Child stars often end up descending into many issues as a result of their over-indulged youth. Mental breakdowns and ending up in jail all seem to be a standard right of passage for many and this certainly pertains to Disney stars. While we’ve even seen the stars of today such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Miley Cyrus go this route, they are only following the lead of generations of Disney stars who have journeyed this fateful path. Check out these original Mouseketeers, where they are now, little-known info, and the occasional scandal or two! One cast member ended up playing “Ratboy.” Read on to see who!
Wait Until You See What They Look Like Now!
Walt Disney himself created The Mickey Mouse Club, a variety show, that aired all the way from 1955 to 1996. The first version of the show aired from 1955 to 1959 on ABC. While the cast of teens changed as the years went by, the originals are some of the most memorable of all Disney performers.
The original show first aired directly after American Bandstand and remains a favorite past time of kids growing up in the 1950s. The show was hosted by Jimmie Dodd who was referred to as the Head Mouseketeer. It is said that he was a leader both on and offscreen and often encouraged the young audience to make good choices.
The Famous Mouse Ears
A staff artist at Disney named Roy Williams is the one who suggested the cast wear Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears. The Mickey Mouse Club itself was a variety show and consisted of both music and dance numbers with intermittent educational segments.
The cast was broken into two “teams” the red team and the white team. The red team was the kids who actually appeared on air and are the most famous of the Mouseketeers. The original cast consisted of Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Lonnie Burr, Tommy Cole, Annette Funicello, Darlene Gillespie, Cubby O’Brien, Karen Pendleton, and Doreen Tracey.
Annette Funicello Then
Annette Funicello is arguably the most famous of all the Mouseketeers. She was one of the only kids to have been discovered by Walt Disney himself while she was performing in a dance recital in Swan Lake. She quickly became a favorite of viewers everywhere. On the show, in addition to dance routines and various sketches she also appeared in multiple serials including, Adventure in Dairyland and Walt Disney Presents: Annette.
Annette was soon catapulted to fame. She appeared in the Disney film Babes in Toyland as “Mary Contrary.” For a while, she was under contract with Disney and appeared in various shows like Zorro. She later moved on into full teen idol status especially because of her Beach Party series of films with co-star Frankie Avalon. Sadly, despite her amazing fame and popularity, Annette was not to have a charmed life…
Annette’s Devastating Illness
While reuniting in order to promote a reunion film with her co-star Frankie Avalon, she began to exhibit weird physical symptoms. There were many rumors and speculation regarding her condition including people believe that she was suffering from alcoholism. It turns out that she was suffering from multiple sclerosis. She went public with her diagnosis and later opened the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation.
Over the years her health deteriorated including losing the ability to walk and speak. She died at the age of seventy in April of 2013. Annette was named a Disney Legend, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in Disneyland Paris, there is a restaurant named after her.
Lonnie Burr Then
Lonnie Burr is one of the original Mouseketeers and stars of The Mickey Mouse Club. His parents were Vaudeville stars “Dot and Dash” so it’s no surprise he went into show business. He got his first gig at age five and over the years appeared in a variety of radio shows, television commercials, and shows. He is thought of as one of the best dancers on The Mickey Mouse Club and was nicknamed “The Velvet Smog” for his husky voice. He was also reportedly the first boyfriend of Annette Funicello. He later got both his bachelor and masters in Theatre Arts from UCLA.
Lonnie Burr Now
As an adult, he continued to appear in various TV, films, and Broadway shows. He appeared on many different shows including Murder She Wrote and the Beverly Hillbillies. He also had a very successful film career acting in over 25 films including Sweet Charity, Hook, Lionheart, Police Academy: Mission to Moscow and numerous others. He also continued to star on Broadway, began directing, and used his many talents to write for many magazines and newspapers such as The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Times. he also wrote multiple books including one about his time as a Mouseketeer.
Johnny Crawford’s Then
Child actor Johnny Crawford was one of the original Mouseketeers but only appeared in the first season. He went on to star in the very popular television Western, Rifleman. He was even nominated for an Emmy for the role. His older brother, Robert was also an actor. His first big break as an actor was with the title role in a Lux Video Theatre production of Little Boy Lost, a live NBC broadcast in 1956. He then went on to act in The Lone Ranger series and went on to have a fruitful freelance career accumulating over 60 television credits.
