One of Crawford's most unusual film projects was 1973's "The Naked Ape," a curious comedy-documentary about evolution in which Crawford appeared nude.

In 1992, Crawford returned to music to lead and play drums with the Johnny Crawford Orchestra, a vintage dance band that performed at major jazz festivals and award shows for nearly two decades. When Crawford was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2019, his former "MMC" co-star, Paul Petersen — a leading advocate for former child actors — established a crowdfunding campaign to help his family with medical expenses. Crawford died of the disease at the age of 75 on April 29, 2021.

Annette Funicello was the MMC's first big star

Arguably the most popular original Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello also enjoyed a long and successful career as a film and television actor, recording artist, and product spokesperson. Funicello was personally selected by Walt Disney, who signed her to a seven-year contract at $160 a week. While on "MMC," she enjoyed considerable time in the spotlight, starring in many of the serials and miniseries featured on the show, including her own serial, "Annette," in 1958.

When "MMC" ran its course, Funicello remained in the Disney fold for several years, appearing in "The Shaggy Dog" and "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones," as well as the popular "Beach Party" movies for American International Pictures. Funicello also recorded a slew of singles for Disney's record label, including the Top 20 hits "Tall Paul," "O Dio Mio," and "Pineapple Princess."

Funicello worked extensively in television in the 1970s and 1980s, both as a guest star on dramatic and variety series and as a spokesperson for Skippy peanut butter. After falling ill while promoting the 1987 spoof "Back to the Beach" with her "Beach Party" co-star Frankie Avalon, Funicello was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She died from the disease at the age of 70 on April 8, 2013.

Don Grady graduated to acting and music stardom

A replacement performer on the third season of "MMC," Don Grady's tenure on the series was similar to that of co-star Johnny Crawford:  a stepping stone for greater fame in other venues. He was billed under his birth name — Don Agrati — for his season-long stint as a Mouseketeer, and earned relatively little screen time before the series came to a close in 1959. He immediately segued to guest star roles on dramatic series before netting a 12-year gig as Robbie Douglas on the long-running sitcom "My Three Sons."

A talented musician who could play multiple instruments, Don also performed with several bands, including his own outfit, the Greefs, which appeared on "Sons." In 1967, he enjoyed brief pop stardom as a member of the pop-rock band The Yellow Balloon, which earned a Top 30 single with the song "Yellow Balloon."

Music became Grady's full-time profession from the 1970s to the 2000s. Among his more notable compositions was the theme song for "The Phil Donahue Show," songs for several Blake Edwards movies, and for "EFX," a Las Vegas stage show that at one time starred fellow '60s teen idol David Cassidy. Grady died of cancer at his home in Thousand Oaks, California on June 27, 2012.

Cheryl Holdridge had a star-making smile

Cheryl Holdridge debuted in the second season of the "Mickey Mouse Club" and quickly became one of the most popular performers of the show's original run. Though used infrequently during her two years on the series, Holdridge's photogenic qualities, and in particular, her beaming smile, made her very popular with viewers, which allowed her to continuing acting after "MMC" shut down in 1959.

Holdridge worked steadily on episodic television throughout the early '60s; she was Wally Cleaver's girfriend on several episodes of "Leave It to Beaver," and guested on a slew of other series, including "The Rifleman" (with Johnny Crawford) and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." She retired from acting in 1964 to marry racer Lance Reventlow, who was the heir to the Woolworth's department store fortune. Following his death in an airplane accident in 1972, Holdridge married two more times, including a 1994 wedding to Democratic Party fundraiser Manning J. Post.

A diagnosis of lung cancer led to years of treatment before her death from the disease at her home in Santa Monica, California on January 6, 2009. Holdridge was 64.

Karen Pendleton turned tragedy into hope

Karen Pendleton had no performing experience prior to auditioning for the "Mickey Mouse Club," but a wealth of dance lessons and a capable singing voice helped pave the way for her to join the show in its 1955 debut season. Pendleton spent much of her time on the series in duets with Cubby O'Brien or Johnny Crawford, and eventually earned her own miniseries in the first season. "Karen in Kartoonland" featured Pendleton discussing various Disney characters with animator and Academy Award-nominated director Bill Justice.

