Give Anne Heche A Break!:
Better Than a Car Chase

by Amy Zidell


Even the tragic sunken Russian submarine news couldn't block the bombardment about Anne Heche. Now that the political conventions have come and gone and there's no one shooting up a place they're not supposed to, and, no one's leading police on a multi-freeway chase, there's nothing else to report on.

Reportedly within a couple days of a joint announcement by Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche that they are parting company, Anne approached a house in Fresno and wasn't making too much sense.

So many of the reports try to skillfully hint as some great insidious problem. One went as far as to do a summary of celebrities who had recently wandered around incoherently.

From what I gather, she was driving in Fresno, her SUV broke down and she walked a mile in the heat. Of course she was babbling at this point. Who wouldn't be? I've never been to Fresno, though I did have to drive through Bakersfield years ago on the way home from Mammoth, to drop the friend of someone off in Bakersfield. I think that's possibly the only time I've traveled the "grapevine." It was wintertime and a horrible drive home. We weathered blinding snow, hail, ice, rain, wind and miles upon miles of road after road after road. We almost slid into a telephone pole at one particularly frozen curve when looking for a rest stop. Driving along PCH when it was pitch black and raining sheets catching glimpses of churning waves mere feet away was quite harrowing in itself. Barbara Mandrel cassettes were the only source of soothing balm for our rattled nerves. And we were in an SUV. Though I think that was before they were called SUV's.

Anyway, I can't imagine driving alone in and around the Fresno area in the summer heat to be much more pleasant than this hellish winter ride. Especially after just ending a relationship. That can't be easy. It's hard dating a comedian. I know. At least in Anne's case there weren't arguments about leaving the seat up. So she's a bit upset, alone and most likely she became dehydrated or suffered heat stroke during the walk after the car broke down. A cell phone was not likely to work out in the middle of nowhere. There could be a lot of reasons why she had to brave the unknown area and succumbed to the elements. Maybe Ellen used to make sure Anne had a bottle of water with her. Maybe Anne was without a cell phone because the pair hadn't divvied up the cellular devices yet. There are lots of possibilities.

Heat stroke and dehydration are more common than you might think. I'm not a doctor but I've gone to doctor's before. Look one time a friend got 'vaclempt' and fainted at a bank in Burbank. The cause was said to be dehydration. All they were doing was waiting for a teller, not hiking alone through the desert. It's hard to make much sense when the vision gets all goofy you know.

Thank goodness Anne had the strength and presence of mind to get to a house and get help. Why don't they report about that? They want to suggest something sinister. Apparently the make of the SUV was not a Ford with exploding tires. If that were the case, the cause of the vehicle breakdown would be obvious.

I just don't understand why some things are reported as they are. I believe that the fascination with car chases was bolstered by OJ's meanderingly slow progress in a White Bronco. Perhaps this incident of Anne's SUV breaking down will launch a new fascination with televised car breakdowns. Hey if it's happening to an SUV it must be news.

It would go something like this.

A breaking news graphic accompanied by breaking news music would interrupt the broadcast in progress. Two serious looking news broadcasters appear behind a news desk. The female broadcaster adjusts her earpiece with one hand and slightly nods to the voice trailing into her brain. She straightens a small stack of papers in front of her, "Breaking news, we bring you now to the side of the road where our, [catchy helicopter reporter name we'll use Skippy Jones for our purposes right here] Skippy Jones is overhead, Skippy?"

"Thanks Carol. We're overhead at the side of the road where apparently a car, a light colored SUV, has broken down."

"Skippy, can you tell us, what's the condition of the driver?"

"I'm going to have the 'copter swing around to see if we can get a better angle."

The male broadcaster joins in, "I think I saw someone. Is that a cell phone they're using?"

"Yes Brad," Skippy answers, "I believe that is a cell phone. They may be placing a call."

Carol notes, "It seems like an isolated area, are they going to be able to get a clear signal?"

Brad chimes in, "That can be a real problem."

"I can't tell from up here if they are getting a signal."

"Skippy," Brad starts, "Do you have a mobile phone with you? Can you see if you can get a signal?"

"Yes I do have a mobile, but unfortunately using it might cause interference with my transmission to you as well as with some of the 'copter's instruments."

Carol warns, "Skippy, we don't want you to do anything to endanger yourself. We'll just hope that the driver is okay and can call a tow truck or auto club."

The SUV door opens a bit.

"Wait, I just saw some movement," Skippy reports. He remarks aside to his pilot, "Can you get in closer on the side there?"

Brad and Carol in unison, "Yes!"

"We see what looks like someone opening the door to the vehicle," Carol continues.

Brad quickly rattles off the station id and adds a recap, "If you're just joining us, breaking news on the side of the road. A car has broken down. We believe they have a cell phone, we are unable to confirm whether or not they were able place a call and if so who they did call. Right now we are seeing some movement and we believe the driver may possibly be getting out of the car."

