Doreen Tracey, one of the original Mouseketeers on the 1950s TV show The Mickey Mouse Club, has died. The Disney star passed away at age 74 while being treated for pneumonia at a Thousand Oaks, California hospital. Doreen Tracey had been battling cancer for two years, Disney publicist Howard Green told the Los Angeles Times. Tracey’s fellow Mouseketeer, Tommy Cole, also issued a statement on her death.
“Our Dodo, as we lovingly nicknamed her, always had a smile on her face,” Cole said in a statement to the Official Disney Fan Club. “She never failed to make us all feel good, and we will miss her.”
Doreen Tracey appeared on The Mickey Mouse Club during its original run from 1955 to 1959. The after-school series later aired on television for decades in syndication, where more fans got to know Doreen during the show’s famous roll call alongside fellow Mouseketeers Cole, Annette Funicello, Cubby O’Brien and more.
Doreen auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club at age 12. During her reign as a Disney teen, Doreen Tracey was cast in the Disney feature film Westward Ho the Wagons!(1956), and she played Val Abernathy in the spinoff, Walt Disney Presents: Annette. The serial aired during the third season of The Mickey Mouse Club.
But as the female Mouseketeers grew up, Disney executives reportedly became concerned about their development, especially curvy Doreen’s. According to an article posted on The Huffington Post, Doreen Tracey later told an interviewer that Disney executives requested she and Annette Funicello wear “silly tight T-shirts under our sweaters to try and flatten us out. Naturally, we used to punch holes in the right places.”
After the Mickey Mouse Club ended, Doreen Tracey famously broke away from her squeaky-clean Disney image once and for all. A teen marriage at age 18 produced a son. While she continued to get acting roles, in an interview with talk show host Jodie Carn, Doreen revealed that she became frustrated that she was still playing 16-year-olds when she was, in reality, a married, 19-year-old mom. The former child star put together an act and performed as a USO entertainer during the Vietnam War. In the early 1970s, Tracey went on to work in promotions at Warner Bros. Records for an impressive roster of acts that included Frank Zappa and The Doobie Brothers.
“I pride myself for being part of the Warner Brothers team working on ‘breaking’ Tower of Power, the Doobie Brothers, and Frank Sinatra’s ‘Old Blue Eye’s Is Back’ to name just a few of the artists,” Tracey once said in an interview. “The best achievement was getting Frank Zappa his first single hit: Don’t You Go Where The Huskies Go, Don’t You Eat That Yellow Snow! That was a challenge because Top Forty stations considered Frank an underground artist, not mainstream.”
Doreen Tracey also shed her Disney image—and her clothes—by posing for the men’s magazine Gallery in 1976 wearing nothing except her Mouse ears. In 1978, Tracey posed nude again, this time in a trench coat in front of Disney Studios. While the nude photo scandal estranged Doreen Tracey from Disney for a time, the star, who also spent some time as an amateur weightlifter, later reconciled with the company and became a fixture at Mickey Mouse Club conventions and reunions.