Pendleton's on-screen career ended with the close of the "MMC" in 1959, though she remained tangentially related to her co-stars through events and reunions. She instead focused on a career in business and raising a family. However, a 1983 car accident which left her paralyzed from the waist down refocused her energies towards education and advocacy for disabled people and battered women.

After earning her master's degree in psychology, Pendleton worked at a women's shelter and served as a board member for the California Association of the Physically Handicapped. She died of a heart attack at the age of 73 on October 6, 2019.

Doreen Tracey led an adventurous life

Born April 3, 1943 in  London, England to parents who were professional dancers, Doreen Tracey relocated to Hollywood, California with her family at the age of four. Trained in song and dance from an early age, she appeared in motion pictures and on television before joining the cast of "The Mickey Mouse Club" in 1955. In addition to appearing in the show's musical numbers and sketches, Tracey was also featured in the serial "Annette," and in the Walt Disney Productions feature film "Westward Ho, the Wagons!" opposite "Daniel Boone" star Fess Parker and "MMC" castmates Cubby O'Brien and Tommy Cole. She later toured Australia with Jimmie Dodd and several other Mouseketeers.

After exiting "MMC" in 1958, Tracey performed in nightclubs and with the USO. In the 1970s, she worked as a music publicist for Warner Bros. Records, promoting acts like Frank Zappa and the Doobie Brothers, and later in administrative duties for the label. She also raised eyebrows for posing nude in a men's magazine, which led to her being ostracized from Disney and Mouseketeer events until the 1990s.

Tracey's last appearance for Disney was at the 60th anniversary of "The Mickey Mouse Club" in 2015. A two-year battle with cancer led to her death from pneumonia at the age of 74 on January 10, 2018.

Dennis Day's life had an unhappy ending

Las Vegas, Nevada native Dennis Day began acting on television and in commercials and educational films from the age of six. His dancing skills earned him a slot as a Mouseketeer in the first season of "The Mickey Mouse Club," and Day would remain with the series until the end of Season 2. The dismissal would mark the end of Day's screen career, but he would remain active as a performer for the next several decades.

Day worked in theater in New York and Los Angeles throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and served as both musical director and entertainer for the California Renaissance Pleasure Faires and other live events. In the 1980s, he relocated with his partner, Henry Caswell, to southern Oregon, where they made boutique food items and volunteered for political and social causes.

Health issues hampered Day and Caswell's later years; news sources reported that the couple had become reclusive and their home had fallen into disrepair. Day disappeared on July 17, 2018 after reportedly walking to the home of friends. Police conducted a search but were unable to find any sign of Day until April 2019, when human remains found on his property were identified as the former Mouseketeer. A live-in handyman, Daniel James Burda, was charged with several crimes in connection with Day's death.

Bonnie Lynn Fields became a Broadway dancer

A talented dancer from a young age, Bonita Lynn Fields joined the cast of "The Mickey Mouse Club" in its third season. Reportedly, Walt Disney himself asked her to adopt the stage moniker "Bonnie" so that her name would look and sound similar to those of her castmates (Johnny Crawford, Jimmie Dodd, etc.). As a member of the replacement Mousketeers on the Blue Team, the 12-year-old Fields was given few opportunities to shine on camera, but did appear frequently at Disneyland and in the background of many dance numbers.

Following her departure from "MMC" in 1957, Fields began her professional career as a dancer in Broadway productions and occasional features like "Bye Bye, Birdie," which also featured fellow ex-Mouseketeer Dick Dodd. She moved into real estate and leasing in the 1980s and taught dance before returning to her home state of Indiana to open a tap dance studio.

Diagnosed with throat cancer, Fields died of the disease at the age of 68 on November 17, 2012.

Tim Rooney came from Hollywood royalty

The son of Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, Tim Rooney joined his older brother, Mickey Rooney, Jr., as replacement Mickey Mouse Club members in the show's first season. Though chosen as a cast member, he never actually appeared on camera in an episode: according to the Associated Press (via Today), he was dismissed from the series after "getting into mischief in the Disney paint shop."

