LOS ANGELES (AP) - Cheryl Holdridge, the beautiful blond with a winning smile who joined "The Mickey Mouse Club" as a Mouseketeer in the 1950s, has died. She was 64.
Holdridge died Tuesday at her Santa Monica home following a two-year battle with lung cancer, Doreen Tracey, another former Mouseketeer, told the Los Angeles Times.
Born Cheryl Lynn Phelps on June 20, 1944, in New Orleans, Holdridge moved to Los Angeles when she was 2 and became a Mouseketeer in 1956 at the start of the second season of the "The Mickey Mouse Club." Aged 11, she was one of 24 talented singing and dancing youngsters.
"She was a good technical dancer, but I think she was picked mostly because she had this angelic look and a great smile; she's known for her smile," Tracey said. "We used to try to keep her quiet when she started singing because she sang off key."
Holdridge soon became a core part of the group, which appeared on the Mouseketeer roll call at the start of each show. The roll call also featured the likes of Tracey, Annette Funicello, Tommy Cole, Cubby O'Brien, Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Karen Pendleton, Lonnie Burr and Darlene Gillespie.
Another reason Holdridge was kept in the core group was because she had got large amounts of fan mail, Tracey said.
"Annette had the highest rating, but Cheryl came pretty close," Tracey said.
Holdridge found it easy transitioning to working in television after hanging up her mouse ears - she went on to appear as Wally Cleaver's girlfriend for two seasons in "Leave It to Beaver," and she had guest roles on shows such as "Bewitched" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show."
She left the television business in 1964 when she married Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton's son Lance Reventlow.
"Because that's what you did then. You married and stayed home," Holdridge told the Chicago Tribune in 2001.
Reventlow was killed in a plane crash in 1972. Holdridge married Manning Post, a prominent West Coast Democratic Party fundraiser and adviser, in 1994. He died in 2000.
"She certainly was a very pretty blond and just had a very winning personality," said Lorraine Santoli, author of "The Official Mickey Mouse Club Book" and a former Disney publicist.
"Cheryl was the most joyous person, is the best way I can put it," Santoli said. "She saw the positive side of everything."
Fellow former Mousketeer Tommy Cole remembered his friend fondly.
"Being one of the prettiest girls on the set, I always considered her Miss Sunshine," Cole said. "She'd walk into the room and this ray of sunshine would happen every time she smiled."
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)