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“And so, she walked out of our lives forever…” Margaret Thatcher, Annette Funicello, and the Decline of the West

In "Synchronistic Obits" forum on April 10, 2013 at 2:01 am

annette and margaret

Annette Funicello and Dame Margaret Thatcher, dead the same day—and this cosmic alignment receives not one iota of attention from our media? Oh, yes, they mentioned the deaths individually of course, the heartthrob of the original Mouseketeers and the Iron Lady of England, meeting their demise within hours of one another, like Jefferson and Adams—but no one has remarked on the supernal conjoinment of these two iconic women, and WOOF realizes, a bit forlornly perhaps, that no other commentators are possessed of the vision to perceive the epic synchronicity with which Providence invested these harmonized departures. The first great expository stroke that came to bear upon the American experience, with exactly that subtlety by which the Heavens mock fatuity, was evident in the earliest reactions to the passing of Thatcher. Graduates of the nation’s finest institutions of learning, captains of industry, attorneys, loan officers, psychotherapists and imparters of secondary education, joined the bovine masses in scratching their heads and wondering aloud, “Who was Margaret Thatcher?” This is exactly what we would expect from a nation keenly aware of the Karadshians, Lady Gaga, March Madness, and the addle-pate effronteries of  J-Z and Beyoncé, but incapable of recalling its own history or enunciating its native creeds.

Who indeed was Margaret Thatcher? Did she wear meat dresses or dance with the stars? Did she ever release an exercise video or fall on the pavement and barf in public? In other words, why should Americans care?  Okay, true, some small subset of the population might have caught Meryl Streep’s Oscar-award-winning performance in the role of Thatcher in the 2011 film “The Iron Lady,” but let’s face it, a lot more people went to see Harry Potter or The Transformers. And that is the first great lesson of this duality—that in order to realize who Dame Thatcher was, the Media Establishment turned reflexively to their sister propaganda ministry, the Entertainment Establishment, and asked the question of—Meryl Streep. After all, Streep invested Thatcher, so far as the news readers could ascertain, with her one moment of authentic significance by pretending to be her in a motion picture. So tell us, Meryl, who was this person you played? Apparently she was a real person before being her own movie, kind of like Erin Brockovich or that Karen Silkwood girl, right? And Streep, for her part, responded with something approaching taste and decorum, even graciousness, as though some osmosis had endued her, through her portrayal of authentic greatness, with just that fraction of stateliness adequate to the occasion.


Streep, dwarfed by a role for which she had “a glancing understanding.”

WOOF here says “adequate,” because throughout her remarks it is inescapable that Streep is fighting, like Strangelove battling his renegade hand syndrome, the almost irresistible temptation to blurt out a zinger or five or twenty, but no, some vestige of Iron Ladyhood by association constrains her, and she tells the inquiring press that “To have come up, legitimately,  through the ranks of the British political system, class bound and gender phobic as it was, in the time that she did and the way that she did, was a formidable achievement….To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable.”  Tellingly, Streep adds: “I have only a glancing understanding of what her many struggles were, and how she managed to sail through to the other side. I wish to convey my respectful condolences to her family and many friends.” Well done, madam, and truly said. Nobody in contemporary Hollywood has more than a glancing understanding of a figure like Margaret Thatcher.  John Ford? Cecil B. DeMille?  Howard Hawks? They would have resonated to the British Lioness, but James Cameron?  Ron Howard? Tim Burton? Leave us not make ourselves laugh, dear readers!  Rather, let us reflect upon the actual personage of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Sir Winston Churchill, no relation to Ward.

Sir Winston Churchill, no relation to Ward.

England managed to avail itself of the services of two towering leaders during the 20th century. That one of these was Winston Churchill is evident by the fact that Obama, who reacts to genuine, principled leadership the way vampires react to garlic, made a point upon first besmirching the Oval Office of sending Sir Winston’s bust back to the British, whom he despises as the colonial power mongers who had the temerity to drag his native Kenya into the modern era, build railroads, establish trade and civilize its governance. Worse, when the Mau Maus rebelled, Churchill backed General Sir George Erskine in leading a successful counter-insurgency. It took the communist Jomo Kenyatta (whom Obama admires) to drag the place back into the weeds after the British withdrew, but our Beloved Leader has never forgiven Churchill his part in Kenya’s flirtation with modernity and prosperity. For most of us, Churchill is the grandiloquent voice and personification of British resistance to the Nazi conquests of World War Two–the hero who led England against the Axis foe and attempted (without success) to restrain FDR from giving the shop away to Stalin at Yalta.

