Famous disappearing act

Of course it’s also entirely possible that Judy never mentioned Aunt Ada’s name because the twins Ada and Ida were the slightly better looking, though far less talented, sisters in their act; it might also have something to do with the fact that Aunt Ada disappeared, in the time honoured tradition of people in my family. Not for us the natural course of events, no, not we: it is either a bloody, violent end, or an act of erasure, a fade to black, if you will. I can only think this propensity to disappear or be bludgeoned is somehow linked to the possibility we might otherwise live forever. We have strong, some might even say mulish, genes. It is the peasant blood Mother won’t admit to. Or the fact we are perfectly preserved in alcohol. Either way. 

A family history lesson. Mother was the elder sister; Aunt Rosemary second born and second best before their sour mother, the original Judith, was replaced in their father’s affections by a much younger and much better-looking stepmother, who had twin girls Ada Ivy Ador and Ida Ava Honor before she too disembarked from this world for another cleaner port. Because of the significant age gap between them which mother won’t admit to, the twins were never a part of the original sister act; no sir, it was just little Judy and rollicking Rosie Holliday hoofing for sailors and soldiers and perchance the smallest piece of their father’s attention up and down the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line. Mother was the triple threat and Aunt Rosemary appealed to lesbians, or so she tells me. But the twins, who couldn’t sing for tuppence, joined in the 50s because they were good at department store appearances, posing with leopards between them, modelling shape-making brassieres, & all of those other no-talent-required things good for publicity that Judy felt were beneath her or do I mean behind her by that time. Those were the good old days, the days of youth and innocence. 

American actress Lana Wood (Svetlana Nikolaevna Zakharenko) playing with a dog and a leopard. USA, 1966 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio by Getty Images)

After Aunt Ada Ivy married Tony Anderson and had Apollonia, she went AWOL and had two more children, also twin girls, cousins I’ve never met named Poppet and Petal, who lived with their father in New York after Ada went properly missing. A year to the day after she disappeared, Tony Anderson married her sister Ida, and they had three girls, Lana, Lily and Adrienne Anderson, Apollonia’s half-sisters, before Aunt Ida disappeared as well. So perhaps Mother doesn’t like to mention her names, can’t remember her names in order, or has trouble distinguishing between the twins and all of their names, it is still not clear to me. Laudable Tony Anderson, by the way, has managed to retain a very benign image despite the multiple disappearances and presumed-deaths associated with marriage to him and/or his business partners. 

(His third wife was mercifully no relation; their son was named Adonis to round off the set.) But at the time of which I write, he had just married Aunt Ida, and so maybe the real reason Apollonia was always inflicted on me was because her mother had disappeared and she needed to be sent from the house while her father and aunt were fucking. In hindsight I ought to have let her choose the tape.