I learned I was a black market baby when I was 14. There was no legal adoption, and it’s still unclear if money had changed hands. The parents who took possession of me changed my identity and pretended to be my biological parents. The deception was deliberate and deep.
It came to a crashing end when my adoptive mother’s lawyer took it upon himself to tell me the truth. For years, after that bombshell, both my adoptive parents said it was a lie, and that I was their “real” child. The reason he told me about the fake adoption was because my adoptive mother was on her deathbed. She had six months to live according to her doctors. The lawyer took pity on me fearing what would happen if my adopted mother died before I could talk to her about my situation. It turned out she survived until I was in my late teens, but she had a rough time of it: her leg amputated, she finally lapsed into a coma and spent her last year in a hospital, kept alive by machines.
Toward the end of her life, she told me I was not her daughter in the most unloving way possible. From her wheelchair, she chased me out of her home brandishing a butcher knife.
She told me to leave her home and never return. She didn’t offer any information about how I came into her life. She left me with no sense of my lineage or why she bitterly raised me as her daughter. After inquiring carefully within my adopted family, it was clear that only my adoptive father, whom I was close to, knew about my origins. He guarded the secret all the way to his death bed. He had died from cancer before I had the chance or maturity to ask the right questions.
The difficulty with secrets is that the truth only comes when you ask the correct questions. Like a politician, my father was a master at deception. He never let loose the secrets. He was cunning and smart, but most of all, he was mysterious. Long after he died, I researched what little I knew of him. His past was filled with friends indicted for mafia crimes committed across continents. Was my father connected to that? I will never know for sure, but I would call my adopted father “a person of interest” in today’s language.
About five years ago, a thin manila envelope suddenly appeared on my doorstep. My late father’s lawyer—a one-term congressman—had sent me my file, which only deepened the mystery. Much to my disappointment, the envelope contained few facts about my biological parents. The bulk of contents was about the unconventional upbringing I had endured with my adoptive family. My adoptive parents had divorced when I was little, and my mother was always worried they might take me away. Who “they” were is still a mystery. There were letters from California, Hawaii, and mentions of quick departures abroad.
As a child, I was taken out of the United States to be raised in Australia and then abducted by family members to England only to have Scotland Yard inquire about my welfare.
Using the sparse information I had, I worked with a highly regarded TV search personality who was interested in my story. Through my research I discovered my adopted family had a salacious past, some became well-known in the entertainment industry. Two people attempted an unsuccessful murder. When I asked family members about the attempted murder, they confirmed that the story was true without shock or surprise. However, when I asked about my origins, I was hit with a brick wall of silence.
The more I asked about my origins the less my adopted family would talk to me. My aunt went as far as telling a private investigator that I didn’t exist. I was gutted, reduced to being non-existent in the only family I knew.
These people were not particularly warm to me over the years, but they were my only family. Now I officially didn’t exist to them. Years of detective work on my part resulted in nothing. I was no closer to knowing who my biological family was. Then the holy grail of research became available, DNA testing.
ANCESTRY TRACKING THROUGH DNA
I dipped my toe into the water. I tested on 23andMe. I didn’t have any close DNA matches, but I had opened the floodgates to the brave new world of DNA genealogy. I found out I was English, French, Polish, and Ashkenazi Jew most likely with Russian and Ukrainian origins. This new information was groundbreaking.
For the first time, I had a connection with my distant past. I still didn’t know who my biological parents were, but at least I had scientific proof that I did actually exist. DNA also told me that my maternal line was English and French and non-Jewish so that at least gave me a place to start my new research. Next, I tested at FTDNA (Family Tree DNA) and got more matches, all too distant to provide any solid clues about my biological parents. FTDNA further confirmed my European ancestral background.
My next step was AncestryDNA. Bingo! I got a match to a first cousin, once removed. That match was open to talking to me, and while we had no idea how I fit into his tree, he accepted me, more so than the family who raised me. For a year, we struggled with our research always hitting dead ends. Then I got three more DNA matches on AncestryDNA and after a year, we learned that all these people were in the same rather large, complicated tree.
MY BIOLOGICAL MOTHER
Then it happened … I figured out who my biological mother was! She had changed her name* several times, and her paper trail was sparse at best, but DNA doesn’t lie. I found her!
Then, I was told she died four years earlier and had lived half an hour from me. That blow was hard, painful, and knocked the wind out of me. I had driven past her home thousands of times, never knowing I was that close to my biological mother all these years.
Fearful and excited I drove to where she had lived. Her name was still on the mailbox. Was it left there for me to see and confirm I had indeed found my biological mother? I spoke to neighbors who told me I reminded them of her.