Thatcher appeared on the English scene at a time when England had misguidedly ridded itself of Churchill and bought wholeheartedly into the promise of socialism, thus demolishing its economy, vitiating its industries and weakening itself to the point of impotence. Thatcher rallied the opposition as a member of parliament, railing against the leftist agenda, denouncing the statist/collectivist ethos, inveighing against “the enemy in the form of socialism and the trade union movement.”

After the Falklands, Even TIME gave one or two cheers!

After the Falklands, Even TIME gave one or two cheers!

In 1979 she led her conservative resurgence into 10 Downing Street, becoming England’s first female Prime Minister. She forged a firm alliance with her American counterpart, Ronald Reagan, and like him led her nation to economic recovery while facing down the Soviet Union with implacable anti-communist zeal. When Argentina attempted to seize the Falkland Islands from England in the mistaken belief that Thatcher would not venture so far and risk so much to regain so little, the Iron Lady dispatched her forces to the vicinity, fought the hard battles, and ran the intruders off the island, remarking that “When you’ve spent half your political life dealing with humdrum issues like the environment, it’s exciting to have a real crisis on your hands.” When George Bush Senior voiced reservations about the wisdom of his stand against Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, she famously admonished him, “Now George, this is no time to go all wobbly!” She served as Prime Minister for 11 years, the longest service of any British Prime Minister, and made no bones about her pure conservatism, telling a crowd in 1981, “I was asked if I was trying to restore Victorian values; I said straight out that I was. And I am!” She also delivered the briefest and most irrefutable denunciation of socialism, telling parliament that “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Margaret Thatcher was appropriately eulogized by Prime Minister David Cameron who said upon news of her passing that, “Margaret Thatcher didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country. [She] took a country that was on its knees and made Britain tall again.” But, as is equally the case with America in the wake of Ronald Reagan, Britain has slowly, ignorantly, insouciantly, squandered the cultural and social riches of its conservative epoch, and returned to the vapidity and drear of political correctness, radical social justice, and forced egalitarianism. There was grandeur and magnificence in Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, and only the mocking nasality of Liberalism among her detractors. Consider that Labour forces in Brixton England marked her passing with posters reading “THE BITCH IS DEAD” and rearranged a theater marquee to read “Margaret Thatchers dead, LOL!”  The Left, and in particular, perhaps, the Laborite Left, doesn’t change much country to country.

Look for the union label!

Look for the union label!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, America lost Annette Funicello. And nobody who wondered who Annette Funicello was had long to wait for the answer because the Baby Boomers who rejected the challenge of Vietnam and remained at home determined to become professors, newscasters, ministers, priests, actors, writers, directors, and politicians of today, all grew up in love with her—and like Streep keeping a sense of comportment in her remarks on Thatcher, the American Media Establishment dealt with the death of America’s favorite Mouseketeer with a modicum of nostalgic respect—odd from the Left, but hey, you could break bad out of the ‘50s but still remember your first crush!  And Funicello was a woman who epitomized everything the contemporary Left despises—she kept her values, reputation and comportment as squeaky clean throughout her career as when she first looked lovingly and sincerely into the lens of a black-and-white TV camera and solemnly intoned, “M-O-U-S-E.”  


Many may not realize that before there was Elvis, there were two great television phenomena generated by Walt Disney, one being the Davy Crockett craze that swept the nation, and the other being the national imperative of dashing home from grammar school each weekday afternoon to watch the Mickey Mouse Club on TV. It left an indelible mark on even the most cynical of that most dangerous generation, and on Annette too, who later in life, when some of her fellow Mouse-Club alumni found it fashionable to trash their former employer, recalled him only as “my second father,” adding that “I always found Mr. Disney to be somewhat of a shy person, a kind heart.” If you’ve never heard the Mickey Mouse Club song sung, you were not a child in that era, or you grew up in Slobovia.  Rent a copy of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and you can hear the “grunts” in Vietnam sing it as they march forlornly through the rice paddies at the end of the film….and if Kubrick’s intent was to highlight the clash of childhood idealism with the violence of the Tet Offensive by creating a dissonant juxtaposition, he might as well have followed Annette around in the aftermath of her three year run as a Mouseketeer, filming her ongoing career against the backdrop of dissipation, decay and immorality that accompanied the 1960s in America.

mouse club

A girl next door for the ages.