Tim returned to acting and worked steadily on television. He was a series regular on his father's 1964 sitcom, "Mickey," and logged guest appearances on series like "Gidget" and "Bewitched." In the late 1960s, Rooney graduated to feature films, and appeared opposite two ex-"MMC stars": Johnny Crawford in "Village of the Giants," and Dick Dodd (with the Standells) in "Riot on Sunset Strip." But major stardom eluded him, and after a brief, unsuccessful run at pop music fame with brothers Mickey and Teddy, he diverted his interests into thoroughbred horses and car racing.

In the 1980s, he worked as a voice-over actor on Saturday morning cartoons like "Mister T" and "Saturday Supercade." Diagnosed with dermatomyositis, a rare disease that affects the muscles and skin, Tim Rooney died from the disease on September 23, 2006 at the age of 59.

Dick Dodd, the Mouseketeer that rocked

Nine-year-old Dick Dodd joined the Mouseketeers' Blue team in 1955 and appeared as "Dickie Dodd" in a handful of skits and musical numbers during the first season of "Mickey Mouse Club." While on the series, he learned to drum, and later parlayed those talents into gigs with a pair of popular surf bands, the Belairs and Eddie and the Showmen, in the early 1960s. Dodd also remained active as a performer and appeared as a dancer in the movie version of "Bye Bye Birdie."

In 1964, he joined the Standells, an up-and-coming Los Angeles rock band, and served as vocalist on "Dirty Water," a Top 20 tribute to the grimier sides of Boston, Massachusetts, in 1966. The band appeared in a handful of films, including "Riot on Sunset Strip" — which co-starred his former "MMC" castmate, Tim Rooney — and several television shows.

Dodd left the Standells to pursue a solo music career in 1968, but later worked for or managed various businesses throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He reunited with members of the Standells on numerous occasions, most notably at the World Series in 2004, which pitted the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees. Dodd was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and died from the disease on November 29, 2013.

Tate Lynche struggled for fame after MMC

"MMC" fans know that the "All-New Mickey Mouse Club," which aired on The Disney Channel from 1989 to 1994, generated a slew of future stars. Fortune was less kind to some of the show's Mouseketeers, and in the case of Tate Lynche, it was downright cruel.

When the new "MMC" wrapped in 1994, Lynche –- born Marque Lynch –- struggled to find consistent work in the entertainment industry. He appeared in the Broadway production of "The Lion King" in 2000, and made it to the semi-finals of "American Idol" in 2004. But these efforts were undone by a host of personal problems, including the death of his mother and an arrest for illegal possession of prescription narcotics, both in the same year of his appearance on "Idol."

Lynche reportedly left the entertainment business after his mother's passing, and resurfaced in 2016 when he was arrested for an altercation with a police officer. Lynche was charged with assault, but died at the age of 34 before the case could go to trial. The New York City chief medical officer cited "acute alcohol poisoning" as the cause of death.

Scott Craig was a member of the forgotten Mouseketeers

Scott Craig was a Mouseketeer in "The New Mickey Mouse Club," which debuted in syndication in 1975 and ran until 1977. The show's best-known Mouseketeers were Lisa Whelchel, who went on to stardom on "The Facts of Life," and Miss USA runner-up Kelly Parsons. Craig himself was a television veteran on commercials and variety shows from the age of six, and appeared in an uncredited role on a 1975 episode of "The Bionic Woman."

Unfortunately, "The New Mickey Mouse Club" failed to attract many viewers: less than 40 stations picked up the series in 1975, and episodes were aired in time slots that were unpopular with the show's younger target audience. After its cancellation in 1977, the original series was repackaged with new material and ran for an additional two years. The extension did little for Craig's acting career; he appears to have left acting altogether after the show's cancellation. According to the website Find a Grave, Craig died at the age of 39 in Las Vegas, Nevada from a respiratory illness on December 30, 2003.