Richard Heene, “The Next Great Amateur Scientist”
In December of 1995 Richard Alan Heene published Offensive Driving, which was described as “A spoof humor book on how to be an Offensive Driver. How to parallel park at 55 MPH, drive by splashings, what to do with road kill and much more. Offensive Driving contains over 190 humor pictures. Please look at this book as a way on ‘How not to Drive.’” The book was a product of the memorably-named “Dick Weenie Productions.”
The funny thing here – funny weird, not funny ha-ha, there’s really very little funny about Heene or the Balloon Boy fiasco, in the end – is how Heene first turned up in the newspapers for a dramatic, driving-related event earlier in 1995, prior to the release of his stupidass book. A dramatic, driving-related incident involving bullets, no less. This is the sort of thing that makes you wonder if little Falcon Heene’s fictional flight in his Dad’s big Jiffy-Pop balloon wasn’t Richard Heene’s first stab at hoaxing the public in order to promote a product.
On April 24, 1995, The Washington Times published an article titled, “Contractor escapes injury in shooting.” It was about Richard Heene, who, according to Times writer Jim Keary, couldn’t “figure out why someone took a couple of shots at his pickup truck Friday night.”
Heene told the paper that the shots could “have been mistaken identity.”
“My Toyota looks a lot like others in the area,” Heene told the Times, “but mine’s kind of beat up.”
Then Heene added, perhaps oddly, “I hadn’t done anything to this guy.”
The shooting allegedly occurred just before midnight, as Heene drove along a four lane highway in Northern VA, where he lived at the time (see this article for further insight there). Heene said he’d heard some pops, but didn’t know they were gunfire. Heene said he only realized his car had taken two bullet holes near the driver’s side door when he checked his truck for damage in a nearby mall parking lot (which leads me to ask, ‘dude, if you didn’t realize it was gunfire, what the hell were you bothering to check for?’).
Heene told the paper he had no idea as to why “he” – the shooter he claimed he didn’t really see or realize was shooting at him at the time – “did it.” ?He continued, “I consider myself to be a nice guy.”
In July, 1995, Richard Heene showed up in the Times again: “Aggressive driving poll finds a lot of angry folk.” Quoting Times writer Brian Blomquist:
If you think it’s more dangerous than ever to be on the road, if you’re afraid to honk at another driver for fear of bring run into a ditch or shot at, you’re not the only one.
Twice a victim of violent drivers, including one who shot bullets into the door of his truck, Richard Heene of Burke recently decided to do a survey and find out what others thought about aggressive driving.
He discovered what many of us already know. A startling number of very angry people are behind the wheel, and many of them express their anger by driving wildly or by violently threatening anyone who dares to honk or extend a middle finger at them.
Heene told the paper that the results of his survey were “really something to see.” He continued, “One person will tell a story about how they cut someone off or something, then another one will get excited by it. The victimizers like it. Some of them are very proud of what they’ve done.”
Later, in the same article, Heene said, “I don’t know if this is happening because there are more cars on the road, but I’m trying to get more people to drive defensively.” Heene also said he’d started a group called Resist Offensive Aggressive Driving.
Then, in December, Heene published his Offensive Dick Weenie book (God, I loved writing that ~ S.H.).
So, let’s think about this – could it be that Heene’s ?Balloon Boy hoax of last week (fully exposed today by Gawker) was at the very least his second trip to the dramatic hoax well? At this point, would you put it past him? I sure wouldn’t. And if Heene’s first attempt to create a kind of viral publicity for a product he had in the planning stages involved bullets, isn’t that a little spooky?
Whatever the case, we’re probably going to hear more about Heene for a while, because the Larimer County, Colorado authorities did a total 180 today from their charmingly even-handed presser about the hoax yesterday – Heene is now facing criminal charges. He’ll most likely just face a misdemeanor, but that won’t be the big deal. The big deal will be if the authorities seek restitution for all the resources devoted to the hoax.
The mainstream media, meanwhile, will want a whipping boy to answer for all the egg on its collective face.
Sadly, a part of Richard Heene will probably love this kind of thing. Look for the new reality series with a redemption theme to hit producers’ desks all across Hollywood, very soon.