Carol takes over, "Apparently the car had some sort of problem. We have yet to determine the nature of the car problem. We have not gotten a great picture of the driver and we can't say right now whether or not drugs or alcohol are involved.

"That's right Carol," Skippy comments, "We don't know why the car is stopped or what the condition of the driver is. We'll stay here to monitor the situation."

"It looks like smoke coming from the engine compartment," Brad observes.

"Actually," Skippy corrects him, "that's just a very small dust devil kicking up some of this arid sand.

"Is there any way of knowing if they possibly ran out of gas? Did the car overheat? Could it be their alternator?" Carol inquires.

"We can't know those things right now. Perhaps at a subsequent news conference those questions will be answered." Skippy answers, "I can say that it doesn't appear that the car overheated."

Brad asks, "Can you pull back a bit? Is there a way of seeing where the nearest gas station is?"

The camera pulls back to reveal an isolated landscape with buildings in the far distance.

"I would say we're looking at about 50 miles from the nearest possible gas station," Skippy reveals.

Carol holds her earpiece and nods while beginning to speak, "We're now going to go live to the nearest gas station which is approximately 50 miles from the side of the road. We go now to Steve Keith, Steve?"

"Carol we're here at this filing station approximately 50 miles north east of the side of the road where a car has broken down," Steve reports in front of a dusty gas station. He continues, as the camera pulls back and he walks toward an attendant, "Sir a black SUV has broken down about 50 miles north east of here."

Carol interrupts, "Actually Steve reports are that it's a light colored SUV."

"Excuse me," Steve starts again, "It's a light colored SUV, light colored. Do you recall anyone in a light colored SUV stopping and filling up recently?"

"No, I don't remember," the attendant answers tersely.

Steve begins his wrap up, "There you have it. A mysterious driver, stranded, slipping past the only gas station in a 75 mile radius. We don't know yet if the driver is wanted or if there are any outstanding warrants. Carol, Brad, back to you."

Before Brad and Carol can comment, Skippy's excited voice rises, "The driver is getting out of the car. This is a new turn of events! The driver has exited the vehicle."

Carol observes, "It looks like they're walking to the front of the car."

"Yes," Skippy confirms.

Brad continues the play by play, "The driver has stepped outside the vehicle, it appears to be a man and he's making his way to the front of the SUV."

"He's doing something to the hood. What's he doing?" Carol wonders.

"Carol," Skippy starts, "It appears that he is, yes, there it goes, he's raised the hood. He's most likely checking the engine out to determine what has gone wrong with the vehicle."

"Does he have any mechanical background?" Brad asks.

The man reaches inside the motor and reflexively pulls his hand back quickly, he appears in pain stomping up and down repeatedly.

"No Brad," Skippy remarks, "I think it's safe to say this man has no mechanical aptitude. We just watched as he reached into his engine compartment and, you might not have been able to see it from home, but we were able to observe him grab his radiator. Radiators get extremely hot and he's not been stopped long enough that that would have cooled down to the point where it could be touched without a burn resulting.

"How badly is he burned?" Carol asks.

"He looks like he's hurting pretty badly judging by the way he's jumping around," Brad comments.

"You're right Brad. This man looks to be in considerable pain right now. Wait," Skippy pauses.

"Is he motioning to you?" Carol inquires.

"Yes Carol, the man appears to be motioning us."

A collective gasp escapes the broadcasters. The camera shot quickly pulls back to a wide angle and then on to Skippy, his hair blowing freely, "The man just made an obscene gesture to the helicopter. We're going to pull back to make sure we're out of the range of danger. We'll continue monitoring the situation here and update you with any developments. Back to you in the studio. This is Skippy Jones in the air." Skippy completes his station id.

Brad and Carol look to one another and then forward. Behind them is situated a graphic of a still image of the man reaching inside his engine compartment with the word, "Stranded," in big bold letters. Carol summarizes, "We've been monitoring a situation of a car broken down on the side of a road 50 miles from the nearest gas station. The driver has a self-inflicted burn on his hand, he appears agitated and disturbed. We don't know if he's armed. He has used a cell phone. At this time, we don't know who he called or if he was able to complete his call."

"That burn on his hand may limit his ability to use the phone again." Brad adds sagely.

Carol nods in agreement and continues, "We will bring you new developments as they happen." Carol concludes, "For Brad, Skippy and Steve I'm Carol Rust, now back to programs already in progress." Carol finishes her station id. A closing, "Breaking News" graphic with music appears on the screen for a second before regular programming resumes.

Don't think it can't happen. Just wait. It could be the background for a third rendition of Survivor after Australia and before they go to MIR. Call it... Highway Survivor, you heard it hear first.

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