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9 Things We Learned From Anne Heche’s New Memoir

In ‘Call Me Anne’ the actress describes her hardships and dedication to joy

spinner image Call Me Anne, book by Anne Heche; and a 1998 photo of Anne
Viva Editions / Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

Anne Heche was working on finishing her new memoir, Call Me Anne, when she died in a car accident in August at age 53 — a headline-grabbing tragedy that led to questions about the quirky actress’s state of mind, drug habits and more. Although the book doesn’t provide any answers to what happened that day, it does reveal Heche’s joyful spirit, despite having had her share of pain and trauma.

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A few more notable points from Call Me Anne:

She tried hard to be a good girl…

Heche writes that “My mother’s favorite (and only) story about me as a girl is that I spent so much time cleaning toilets at home that when I was lucky enough to be in a restaurant, I’d clean the sinks in the bathroom as perfectly as I did at home,” for the benefit of the next customer. “I always did everything I was asked to do, to the best of my ability. In my childhood, it meant my survival.”

… but her childhood was a nightmare

“I am a white-trash girl from Ohio who was raised in Atlantic City, with one book on our shelves: the Bible,” she notes. She alludes to her parents’ participation in a “sex cult,” and the sexual abuse she experienced, including from her father (she delved more deeply into this trauma in her first memoir, 2001’s Call Me Crazy). “My childhood memories include being locked in dark places, met with masked men and women in shadow so as to not be able to identify the abusers.”

She was ‘discovered’ while performing in a high school play

Her family had just moved to Chicago, and Heche was enrolled on a full scholarship in a prestigious prep school, Francis Parker, whose alums include Jennifer Beals and Daryl Hannah. One night when Heche was in 10th grade, a casting director looking to fill a part on the soap opera As the World Turns stopped by the school (aware of those alumnae) to see the evening’s performance: Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, with Heche playing the leading role of Sabina.

After the show, Heche writes, “She complimented my performance and then asked if I’d be interested in flying to New York City to screen test for a soap opera. I said, ‘Absolutely!’ (Beat, beat.) ‘What’s a soap opera?’ ” (She was raised without TV.) Just 16, she ended up turning down the part, but a few years later landed the roles of twins Vicky and Marley Love on Another World.

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She almost became an architecture student

After four years on Another World, Heche decided that she should pursue “something ‘normal’ that could be a career.” But a week before she was planning to enroll in Parsons School of Design to study architecture, her agent called her and said she had a shot at a role in a film rendition of O Pioneers!, where she’d play the best friend of Jessica Lange’s character. Lange was her idol, she writes, so she auditioned, got the part and started filming right away in Nebraska. “The rest is history — or herstory, as I like to say.”

Director Oliver Stone wasn’t charmed by her whimsy

One of Heche’s agents described her as “a wild animal set free from its cage” when she first arrived in Hollywood. She remembers walking into Oliver Stone’s casting office in those early years: “I had no idea who he was then, but whoever he was, he didn’t look up when I walked into the room, and that seemed rude.” So she crawled under his glass desk and waved at him from below, saying, “ ‘Hi! I’m Anne.’ I smiled. ‘What’s your name?’” Stone would later tell his people to make sure Heche never auditioned for him again.

She fell for Ellen DeGeneres almost immediately

Heche writes that she first glimpsed comedian and TV host DeGeneres at a Vanity Fair Oscar party. She said to her agent, “Who is that?... Can I meet her?” When they were introduced, DeGeneres knew who Heche was, but “I did not have a clue about her, which she found shocking.” She’d never fallen in love with a woman before, and “did not, personally, identify as a lesbian. I simply fell in love! It was, to be clear, as odd to me as anyone else.”

But when she decided to go public with their relationship in 1997, Hollywood shunned her. (Read our excerpt about what happened here.)  

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She gets first prize for most-embarrassing workplace story

On the set of The Juror, Heche was filming a hot sex scene with Alec Baldwin, both basically naked, when she got her period: “Blood was everywhere. … I had just menstruated all over Alec Baldwin and decimated the one set of sheets they had.” She adds, “The life of an architect was looking pretty good at this moment.”

She recounts an incident with Harvey Weinstein 

He exposed himself to her and “sleazily” suggested she perform a sexual act “and you’ll get the job.” As the world now knows, she was one of countless women the movie producer — now in prison — preyed upon. “He took advantage of his power and position to manipulate them into doing what they would never have chosen to do,” Heche notes. She’s said in interviews that he fired her from a film project after she rejected his advances.

She comes across as a genuinely kind person

Heche repeatedly states her dedication to fostering kindness, love, joy and truth, and encourages readers to embrace them as well: “These are the central tenets of how I live my life, and what I most want you to take away from this book,” she writes in the last chapter. “Remember: Anne says you can do it!”

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