Darlene Gillespie is my 55th choice as a Disney Legend, and my first Mouseketeer. One of the most popular Mousketeers in the original Mickey Mouse Club that ran from 1955 to 1958, Darlene Gillespie rivaled Annette Funicello for the most popular girl on the show. Plus my wife remembers her and looked up to her!
Darlene was the early favorite with the show's crew, who were convinced she'd be a star, but circumstances forestalled this. An amateur performer at fourteen, she was a good dancer, was blessed with an extraordinary voice, was in Roll Call and the lead performer on the Red Team for all three seasons on ABC.
Darlene did get several scenes in Annette's first serial Adventure in Dairyland and new director Sid Miller seemed nearly as impressed with her talents as first-year director Dik Darley had been. She remained the second most popular Mouseketeer in terms of fan mail after Annette, with whom she maintained a friendly working relationship throughout the season. The two girls were often paired for personal appearances and gradually came to stand out from the other :mice" in publicity releases and media coverage. Besides leading most of the musical numbers for the second year, Darlene also shared a Talent Round-Up Day with her three sisters and had a show to herself with singing and celebrity impersonations in An Evening With Darlene.
As soon as the serial ended, she worked for two months in the Disneyland Circus.
She was the leading female singer and starred in the serial Corky and White Shadow during the first season. In the third season, she appeared in the serial, The New Adventures of Spin and Marty, with Tim Considine and David Stollery.
Gillespie made many recordings under the various Disney labels, including an album of 1950s rock and roll standards called Darlene of the Teens (1957). She recorded albums from Disney animated films in which she not only sang but narrated the stories as well, such as Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty.
There is some scandal surrounding her - she was arrested in 2005 in bad check writing scheme. the charges were later dropped. Several current Disney legends do have some scandal attached to their name (Johnny Depp for example).