ALBANY — Sad news for fans this week, learning of the passing of Annette Funicello. The singer, dancer and actress who grew up in Utica lost a long battle with multiple sclerosis on Monday, at the age of 70. This week, an Ithaca radio personality remembers one special evening decades ago, when the former Mousketeer was his “date” during an Albany radio station event.
Here’s David Stewart of WHCU at left, with Funicello at right. He explained to CNYRadio.com, the circumstances which made this photo possible:
I was the WPTR “junior announcer” and did a bit of everything: From young voice work on commercials to station “gopher” to record hops and news, etc. It was a great way to learn the business, starting in 1958. What a way to start — at 50,000 watt 1540 WPTR, broadcasting to the Great Northeast from Albany.
This 1959 photo is from WPTR’s “Tower of Talent” stage show, which featured — among many others — Annette, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Fabian, Sam Cooke, and the Everly Brothers. The performers were introduced by WPTR’s Fabulous Five Plus One. My assignment that night in June 1959 was to present trophies to the performers for taking part in the annual fund-raiser concert called “Tower of Talent,” a forerunner of Dick Clark’s “Caravan of Stars.”
The concert was outdoors, in the old Albany Senators baseball stadium, with thousands of people filling the stands and infield. Performances were live; the full band, comprised of musicians from throughout the Capital District, was directed by Mitch Miller.
Before the show, there was a parade of stars and DJs from downtown to the baseball stadium. Albany area automobile dealers provided convertibles to transport the DJs and performers to the stadium. Riding on the back of one convertible was Annette, with Fabian on one side and me on the other. At the party after the show, Annette was my “date” and was accompanied by her mother.
Our thanks to David Stewart for sharing this photo and story with us. We invite you to do the same! Whether you’ve got a “blast from the past” involving local TV or radio, or a more-current event, we’re always looking for material for future “Picture of the Week” installments. Just send those shots to firstname.lastname@example.org or upload through the Contact Form. Thanks to your nominations, we’ve got a new Picture of the Week to share with our readers every Friday at 7:00am.