What the Hell Happened to Anne Heche?
During the 90’s, Anne Heche was an up-and-coming actress. Many believed that the A-list was in her future. Then she started a high-profile relationship with Ellen DeGeneres and I think it’s fair to say that all hell broke loose. The couple became the face of same sex relationships at a time when the nation did not approve of same sex relationships. They were all over the media. Some accused them of shoving their lifestyle down America’s collective throat. The relationship and the media whirlwind that surrounded it eclipsed both of their careers. I know it’s hard to believe it now when DeGeneres is a beloved figure in the entertainment industry, but the backlash nearly took down her career. It certainly limited Heche’s prospects.
So, what the hell happened?
I’m so glad you asked. Because folks, this is going to be one of the bumpier rides in the series. Buckle up, Buttercup.
Heche had an unfortunate childhood. She was the youngest of five children. Her family moved 11 times during her childhood including a stay in an Amish community. It is unclear exactly how Heche’s father supported his family. Outwardly, he was a choir director. He also claimed to be involved in the business of “gas and oil”. But Heche denies these claims suggesting that he was actually involved in something shadier.
When Heche was 12, her family settled in Ocean City, New Jersey. They had lost their home, so the entire family of seven moved into a single bedroom in the home of another family from their church. Heche took a job working at a dinner theater where she earned $100 a week. At the age of 12, she was the top earner in her family.
The following year, when Heche was 13, her father died of AIDS. He was only 45 years old. Heche claimed that her father was a closeted homosexual, “He was in complete denial until the day he died. We know he got it from his gay relationships. Absolutely. I don’t think it was just one. He was a very promiscuous man, and we knew his lifestyle then.” Heche has also claimed that despite being gay, her father raped her as a child:
I don’t think he was just a gay man. I think he was sexually deviant. My belief was that my father was gay and he had to cover that up. I think he was sexually abusive. The more he couldn’t be who he was, the more that came out of him in ways that it did.
Three months after the death of her father, Heche’s older brother Nathan was killed in a car crash. He was only 18 at the time. Officially, it was believed that Nathan fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tree, but Heche believes her brother committed suicide.
Heche wrote about her tragic childhood in her 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy. In the book, she claimed that she contracted genital herpes as an infant and that her mother, Nancy, refused to acknowledge it or take her to a doctor. Nancy Heche vehemently denied her daughter’s claims: “I am trying to find a place for myself in this writing, a place where I as Anne’s mother do not feel violated or scandalized.”
Heche’s sole surviving sister, Abigail, cast some doubt on the validity of the book:
“It is my opinion that my sister Anne truly believes, at this moment, what she has asserted about our father’s past behavior; however, at the same time, I would like to point out that Anne, in the past, has expressed doubts herself about the accuracy of such memories. Based on my experience and her own expressed doubts, I believe that her memories regarding our father are untrue. And I can state emphatically, regardless of Anne’s beliefs, that the assertion that our mother knew about such behavior is absolutely false.”
Following the death of her husband, Nancy Heche became a Christian therapist and motivational speaker. She lectures on behalf of the controversial James Dobson’s Focus on the Family about overcoming homosexuality. According to Heche:
My mother’s had a very tragic life. Three of her five children are dead, and her husband is dead. That she is attempting to change gay people into straight people is, in my opinion, a way to keep the pain of the truth out. People wonder why I am so forthcoming with the truths that have happened in my life, and it’s because the lies that I have been surrounded with and the denial that I was raised in, for better or worse, bore a child of truth and love. My mother preaches to this day the opposite of that core of my life. It is no mistake that she still stands up against love. And one wonders why I’m not rushing to have her meet my children.
Heche remains estranged from her mother. But she has reconciled with her sister.
Following her brother’s death, the surviving members of the Heche family relocated to Chicago. At the age of 16, an agent spotted Heche in a school play. He secured an audition for her for the daytime soap, As the World Turns. Heche’s mother insisted she finish school first. Two years later, just before her high school graduation, Heche was offered a dual role on the soap opera, Another World. Once again, her mother refused to let her go. But this time, Heche rebelled:
My mother was very religious and maybe she thought it was a sinner’s world. But I got on the phone and said, ‘Send me the ticket. I’m getting on the plane.’ I was like, ‘Bye!’ I did my time with my mom in a one-bedroom, skanky apartment and I was done.
From 1987-1991, Heche appeared as a regular on Another World. She played twins Vickie and Marley Hudson. The dual role allowed Heche to play both a hero and a villain.
In 1989, Heche was nominated for an Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Juvenile Female in a Drama Series. In 1991, she took home Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series.
In 1991, Heche made her prime time debut on an episode of Murphy Brown. In the season 4 episode, It Came From College, Heche guest starred as the 18-year-old daughter of one of Muphy’s old friends. Murphy learns about what she is in store for as a mother by watching over a college-aged kid.
In 1992, Heche appeared in the Hallmark TV movie, O Pioneers! Jessica Lange starred as settler who has to keep the family together and save their farm. David Strathairn played Lange’s suitor who gets the townsfolk talking. Heather Graham played Lange’s character in her youth. Heche’s role was a small one.