Johnny Crawford Now
As a young man, he became a teenage heartthrob with a number of pop music hits. He continued acting in both TV and film, appearing in performances like The Donna Reed Show and on film as a Native American in a movie called Indian Paint. He also appeared in a short called The Resurrection of Broncho Billy, which was made by a USC student film and ended up winning an Academy Award. For Johnny, despite his pretty impressive film career, he ended up involved with a pretty juicy Disney scandal. He is now the leader of a vintage dance orchestra and the orchestra has been the choice for 15 consecutive annual Art Directors and Guild Awards shows.
Darlene Gillespie Then
Beautiful Darlene Gillespie was one of the first members of the Mouseketeers. She also ended up with a role in the first ever Mickey Mouse Club spinoff show called Corky and the White Shadow. She later appeared as Dorothy in a live action version of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz.
She was under contract with Disney for a while, however, her career never catapulted like that of Annette Funicello. Like many of her co-stars, she forayed herself into a music career and recorded multiple albums under the name Darlene Valentine. Behind her wholesome smile, however, was a future that was going to be rife with scandal…
Disney’s ‘Bad Seed’
Darlene Gillespie has been referred to as Disney’s “bad seed” (Lindsay Lohan, who?). As an adult in 1990, she sued Disney claiming that she was promised to become a superstar by the company which never came to fruition. She also sued them for withholding royalties and was later given an undisclosed settlement.
She also later got involved with a man named Jerry Fraschilla. The two fell in love. What nobody did know is what was going to come out of Darlene’s marriage to Fraschilla and that she would soon make her mark as one of Disney’s original child stars gone bad.
Darlene Turns Criminal
It turns out Jerry, Darlene’s third husband was a conman and got Darlene to engage in a variety of crimes. She was first arrested for shoplifting but in 1998 got in major legal trouble, her connection to Disney didn’t help at all.
She, along with Jerry, was also arrested for conspiracy, securities fraud, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and perjury. She was sentenced to 2 years in jail but ended up only serving 3 months. Upon her release, she left the life of crime behind in favor of being a grandma to twins.
Sharon Baird Then
Shannon Baird started acting as a young girl her first appearance onscreen was at age 9 in the film Bloodhounds of Broadway. She later appeared on various television programs including The Colgate Comedy Hour with Eddie Cantor and even a song-and-dance number with Dean Martin in Artists and Models. She was later selected as one of the first ever Mouseketeers.
She performed for all three seasons of the original show. Sharon’s specialty was dancing and more specifically tap dancing. She also sang and acted while on the show. After filming she went on to complete high school, although she briefly toured with the Mouseketeers. She finished college and graduated with a degree in mathematics and secretarial science.
Sharon Baird Now
Sharon Baird continued working in show business despite her math and sciences degree and even ended up marrying singer Dalton Lee Thomas, although the marriage only lasted five years. She also worked as a “puppet” on various children’s television shows throughout the 1970s.
Some of the shows she worked on include H.R. Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos, New Zoo Revue, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, and Land of the Lost. For the 1970s version of Lord of the Rings directed by Ralph Bakshi, Sharon did rotoscoping (an animation technique) for the film and worked as a live-action model for hobbit Frodo Baggins.
Sharon’s Weirdest Role
In 1986, Sharon Baird starred as “Ratboy” in the film of the same name. You would never know it was her because she appeared under heavy makeup and was credited as S.L. Baird so no one knew it was a woman playing a young boy. The film was panned by critics and thought of as very strange although it had better luck overseas in countries like France.
The character of “Ratboy” has been ostracized from society for looking like a rat and forced to live near a dumpster when he is befriended by a kind woman. Since the strange role, Sharon has continued to make appearances with the Mouseketeers on occasion and for the most part, now lives in retirement at the ripe old age of seventy-three.
Doreen Tracey Was One of the First Mouseketeers
Londoner Doreen Tracey was one of the members of the first generation of the Mouseketeers. Her parents were also Vaudeville stars who soon had taught their young daughter their craft of acting and singing. She continued acting after the end of the Mickey Mouse Club. She appeared in the Western by Disney called Westward Ho, the Wagons!
