Watching Richard Heene orchestrate his quirky control over the media is an amazing thing to observe, especially considering that the entire balloon boy incident, from Falcon Heene’s supposed climbing aboard an experimental balloon and flying away to the announcement Richard Heene made in front of the family home at 5 a.m. that he would make a “big announcement” at 10 a.m., may be an enormous hoax. But Richard Heene is visibly driven to be the center of attention. Regardless of whether or not the family is ultimately found to have perpetrated a hoax, Richard Heene has proved to be a master at keeping cameras pointed at himself and his family.
The Heene family seem to be an example of the Warhol minutes on steroids — with a twist. The basic difference between the Warhol minutes and the Heene family balloon incident is that the 15 minutes of fame are usually bestowed from an outside agent, not generated by an individual or individuals that may be attention junkies.
But Richard Heene and family may have actually perpetrated the balloon boy hoax just to step back into the spotlight. The family had appeared on ABC’s “Wife Swap” twice in the past. “Wife Swap” is a reality show where the spouses of two families trade places and live with each other’s families for two weeks. The Heene family have various videos of themselves on YouTube, have “stormchasing” videos on CNN’s iReport, and Richard Heene has reportedly unsuccessfully pitched various reality shows to a number of networks.
After it was discovered that 6-year-old Falcon Heene had been hiding in a box in the Heene family garage’s attic the entire time the world was either searching for him or watching others search for him (or watching news programs analyzing the latest developments in the search for him), Richard Heene took his entire family on CNN. Even after Falcon Heene made the comment that has most people now convinced that the whole balloon boy incident was a hoax (“You guys said we did it for a show.”), he covered with an blasé, “He’s six.”
And then there were the round of talk shows the entire family sat for the next day. Falcon Heene, visibly ill and throwing up on camera while nobody seems to move to help (Richard Heene actually flinches, grimaces, and looks as if he might follow the little boy in heaving), and his family look as if being in front of the camera is preferable to acting like a concerned family for the sickness in their midst. The videos became a source for internet hilarity and for CNN’s Anderson Cooper to question the everyone’s involvement (“What were they thinking?”) in the media storm revolving around the Heene family.
But the shadow of controversy would not leave the Heene family and questions dogged the family. Was it all a hoax? Authorities and neighbors made statements and announcements that the Heene family’s ordeal with little balloon boy Falcon was a “real, credible event.” And thus far, no investigation has rooted out any evidence that Richard Heene and family engineered a hoax and took everyone on a televised balloon ride. Anderson Cooper reported Friday night that the FAA could not confirm when or even if Richard Heene had contacted them and the local television station, News 9, that he called to ask if they could use their helicopter to track the runaway balloon acknowledged that Heene had called, but could not pinpoint the exact time.
And then Richard Heene went out to all the reporters still gathered around his house. It was 5 a.m. He told them he would make a “big announcement.” He told them he would be out at 10 a.m. to make the “big announcement.”
True to his word, he appeared at 10 a.m., but contrary to his word, his “big announcement” seemed to come in the form of requesting the reporters to put all their questions in a small cardboard box he was carrying. He told them he would collect the box and answer the questions later.
Was there ever a “big announcement”? Or was it just Richard Heene keeping the Warhol minutes churning, keeping his little reality show moving along? Was he even going to make an announcement or did someone remind him that he was still being investigated to see if he was involved in a hoax?
Richard Heene explained that he had been swamped with e-mails and phone calls and he would return at 7:30 p.m. to answer as many questions as he could.
One reporter yelled at Heene to answer once and for all if the balloon boy incident was a hoax. He said, “Absolutely no hoax,” and went into the house.
Hoax or not, Richard Heene has proven he is adept at keeping the attention of millions focused on his family. But when does the media simply give up, go home, and wait for the results of the official investigation?
It’s not as if the Heene family were Michael Jackson…
“Anderson Cooper 360,” CNN.com