From the PCA Archives: Darlene Gillespie – Walt Disney’s Bad Seed

Darlene Gillespie: Walt Disney’s Bad Seed

She was one of the prettiest and most talented girls in the classic 1950’s television kids program The Mickey Mouse Club.  Unfortunately for her, Darlene Gillespie wasn’t Annette Funnicello.  As a result, ambition and jealousy lead the pretty Mousekteer down a path of rivalry and back stabbing ending what started as what Walt Disney himself thought would be a promising career in show business to a life of obscurity and, eventually, crime and incarceration.  Today from the PCA Archive we represent one of the most tragic figures from the House of Mouse, Darlene Gillespie – Walt Disney’s Bad Seed!

  1. Beth’s avatar

    I’m curious as to what some of the bad things she did during “The Mickey Mouse Club” days were. I had heard she had “fallen out of favor” with Walt Disney, but never knew exactly about what. I should have known that it had something to do with Annette, as Annette was clearly Disney’s handpicked favorite. Annette WAS cute and nice. I grew up watching the show and loved all the girls.

    Do you have any more info or some sources? I’d like to read more about it.

  2. Andrew’s avatar

    You know ya maybe she did make some mistakes but show me ennyone who hasent its a Dam Shame who Legonds like Darlene are treted its the same evrywher in pro wrestling people like hogen worrior randy savge chris benoit etc mistakes or not Darlene is a TRUE LEGOND & SHOLD BE TRETED LIKE ONE

  3. Dr. J. Lee Choron’s avatar

    Regardless of what she did, and there is no possible excuse for it, talent is talent. It’s a shame she didnt channel that tallent into productive and legal areas. Shee’s sill my favorite ‘singing’ Mouse. I hope her later years

  4. Dr. J. Lee Choron’s avatar

    Regardless of what she did, and there is no possible excuse for it, talent is talent. It’s a shame she didnt channel that tallent into productive and legal areas. She’s sill my favorite ‘singing’ Mouse. I hope her later years are more peaceful and more secure.

  5. J R Lopez’s avatar

    I remember the first time I saw her on tv and I fell in love
    with the cute blond and that great smile of hers.Darlene was
    always my favorite.I could never understand why all the other boys made such a fuss over Annette.I use to rush home from school just to see her.I had a dream about her
    last week.I don’t know why.She will always be my favorite.
    The cute blond with her freckles and that beautiful smile.I hope she is doing well.

  6. gene’s avatar

    on a 1-10, Darlene was a solid 9 1/2 to my 11 year old thinking. Thanks for the spelling tips Doc.

  7. Jake Diggs’s avatar

    Darlene was, hands down, the most talented of the Disney kids, and far and away the best voice. But it was squeaky clean Annette who got the most air play, and probably rightly so since she was an interesting, clearly developed and likable character, even at a young age. But I real liked Darlene. I’d like to hear what Funicello though of all of this, but I’m sure we’ll never know.

  8. Mike’s avatar

    I’m old enough to pretty much remember all 3 seasons of the 1st Mickey Mouse Club in its full hour presentation and then 1/2 hr. I was an avid viewer of all the segments and remember vividly the serials and the mouseketeer showcase segments. Yes Darlene was very talented but it was quite obvious she just didn’t have the ‘IT’ factor that Annette and even Cheryl had. The camera loved those two girls but sadly Darlene was just ‘there’. A good example was the one serial written just for her – Corky and White Shadow. A sort of modern western about a very tomboy-ish girl and her dog with a terribly lame villain called The Dude. It was as bad as it sounds. Compare that to Annette ‘ s starring serial ‘Annette where she is the cute new girl in town shunned by the snotty rich clique girl but overcomes it and becomes the popular girl. Or in the Spin and. Marty series where she had the role of musical show organisers and Annette had the role of the cute girl both Spin and Marty were competing for. Disney did her no favors in character casting.

  9. Julie’s avatar

    As an Australian girl growing up in the 50′s i enjoyed the original MMC so much. It was sad to read of Darlene’s tortured career. I clearly recall being entranced and amazed by her smile. I was puzzled by how she was overtaken by Annette – i didn’t see her ‘magic’ and never really ‘took’ to her.

  10. Lee Larson’s avatar

    I was born in 1943, about the same age as many of the Mouseketeers. I watched the entire MMC series from beginning to end, and I always thought that Darlene Gillespie was THE girl I would have liked to get to know. Annette Funicello was pretty, and was obviously favored, and Cheryl Holdridge was The Blonde every show has to have, but Darlene gave off that aura, that something called ‘feminine allure’. She was actually the prettiest of the girls in The Club, and the most desirable.


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