She also appeared on television programs like The Donna Reed Show. She later toured military bases in South Vietnam and Thailand in order to perform for the military. Donna is yet another of the sweet and innocent Mouseketeers that found herself involved in a scandal.
Doreen Isn’t Demure
Doreen later shocked her former child fans when she posed totally nude for a men’s magazine called Gallery. She appeared more than once in the shocking publication! One of the most shocking things about her mouse is that she donned the famous Mickey Mouse ears while doing it.
Her reputation immediately took a turn for the more wild variety which she seemed to totally embrace. She also later became a lead singer of a Filpino rock band. In later years, Doreen became a publicist to the eclectic rocker Frank Zappa. She also became an amateur bodybuilder. Ultimately, she released her autobiography called Confessions of a Mouseketeer.
Tommy Cole Then
Before landing The Mickey Mouse Club, Tommy Cole was a singer in a Western swing band. His entire ensemble auditioned together for The Mickey Mouse Club, and Cole was the only one selected. His singing earned him a transfer to The Mickey Mouse Club’s first-string Red-Team and he remained on the show for the final two seasons. After the show ended, he attended Hollywood Professional School and went on live performance tours with Mouseketeerseteers and continued singing for quite some time at teenage clubs, public events, and as an opening act for other performers.
Tommy Cole Now
He then went on to attend school at Pasadena City College and even did a short stint in the Air Force. However, after his experience, he decided he preferred to stay in show business. It was then that he found his true calling – makeup. He worked as a craft apprentice for ABC and eventually NBC and was later was nominated for multiple Emmy awards for films like Masquerade Party, Once Upon a Brothers Grimm, Right to Die, and Wings. He has won Emmy’s for his work on the films Backstairs at the White House and the TV special Gepetto in 2000.
Cubby O’Brien Then
Cute Cubby O’Brien was one of the first stars of the Mouseketeers. He is the son of a well-known big band era drummer named Hack O’Brien. He was, like Annette Funicello, personally chosen by Walt Disney himself to appear on the Mickey Mouse Club.
Although he had little prior experience with singing and dancing, he was placed on the first-string Red Team and quickly picked up the skills necessary, although his solo performances focused around the drums. He remained on the show for all three seasons and went on to continue with live performances with the Mouseketeers after the show ended.
Cubby O’Brien Now
After touring, he joined the Lawrence Welk organization for a few years. After graduating from high school he started touring with Spike Jones and was sometimes the on-camera drummer for CBS’s The Carol Burnett Show. He also went on to play drums for Karen Carpenter’s band before her tragic death from anorexia.
Cubby has also regularly participated in reunions with his Mouseketeer co-stars throughout the years including the 50th anniversary in 2005. He also still actively plays the drums. Since the 80’s his career has been around performing for Broadway productions but has since moved back to the West Coast.
Karen Pendleton Now
Blonde haired beauty Karen Pendleton was one of the original cast members of The Mickey Mouse Club. As an original Mouseketeer, she was often partnered alongside the equally cute Cubby O’Brien. Unlike many of her co-stars, after the show, Karen fell away from show business. She returned to school and got married, later divorcing. In 1983, she endured a horrible tragedy when she suffered a snowmobile accident.
The accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. She then returned to school and earned a degree in psychology which she used to work with women at battered women’s shelters and she even served on a board advocating for physically handicapped people in California.
2015 was a big year for the Mouseketeers and it marked sixty years since The Mickey Mouse Club originally aired. Of course, Disney had to mark the occasion and had to assemble all of the living stars together again. Although all of the original cast is now approaching their elder years, they still performed a musical number!
There were various old and new clips shown of the cast, a discussion panel, and they even brought out various artifacts from the original show. It was probably the last time in history the cast will be able to get together and talk about one of the best Disney shows to have ever been filmed!
The Mouseketeers of the Future
The Micky Mouse Club saw two revivals of the show. The first was in 1977 and had modernized the show to fit the times. There was a disco recording of the theme song, and a more ethnically diverse of young cast members.