A girl next door for the ages.

Following several Disney films and TV appearances in which she played the archetypal girl next door, she became the country’s surfing queen in American International’s Beach Party movies, playing the curvaceous but true-hearted Dee Dee, the abiding love interest of Frankie Avalon, whose character was imaginatively named “Frankie.” That these unabashedly insipid films continued to draw crowds into theaters as the psychedelic sixties thundered to a crescendo is a kind of juxtapositional wonderment in its own right, given that they were competing with free love, political radicalism, drugs, decadence and acid rock. Beach-Party director William Asher offered a product he described as “lots of flesh but no sex—all good clean fun–no hearts are broken and virginity prevails.” And Funicello was the goddess of that juxtapositional purity, standing for all the old-school values, even when swiveling atop a fake surf board, her perfect coif undisturbed despite a rear-screen projection of ocean surf roaring behind her.  She released pop records and millions bought them, even though the lyrics were uncompromisingly sanitary, and the themes, by today’s standards, cheesy. When the beach movies ran their course she became the TV spokesperson for Skippy Peanut Butter, and she sold a lot of it. When she was widely rumored in the press to be alcoholic after pundits took note of her poor balance at public appearances, she announced that, in fact, she had been fighting multiple sclerosis for years. She proceeded to found the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation. She died of the disease on Monday, at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California. And while nobody could sanely declare that Funicello’s life or career rivaled Thatcher’s in greatness or power, this is distinct from acknowledging a similarity of epochal and symbolic dimension–a consanguinity WOOF considers compelling.

Surfin' on the sound stage circa 1965.

Surfin’ on the sound stage circa 1965.

Somebody at TMZ got the idea that a modern ex-Mouseketeer should have something significant to say about the most famous original Mouseketeer, so a reporter asked Britney Spears for her reaction to Funicello’s passing, and Spears shouted back, “I think that’s great!” Almost certainly, one can make allowance here that Spears misheard the question, but her plasticine, its-all-good-man retort, intended as an multi-purpose catch-all responsive to half-heard press queries, played a banal, insubstantial counterpoint to the Labourites in Brixton cheering the death of Margaret Thatcher–  can anyone doubt that villains and idiots have triumphed in this epoch?

Brit's days as a Mouseketeer--sheez, they didn't even give those kids ears?

Brit’s days as a Mouseketeer– didn’t they even give those kids ears?

Two iconic anachronisms, each a symbol of values lived and expressed without deference to the entropic asininities of the nonce, have left the stage simultaneously, gentle readers, and in the nuances of this seeming happenstance one can clearly descry the hand of the Great Artificer, driving home the unsupportable essence of events as they are currently unfolding. When Annette Funicello was a Mouseketeer, this was still a free country—and when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Great Britain, the world beheld in her, as it did in her beloved friend, President Reagan, a quality of leadership that is, nowadays, nowhere to be found. We are led today by charlatans, idiots, narcissists and cowards. Our culture is daily beset by a fresh barrage of anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-American, anti-family, anti-Constitutional and anti-conservative bellowing from the usual cadres that populate the Liberal Establishment’s hegemony. Is it any wonder that a Divine Providence saw fit to impose a cunningly inobvious Ibsenism last Monday? This was not a message to the revelers in Gomorrah, dear readers, nor to the ruling elites of the Sinistral Establishment, nor to the grovelers at the public trough, nor to the heedless pursuers of bread and circuses –no, it was meant for us–we who even now preserve the flames of liberty, faith, and decency…and it is not a forlorn message; it is a signal of overarching power, fidelity, design and authority. To put it another way, as John Page did in a postscript to Jefferson on the eve of revolution: “Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?”WOOF PRINT

beach party