Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Anne Heche: Looking Back in Sorrow . . . And Frustration

 Yes, I feel bad about Anne Heche’s final days. Clearly there is something terribly wrong when a talented woman gets into a senseless accident that destroys her life. The fact that she had experienced other bizarre encounters, both on the day of her final crash and years before, suggests that she was suffering from mental issues that no one could permanently solve. It’s tragic, but it happens. 

 What nags at me, though, is the fact that we’re all lamenting Heche’s lost promise, with little thought for the woman whose life she so permanently upended. On August 5, a Mini Cooper driven by Heche crashed into the garage of a West L.A. apartment building, narrowly missed hitting a pedestrian, and struck a Jaguar. Shortly thereafter, it smashed through a small rental house on Walgrove Avenue, destroying the front wall and lodging in the rear, where it burst into flames. Thankfully, the occupant managed—with the help of neighbors—to save herself and her pets, but after some fifty-nine firefighters converged to put out the blaze, most of her belongings (as well as her home itself) were toast. Remarkably, this newly bereft L.A. woman has had the grace to express on Instagram her condolences to Heche’s family. But will the public outpouring of grief for Heche and her bereaved kin extend to the person whose life she has irretrievably altered?

 Maybe it’s the fact that the destroyed house is perhaps ten minutes from the peaceful street on which I live that makes me so sensitive to the losses suffered by innocent bystanders. But I’ve got to say that living in Movieland is not always easy for us civilians. True, I’ve had the thrill of seeing  (and sometimes interacting with) celebrities in their native habitat Many are gracious to members of the public, and I’ve certainly read about hugely good deeds done out of the spotlight. But it’s also true that successful creative types seem prone to lapsed judgment, often involving alcohol, drugs, and very fast cars. I’ve just been reading back over the details of Charlie Sheen’s checkered career. Sheen mostly seemed to do harm to those he married, but other Tinseltown figures have come closer to injuring complete strangers in their vicinity. There was, for instance, Mel Gibson, who was stopped by a Malibu cop for driving under the influence, then responded with anti-Semitic threats to the arresting officer  A special case, I suppose, is that of Margot Kidder, who—having rejected a medical diagnosis of bipolar disorder—was found in a distressed state of mind wandering in a homeowner’s Glendale backyard.

 Of course it’s not just entertainment figures who wind up creating havoc for those around them. A tragic story covered by the Los Angeles Times occurred just one day before Heche’s Mar Vista misadventure. In a section of L.A. known as Windsor Hills, a Mercedes traveling at 90 miles an hour sped through a red light and crashed. The result: five people died, including a pregnant woman and a very young child. The horror of the situation was compounded when news surfaced that the driver of the Mercedes was a longtime nurse, much respected in the community for her compassion and her medical skills. (Somehow her 13 previous crashes had never affected her license to drive a motor vehicle.)

 What’s my point in all this? People—both famous and not—are complicated. And mental illness can bubble up anywhere. But I can’t help wishing that we spent less time mourning troubled celebrities who cause harm, and more time focusing on the plight of their unfortunate victims.




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