When Anne Heche Fell in Love with Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche arrive at the 49th Annual Emmy Awards, September 14, 1997 in Pasadena, California.(Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)

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Since finding fast fame on Another World, late actress Anne Heche’s tumultuous personal life has fascinated fans. Coming into the spotlight from a rough childhood, Heche became involved in a string of high-profile relationships — most notably with Ellen Degeneres.

Heche was DeGeneres’ partner in 1997, around the time that the comedian came out publicly.

Following her passing on August 12, Degeneres shared this message:

Anne Heche’s Troubled Childhood

The youngest of five children, Anne Heche was born in Ohio in 1969 to a poor, religious family. They moved around the country often, at one point living in an Amish community. Anne’s father, Donald Joseph Heche, made his living as a choir teacher and died of AIDS when Anne was 15, likely contracted from a secret male partner. Anne has spoken publicly about this, telling Larry King in 2001: “He was in complete denial [about his sexuality] until the day he died. We know he got it from his gay relationships… He was a very promiscuous man.”

Anne has also gone on the record stating that her father sexually abused her until she was 12 years old. In her 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy, Anne said that Donald raped her regularly, resulting in genital herpes.

Three months after her father’s death, Anne’s 18-year-old brother Nathan died in a car crash. Although official reports say that Nathan hit a tree after falling asleep at the wheel, Anne believed it was suicide. In her memoir, Anne discussed Nathan’s death, as well as her father’s alleged abuse, at length.

Anne moved out of her family’s home in 1987 to pursue her star-marking dual role on the soap opera Another World. Though her devoutly Christian mother forbid Anne from moving to Los Angeles — and playing evil twins — she went on ahead, forever fracturing their relationship. The two would become completely estranged when Anne openly dated Ellen DeGeneres… becoming one-half of an iconic ’90s lesbian couple.

Coming Out with Ellen DeGeneres

In spring 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian on her sitcom Ellen. And soon after, the comedian went public with her then-girlfriend, fellow celebrity Anne Heche. Heche, at the time, was transitioning from TV to major film roles.

During a time when few celebrities were out, their budding relationship fascinated the tabloids. And though DeGeneres’ career suffered some early setbacks, Heche’s star was on the rise. The same year Heche started dating DeGeneres, she starred opposite Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco.

The blonde duo dated until 2000 when, following their split, Heche’s own struggle with mental illness became apparent. Shortly after their breakup, Heche suffered a psychotic break. She drove to Cantua Cree, California where she tried entering a stranger’s ranch house. The homeowner Araceli Campiz let Heche in but after she showered and tried watching a movie with him, he called the police. Upon their arrival, Heche said she was God and wanted to “take everyone back to heaven in a spaceship.” She later admitted she was on ecstasy.

One year later, while promoting Call Me Crazy, Heche became more vocal about her mental episodes. Digging into the insanity of her past, Heche went on national TV to describe her own imaginary worlds and vivid alter-egos. However, Heche’s mental health appeared to improve as she grew older, took on more roles, and started a family of her own.

Later Relationships

After succumbing to injuries from last week’s fiery car crash, Anne Heche passed away on August 12. She was 53 years old and leaves behind two teenage sons.

After dating Ellen DeGeneres, Heche married Coleman “Coley” Laffoon, a cameraman from DeGeneres’ stand-up tour in 2001. They had a son together the next year, Homer, but broke up around 2007 when Heche left Laffoon for James Tupper: her Men in Trees co-star. Together, she and Tupper also had a son, Atlas, in 2009 and remained together until 2018.

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