The sets were brightened yet more simple than the original black and white artwork in the original. However, the show only ran for one year. The series debuted on January 17, 1977, on 38 local television stations yet was discontinued by June. However, the show continued to be in syndication until 1979.
The All-New Mickey Mouse Club
Then again, in 1989, the show was revived for the second time. Running until 1995, this time the goal was to create an entirely new Mickey Mouse Club geared towards contemporary audiences. Instead of wearing hats, they had letterman jackets, and the entire show was 90’s themed.
The show was also updated to be called The All-New Mickey Mouse Club and featured children that would grow up to become some of the biggest stars in the entertainment industry. Although it was eventually canceled it was a great platform to help mold some of the stars of today.
Ryan Gosling Then
The adorable and now handsome Ryan Gosling began his career as a child star on the Disney Channel’s Micky Mouse Club from 1993 to 1995. While on the show, he wasn’t given very much air-time, which he didn’t take to hard.
He noted that it was okay because “the show’s producers realized that I wasn’t really up to snuff in comparison to what some of the other kids were able to do.” It still gave him a chance to get his name out there and helped to launch him into an incredibly successful career in show business.
Ryan Gosling Now
After his time on The Mickey Mouse Club, he went on to appear in other family television shows such as Are You Afraid of the Dark? Goosebumps, as well as some other independent films. Then, in 2004, he made a major breakthrough with the film The Notebook and has since been on a roll with films such as Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine, Crazy Stupid, Love, and more. He made his directorial debut with the 2014 film Lost River and has recently starred in critically acclaimed films such as The Big Short, and La La Land where he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy in 2016.
Justin Timberlake Then
Before Justin Timberlake became the pop icon and actor that we all know today, he was on The Mickey Mouse Club. He was known to have a pitch-perfect falsetto voice which was clearly foreshadowing for the success of his future career. It was on The Mickey Mouse Club that he befriended Ryan Gosling and the two are still close to this day. After The Mickey Mouse Club, Timberlake went on to become one of the youngest members and lead singers of the best-selling boy bands of all time NSYNC. The band lasted for 7 years until 2002 and won countless awards.
Justin Timberlake Now
After leaving NSYNC, Timberlake went on to have an incredible solo career, especially after adopting a more mature image and releasing singles such as “Rock Your Body” and “Cry Me A River” on his debut album. He then went on to release his second titled FutureSex/LoveSounds with songs such as “Sexy Back” and “My Love”. From 2008 to 2012, Timberlake began to focus on his acting career in films such as Bad Teacher, The Social Network, In Time, and Freinds With Benefits. In 2013, he released another album which became the best-selling album of the year in the United States. He has won countless awards and has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time twice.
Britney Spears Then
When The Mickey Mouse Club launched for a new generation nobody knew that the likes of Gosling, Timberlake, and this young lady would take over the worlds of music and movie. Britney Spears wasn’t necessarily a vocal standout among the cast, but who could really compete with the likes of Christina Aguilera and her high E above C. Still, Spears would go on to form a friendship with Justin Timberlake, whom she later dated. The show also proved to be the springboard Spears needed to become an international superstar. It took years for Britney to earn stardom but it was a meteoric rise once her star started to climb.
Britney Spears Now
34 million records sold and 150 million singles out the door proves there is no bigger Mouseketeer powerhouse in the music world than Britney Spears. After “Baby One More Time” debuted, the queen of pop continued to release one smash hit after another. Her time following the show has not been without controversy. Spears drunkenly wed her best friend in an ill-thought-out Vegas wedding only to have the ceremony annulled.
She then married Kevin Federline, one of her backup dancers, became pregnant, divorced her husband, and then had a mental breakdown that led Britney to shave her head before going into seclusion. Spears eventually regained her composure and signed a multi-year deal to perform at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
Christina Aguilera Then
Aguilera was quickly known as the “little girl with the big voice” and watching her performances on The Mickey Mouse Club proves that this diva was primed for stardom from a young age. Watching old episodes of the TV show it’s obvious Aguilera hadn’t completely found her voice but was years ahead of her peers. Aguilera was discovered when she appeared as a Star Search contestant in 1990. She appears on The Mickey Mouse Club from 1993 to 1995. Her career hit a feverish pitch after she was offered the chance to sing on a hit Disney movie, more on that in a second…
Christina Aguilera Now
Aguilera is a five-time Grammy Award winner who has sold nearly 50 million albums. She’s so talented that Celine Dion called her “one of the most talented artists the world has ever seen and heard.”
