When I was a kid - like, a REALLY YOUNG KID...maybe 8 or 9 - my grandfather found a copy of Valley of the Dolls, and gave it to me. It had the word "dolls" in the title, and he figured it was a book for girls. And he knew I liked to read. So I read it. My parents, who knew it was NOT a book for little girls, didn't stop me from reading it. They let me read anything in which I showed an interest. I loved it. This led to me watching the movie, which got regular air play on NYC's 4:30 movie.
I was delighted that the role of Neely was played by Patty Duke, who I knew from The Patty Duke Show (which I watched in reruns, and loved, because it took place in Brooklyn Heights, which was just a spit away from Park Slope) and The Miracle Worker, which also got regular play on the 4:30 movie.
I was too young to know the word "camp," but certainly not too young to understand the concept that, sometimes, things are so bad, that they're excellent. After that, it was ON. I never missed Valley of the Dolls when it aired.
I was quite a bit older when I realized that Patty's performance as Neely was adored by queer people the world over, and older, still, when I found out that she embraced this fandom with all her heart. She was OUR GIRL, from way back. Anna - this outer-borough girl who loved her gays as much as we loved HER...who was ordained as a minister for the sole purpose of being able to officiate at same-sex weddings....who would speak at screenings of Valley of the Dolls at The Castro because she loved us and we loved her...who opened up about the hell her childhood had been and the mental illness she had lived with for so long...who fought for research into mental illness, and public understanding of it, and an end to the taboos we have around it.
People who only knew her as one of the identical cousins might find it difficult to believe she was radical, but she was radical as fuck. And she was ours.
Rest in peace, Anna.