April 8, 1941 – Child Actress, Singer, and Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie is Born
“The Mickey Mouse Club would provide a chance for the world to at last partake of [Gillespie’s] God-given vocal talent.” – Jennifer Armstong,author of Why? Because We Still Like You: An Oral History of The Mickey Mouse Club.
On April 8, 1941, Darlene Faye Gillespie was born in Montreal, Canada. At the age of two, her family moved to Los Angeles, California. She began singing lessons at age 10 after moving the church congregation to tears, and began dance lessons at age 11. In 1955, Gillespie auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club, singing “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” for her audition piece, and was hired at the tender age of fourteen. She was on the red-string team for all three seasons of the show, and starred in several serials, including Corky and White Shadow and The New Adventures of Spin and Marty. She began a recording career after the show was cancelled, but none of her singles, though critically acclaimed, became hits. She was also cast as Dorothy in a proposed live-action film based on the Oz stories by Frank L. Baum, but this film never came to fruition. After a few stints in television, Gillespie retired from acting to become a nurse. In 1997, she came back to the public view, as she and her husband, Jerry Fraschilla, were accused of shoplifiting, and in 1999 she was sentenced to two years in prison for fraud, thanks to her involvement in a check-kiting scheme with Fraschilla, but was released after three months. Gillespie found herself in trouble once again in 2005, as she and her husband were indicted for trying to defraud a company of nearly $320,000 in class-action settlement funds.