Aguilera’s career skyrocketed after she hit the high E above middle C note for the song “Reflection” in the hit Disney movie Mulan. Aguilera continues to release new music and appeared as a judge on the hit NBC singing competition The Voice, where she became the first female winning judge in the show’s history. Aguilera even released, Mi Reflejo, a Spanish speaking album that won a Latin Grammy Award for the best female pop vocal album.
JC Chasez Then
Justin. Justin. Justin. When we talk about ‘NSync and The Mickey Mouse Club it’s typically Timberlake who makes headlines. However, JC Chasez, another member of Timberlake’s famous boy band, also got his start on the popular Disney TV series. Chasez was born in 1976 and at five-years-old his mom handed him over to her former foster parents Roy and Karen Chasez, who promptly adopted the soon-to-be-famous singer. Chasez was raised as a Mennonite and spent his days dancing as a child. In 1989, his mother, Karen, noticed a small ad in the Washington Post that called on young dancers and singers for The Mickey Mouse Club. Chasez was cast as a performer in the fourth season and stayed until the show’s cancellation in 1996.
JC Chasez Now
Chasez and Timberlake joined ‘NSync in 1995 and became popular in Europe in 1996. The group skyrocketed to fame in 1998 with the released of their debut album “*NSync” which sold 11 million copies. After NSync announced a Justin Timberlake-led hiatus, Chasez pursued a solo career and started working with various other artists. He is credited with writing and producing for music acts such as Basement Jaxx, David Archuleta, Matthew Morrison, and Girls Aloud. Chasez continued to pursue his love of dance, starring as a judge on short-lived America’s Best Dance Crew. He continues to write and produce new music for himself and other artists.
Keri Russell Then
Keri Russell landed her first TV role on the Mickey Mouse Club from 1991 to 1994. During those seasons she performed with the likes of Ryan Gosling, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and many other future stars. Russell didn’t wait for the show to end before building her future stardom.
In 1993 she appeared alongside Rick Moranis in the hit movie Honey, I Blew Up The Kid and followed it up with a role as Mr. Feeny’s niece in a 1993 appearance on Boy Meets World. In the years that followed, Russell would prove that she knows exactly how to command a TV audience.
Keri Russell Now
Keri Russell’s big break came in 1998 when she accepted the title role in the WB Network hit series, Felicity. Russell would go on to win a Golden Globe for that role in 1999. In an odd moment, the show’s ratings dropped unexpectedly at the start of season two.
It’s believed that Russell cutting off her trademark curly hair led to a lack of trust among viewers. Russell bounced around to various TV and movie roles after Felicity ended. Since 2013, she has starred in the superb FX series The Americans, where she plays a deep undercover KGB spy living as an American in the early 1980s.
Tony Lucca Then
Lucca knew he wanted to be a performer from a very young age. At 3-years-old he began singing and by nine he was a child model. Lucca and his cousin, Cole Garlak, started performing in Detroit-area bands when Lucca was only 12-years-old. Lucca got his big break at 14-years-old when he went to audition for the Disney movie Newsies but soon discovered it was actually a role on The Mickey Mouse Club. Lucca moved to Orlando, Florida, with his mother and lived in an apartment complex with other castmates after selected to appear on the show. He remained for four seasons.
Tony Lucca Now
Tony Lucca may not be as well-known as his former co-stars on The Mickey Mouse Club but he did find some success for one season on Malibu Shores, the Aaron Spelling created TV show in which he co-starred with his former girlfriend, Keri Russell. Following a few smaller roles, he began to release his own music. In 2012, he placed third-place on the hit TV show The Voice. During his performances, he was reunited with former Mickey Mouse Club co-star, Christina Aguilera. Lucca’s songs have been featured on various TV shows, including Felicity, Friday Night Lights, and Brothers & Sisters, among others. On July 7, 2007, Lucca married single mom Rachel and promptly adopted her son, Liam. They also have a daughter, Sparrow Jane Lucca who was born in 2009.