TO: Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres
FROM: Peter Bart
THERE ARE CERTAIN rules of political correctness that govern what we can and cannot say these days — rules that make it utterly impossible for me to comment on what the two of you have been up to lately.
And you’ve been up to a lot. You can’t even sneeze without hitting some hot-button.
If I could write about you, which I can’t, I think my message would be succinct: Chill out, I would advise. The “victim” bit is getting tired.
Neither of you is good casting for a victim, anyway. You’re both vibrantly intelligent and attractive. According to your CAA agents, whom you fired last week, there are plenty of offers lined up that would pay you vast amounts of money. The biggest obstacle in your life is your own self-destructiveness.
OK, I CAN HEAR your protests already. Ellen will insist: “My show got canceled because I acknowledged I was a lesbian.” Anne will say: “Producers threatened that I would never work in this town again.”
“I’ve been treated disrespectfully for no other reason than I am gay,” Ellen says repeatedly, most recently in her interview last week in the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
Well, I’ve been reading David Ehrenstein’s new book, “Open Secret,” which provides some vivid reminders of what Hollywood was like when it was truly scary to be gay, or “deviant,” as it was then called. In the pre-war era, gays would flee all the way to Big Bear or Lake Tahoe for their assignations; Los Angeles was too risky. Arranged marriages were de rigueur for stars such as Rock Hudson, and studio publicity departments were superb at inventing instant biographies.
Have things changed? There was a line on an old “Ellen” show in which one of the characters said about Hollywood, “Half of this town is gay, the other half pretends it is to suck up to David Geffen.”
That’s a joke line, to be sure, but the fact remains that, happily, things have loosened up in Tinseltown. Rupert Everett is now “the gay Cary Grant.” Gay characters are commonplace on sitcoms. Gay people run huge companies.
True, Ellen’s show ran into trouble, but, as Ehrenstein points out in his book, “Ellen never made up her mind what kind of show it wanted to be. Ellen’s coming out ultimately was a ‘grabber,’ but you can come out only once, not every week.” In point of fact, the show’s relentless pursuit of this theme soon made it seem exclusionary, not involving.
Harrison Ford knew about your sexual preference, Anne, before casting you in “Six Days, Seven Nights,” and so did Joe Roth, but they insisted you get the part anyway because you read for it and you were terrific.
SO THE QUESTION really boils down to this: Why have you both decided that you prefer whining to working? Mind you, that’s a question I can’t ask because it’s not P.C.
Before answering it, however, I would recommend you both take a long, hard look at the Bubba-and-Monica episode and ponder its meaning. As poll after poll vividly demonstrated, the American people are remarkably nonjudgmental about who sleeps with whom and in what position. They just don’t want to be whacked across the face with it every day in the newspapers and on TV.
My suspicion is that no one gives a damn about your sexual proclivities, Anne and Ellen. They want you to be happy and stay true to yourselves. No more Time magazine cover stories (“Yep, I’m gay”). No more teary Diane Sawyer interviews. No more smooching at premieres or White House parties.
I think you’ll find that you can do whatever you want, just so long as you don’t force the rest of us to watch. There’s a difference between free expression and exhibitionism.
Of course, I could never write this because the P.C. police would pounce. There would be petulant e-mails and fierce faxes. So forget I said any of this, and good luck when you inevitably find your way back to CAA.