It would be easy to say "I told you so!" But, it's never really fun to watch someone in pain. Eight years into a relationship that was both as hard and easy as the first, my partner and I sat in our mid-West suburban easy chairs discussing the coupling of Heche and DeGeneres, and I said, "I'll give it two years at most." Now a few years later, the poster girls for lipstick lesbians have split and I find no satisfaction in it.
I wonder if I can explain why I felt that sense of doom when everyone else, it seemed, relished the coupling as if it were a royal wedding. Now there's a thought&emdash;as often as those titled trysts go down in flames. DeGeneres had the aura of a bemused puppy at the pound. Heche was svelte and feline. When I heard the story of their meeting&emdash;eyes across a smoky room at a Hollywood ( was it? ) party. I scripted ( "close-up, please" ) the eyes of Kim Novak staring seductively over Piwacket in Bell, Book and Candle&emdash;Ellen didn't have a chance. The big, ungainly puppy bounded into the arms of she that held the most tantalizing tidbit&emdash;the offer of love.
Heche was Hollywood&emdash;her previous amours, short-lived and public. Screen stars thrive on publicity. In the salad days of their relationship, she and Ellen had that galore. Their fair-haired visages made all the press &emdash;the nouveau couple, everywhere, hugging and kissing&emdash;"Let's invite them." "Guess who's coming to dinner, to our fundraiser, to our political rally." The new social flavor of the month. ( Here in our suburban chairs, we tired of that very soon&emdash;where's the substance, where's the dues? ) Frontline and microphone at the March&emdash;easing out, for photos, activists of 40 years. The press sought out Ellen's mother&emdash;"She approves!" How sweet. ( Will they ask her now, how fares her daughter's heart? ) Sought-after spokespersons on all our issues&emdash;"Will you have children?" "Who ( or what ) would be the father?" Wasn't it all a little too neat?
Heche made movies&emdash;Ellen negotiated her next career move. Heche did television &emdash;didn't make the splash they expected. Kissing lesbians are on all the sitcoms. Ellen gave selected interviews&emdash;restricting the gay press&emdash;we weren't her audience? Heche's career won't be hurt&emdash;her screen image enhanced. Ever since Pussy Galore surrendered to James Bond, fulfilling one-third of all male het's fantasies, moviegoers and simpletons know it's just a matter of time 'til a "lesbian" gives in to a real good man. Heche we know is talented ( in acting and artifice ) and will find another rung to climb up on. But, it would be so easy to paint her villain.
DeGeneres, I fear, will not fare so well. As a comic her coming out cost her a TV show. While the suits waited ( negotiating ) to see how Heche and she would play in Peoria, she became a caricature. Had she not been seduced into playing the politically correct couple full-time, she could have gone on the road, and played to an audience that loved her. But somehow the gap between her and her audiences, straight and gay, has widened, and Ellen needs a live audience of approving fans to thrive. I think that now gays will be uncomfortable with the symbol of failure and hets will be more solidified against the stereotype. Will queers forgive DeGeneres for letting her private life become so public as to envelop our causes? Will our disappointment over the destruction of the proffered dream leave DeGeneres outside our circle?
I guess I'll watch with abated interest Ellen's next move.
Huge talents have butted heads in private before and gone down in flames. When Rita Mae Brown and Martina Navratilova went their separate ways, though equally public people, they had retained their separate selves, identities intact. Liz Taylor's serial monogamy never cost her points with hets ... she survived Burton twice. From Ellen ( and Shakespeare paraphrased ) we can learn much&emdash;the fault, dear Homo Bruci is not in the stars, but ... who you choose for role models. We are, after all, only human.
Copyright 2000 by Marie J. Kuda e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org