R.I.P. Anne Heche

“Celestia” now resides permanently in the Fourth Dimension.

I thought Anne Heche (1969-2022) was straight up lovely, an actress whose performances impressed me completely, a star seemingly delicate, but fierce, funny, and super bright. There was a classicism to her that reminded me of an old style star like, say, Ann Dvorak. (Or Celeste Holme, which would be especially apt, since Heche’s middle name was Celeste, which is why it was also the name of her imaginary alter ego.) In addition to her hard-won acting chops, there was also natural vulnerability on tap, an access to nervous expression not unlike Garland’s, undoubtedly drawn from similar inner resources.

At any rate, my opinion of Heche was formed from only seeing her in about a half dozen movies, nearly all of them from 1997 and 1998, incredibly fertile years for her career. It says a lot for their importance (including that of Volcano!) that I saw almost all of her work from those months, given that years go by when I don’t see movies in theatres! But then, two things happened. First, Heche and Ellen DeGeneres came out as a couple in 1998. There are ways in which this was a seismically positive event. It seems to have been pivotal in terms of changing attitudes in America. But because they were in the vanguard, the pair also had to ride out a lot of flack. In the end, Ellen obviously emerged all the stronger. But Heche, who was a movie actress, a corner of show business dependent on box office and financial calculation, stopped getting the same kinds of offers, despite the prospect of an upward career trajectory that was CLEAR as day. Then, in 2000, there was the little incident of her wandering into a stranger’s house zonked out on E, resulting in storms of unabashedly negative publicity. And though she continued to work constantly over the next couple of decades, it was at a more modest workaday level. I look down at a list of indie films and tv shows of which I had been mostly unaware.

Forgive me if the news takes you as a surprise. Things move so swiftly now that I decided that you’d already heard that an intoxicated Anne Heche drove her car into somebody’s house a couple of days ago, and was badly burned in the fire. Following a coma, she passed away a few hours ago. It’s long been known (because it’s long been demonstrated) that she wasn’t well mentally, to put it mildly. But it’s also known that she was abused as a child, more than ample reason to cut her some slack, I should think. I also have a certain degree of anger at an industry and a society that stigmatizes gay people.

And I’m especially pissed at that dude for calling the cops when she was sitting half naked in his house watching TV back in 2000. He actually recognized her, knew who she was. She surely would have left after a bit, or fallen asleep. Or he could have called a friend to come assist. She’d only been there about a half an hour. He could have been cool. But, no, he called the cops. I recall that incident resulting in far worse publicity than “Ooh, Anne Heche and Ellen, whom everybody already knew were gay, are gay!” Surely, it broadsided her career, which only partially recovered. I honestly hope he’s smart enough to feel guilty.

Yes, Anne Heche will be missed. But from my point of view, she already was.