I was so close to her yet separated by the divide of death, to never look into her eyes or hear her voice. I looked down and told myself she probably once stood where I now stood. It was a hollow victory. I hurt.
The next step was to learn about her and find my biological father. I was again hit with a wall silence. It turns out my mother had a stage name, Heidi Parks. She was an actress. She worked in television during the golden age of TV in the 1960’s, but little of her credits survived into the age of the Internet. She had no electronic footprint; she was private to a point that is unimaginable in the 21st century.
She went into seclusion, never to work again, from her late 20’s on. Heidi had one close friend she confided in who was reluctant to tell me what he knew, but eventually gave me a short list of the men in her life, and he speculated on who my father might be.
He confirmed I was Heidi’s child. She had named me Bambi, and he knew I was Heidi’s Bambi. To this day, he tells me little, and I’m left with so many unanswered questions.
THE HUNT FOR MY BIOLOGICAL FATHER
Heidi dated a Los Angeles Dodger named Roy Gleason. Roy is well-known for being the only Dodger to have a Purple Heart from Vietnam and a World Series ring from the Dodgers. Roy was kind and met me for lunch. He was in love with Heidi, and when he spoke of her, he smiled with the look of someone recalling fond memories from a romantic youth. Roy told me Heidi was a sweet and quiet young lady, perhaps a bit naive. He told me she was a conservative person and did USO-type shows in Vietnam (how Roy and her met) and visited the wounded Vietnam soldiers at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco to cheer them up. Their paths separated as he pursued baseball, and Heidi pursued acting. He knew little of her beyond their brief romance. Roy is not my father, but he remembered her once mentioning Bambi, unaware Heidi was speaking of her daughter … me.
Heidi also dated Barry Goldwater, Jr. former Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from California. He is the son of the late Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. I was sent a picture of them together from a movie premiere they attended. Heidi and Barry also show up in newspaper columns from California to Pennsylvania as a couple. I contacted him and asked if he would be willing to tell me anything about Heidi.
The congressman promptly called back, less than 24 hours after I sent an email. He left a message on my phone stating he had no memory of meeting her in a don’t contact me again tone.
Why would he call me to tell me that? I’m no one of importance, yet he called to tell me he didn’t know Heidi? Why bother? I couldn’t help but wonder if the mere mention of Heidi upset him enough to call me and leave that message. I only wanted to hear what he remembered of her. I saved the message. Perhaps he will reconsider speaking with me. I can only hope.
The shortlist also included Jackie Mason. I contacted Mason’s agent. Mason’s current wife responded and told me Jackie neither knows nor ever knew a Heidi Parks.
Another brick wall. Did I mention I found three newspaper clippings about the engagement of Heidi Parks to Jackie Mason, and Jackie responding about his relationship with Heidi, the woman he never knew? Jackie Mason stated that he and Heidi were just good friends, and they had no plans to marry.
Everyone else I’ve contacted—with the exception of Roy Gleason—feigns ignorance about Heidi. Why would this sweet and rather quiet woman make people lie to me and say they never knew her?
Why did Heidi go into hiding starting in her late 20’s? She wore hats, gloves, and coats, hiding in plain sight even in the heat of summer. What was she hiding from? Why were all my birth records forged, fake names and fake DOB’s for both parents? Why did my adoptive parents have fake consent to adopt with a fake notary?
I found my OCB (Original Birth Certificate), and there is a fictitious name for the mother and “decline to state” written where the father’s name should be.
ONE LAST PART OF THE BLACK MARKET BABY MYSTERY
The pediatrician involved in my birth was indicted for participating in a black market baby ring with several Beverly Hills attorneys. The pediatrician never went to jail, but even his adult son confirmed in a phone call that his father did help place babies for some rather prominent people in the entertainment industry. So while the courts didn’t find him guilty, we know he was a participant in discreet adoptions.
Both my adopted parents and adopted brother are dead. I was closest to my brother. I asked my brother if he knew anything about my birth parents, and he told me in a harsh tone I will never forget,
“There are just some things you should never know.”
I argued with him and begged for answers, but he refused in anger—the only time in my life my brother and I raised voices at one another. I never asked him again, and I deeply regret not pushing harder for answers. Good or bad, I want the truth. We all deserve to know where we come from and to claim our place in our own family tree. I want to know my past and my heritage, something many people take for granted. And by the way, I EXIST!
*Heidi Parks also was known by two other names: Zygma Jo Kempinski and De Ann Carol Pierce or “DeDe” Pierce. Her agent changed her name to Heidi Parks. She sometimes went by Parkes with an ‘e.’