In my blog post from 4/4/13, I mentioned how the actress, Danielle von Zerneck, who used to play Lou Swenson on General Hospital back in the early 80's, had recently been reunited with her long lost sister. It is a really amazing adoption story!
Danielle's mother, Julie Mannix, also an actress who appeared on General Hospital in 1972 as Heather Turner, became pregnant at a young age by a married 23 year old named Frank von Zerneck. Julie refused to sign papers to have an abortion, so her mother put her in a mental institution. After the baby girl was born, Julie gave her up for adoption. She ended up marrying Frank and becoming an actress. Frank became a television producer. Julie and Frank had two more children, Danielle and Frank Jr, who is also an actor.
Meanwhile, the baby girl was adopted and named Kathy. Kathy's adopted mother died from cancer when she was six. Her adopted father remarried. They ended up divorcing, but not before Kathy's step sister told her she was adopted.
Years later, after she was married and had children of her own, Kathy looked into finding information about her birth parents. Using information from paper work she had received years before, she turned to Google and started searching. After only fifteen minutes of searching, Kathy found her birth family! She not only found her mother, but also had the added bonus of finding her birth father Frank, sister Danielle and brother Frank. Her grandfather, Julie's father, was Daniel Pratt Mannix IV who wrote The Fox and the Hound, which later became a classic Disney movie.
Super amazing story to find each other after all those years!
Here's a link to Julie and Kathy's appearance on The Katie Show, which is where I first heard about their adoption reunion story.
Julie and Kathy co-authored a book called Secret Storms: A Mother and Daughter, Lost then Found
detailing their journeys.
I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Julie and Kathy!!! Very exciting!! Below are their responses to my questions:
- What inspired you both to write this book?
While exchanging long emails and phone calls detailing the stories of our lives to each other, one of us, one day mused, “Hey, wouldn’t this make a great book?”
The letters we wrote would one day turn into chapters. All we were doing was telling each other our stories, in an attempt to show each other who we were and what we’d done in all the years we’d been apart.
- How long did it take to write the book?
We actively worked on it for almost four years.
- Did either of you encounter any challenges in writing the book?
Yes, we did. In fact, this is why writing the book took as long as it did. Often, the past, especially if it’s painful, is better left behind. But writing this book forced us to face sometimes very uncomfortable feelings. Doing so together, however, ended up being cathartic and healing.
- What were your favorite parts in the book to write?
We both loved writing the ending. Writing our epilogues made us feel like we’d come full circle and contributed to our sense of fulfillment in the relationship we’ve built together.
- In getting to know each other, are there any common interests you've discovered that you both share?
When we traveled to Paris together two years ago, we both realized something very essential that we have in common. Though we are both planners and like to know where we’re going in life, we both appreciate the here and the now above all else. We got lost often in Paris and in doing so found so much magic. It seems to be our way, who we’ve become. Our lives are not what we thought they’d be, but they’re magical nonetheless.
- If your book was ever turned into a movie, which actresses would you want to play you?
In our wildest dreams, it would be Meryl Streep as Julie and Mamie Gummer, Streep’s daughter, as Kathy.
- Besides Amazon.com, are there any other places your book is available for purchase?
Secret Storms is available at Barnes and Noble bookstores and on their website, as well as Amazon.com. The E-Book is available on Kindle, iTunes, KoboBooks and Copia (the Nook is forthcoming.) By the end of May 2013, the audio book will be available on Audible and Amazon.
- Is there a list of websites and social media links where readers can connect with you?
- What advice would you give to someone who’s looking for a child they gave up for adoption?
Kathy’s adoption was completely closed and for over 40 years I remained in the dark about her, despite all my efforts to find her. I left a letter for her with Catholic Charities just in case she decided to look for me, since she had more legal options than I did. The hardest thing was simply not knowing whether she was okay. Every day I thought about her, every day I prayed that she would find me. I never gave up hope. That’s the only advice I have, to not give up hope. Because anything is possible.
- In getting to know Kathy, are there any similarities between her and your other children?
Oh, yes. Kathy’s voice is very similar to Danielle’s. They have the same tilt of the head when they listen intently, they gesture the same way with their hands. They are both very passionate women. Interestingly, Kathy’s youngest daughter, Kathryn, looks very much like my son, Francis, her uncle. They have the same eyes, the same features. In fact, Kathy is so much like all of us, in one way or another, that if a stranger were to see us all in a group together, it would be impossible to pick out the sibling who was a stranger for 40 years.
- Your author page on your website says you "had running roles in three soap operas".
Your IMDB page lists General Hospital, portraying Heather Turner in 1972.
What was that character about & how long were you on the show?
I played Heather Turner on “General Hospital” for about six months. She was a husband-stealer, as sweet as pie on the outside, but as devious as they come. She was fun to play.
- What were the other soap operas you were on?
I was on “The Doctors”, then for two years on “The Secret Storm” where I played Wendy Porter, who gave her father a heart attack by having an affair with her mother’s ex-lover. After that, I was on “The Best of Everything”, based on the best-selling book by Rona Jaffe, playing April Morrison. It wasn’t until we moved to California that I started appearing in “General Hospital” in the 70s.
"The Best of Everything" with Julie, second from left, Patty McCormack, Rochelle Oliver and Kathy Glass
- What advice would you give to someone who’s looking for their birth parents?
First and foremost, don’t have any expectations. If you are to have a relationship, it must develop naturally and can’t be forced into existence. Just because you’re related by blood doesn’t mean your relationship will last. Trust must be earned over time and it cannot happen overnight.
- Your mother, father, sister and brother are all in the television/movie industry. Have you done any acting, or ever felt drawn to that type of work?
When I was very young, my family called me the “camera hog.” I was certainly always looking for ways to get more and more attention. It was something in my nature that craved it. Recently, as I was looking through school transcripts, it struck me that almost all of my electives were Theatre Arts, despite the fact that I was a business major.
Something changed in me, however, when I learned a handful of details about my actress birth mother. I soon began to instinctively associate acting with rejection, with being given up. From that point on I actively stayed away from and hid what may or may not have been artistic potential.
- Your mother and sister were both on soap operas. Are you a soap opera fan?
I certainly was in the 1980’s. I watched “General Hospital” and “All My Children” religiously.
- To General Hospital fans, your sister Danielle played a pretty memorable role, especially since she played opposite John Stamos.
Before you found out she was your sister, had you ever watched her on General Hospital?
For a long time, many people I knew would tell me that I looked just like Genie Francis. I would find out later that the same was always said of my sister, Danielle.
As for watching Danielle on “General Hospital”, yes. In fact, I used to schedule my college classes around that show and watched her every single day, completely oblivious to the fact that I was watching my sister.
Danielle (Lou Swenson), with John Stamos (Blackie Parrish), on "General Hospital"
Julie and Kathy, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions!!!
I also have a copy of Secret Storms that I am giving away to one lucky reader!!!
To enter, use the form below. Good Luck!!
Contest ends at 12:00am 05/20/2013.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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