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The Real Ellen Story - Coming Out Party London 1998

Article Index

APRIL 26 1997- Ellen and Anne make headlines when they attend the White House correspondents dinner.
Elizabeth Birch, Executive Director, Human Rights: I talked to the Washington Post that night and they asked me what I thought. My reaction was that Ellen and Anne completely lit up the room that night, and they were affectionate with each other but in a completely appropriate way.
Anne Heche: And then we met the President, (Anne asks Ellen to whisper what he actually said in her ear) and he says I admire you, cool!
Ellen: That was cool.
Anne: And then she gave him a b*****b. Ellen: (laughing) She always goes a little too far.
Elizabeth: I was shocked the next morning to read the Washington Post. I thought it was a complete over reaction to some very simple affection between two women and it seemed to sort of reverberate out of the Washington Post story.
Ellen: To be photographed with the president, and Anne have her arm around me, it was amazing we had no idea, we started seeing these pictures everywhere and how disrespectful we were to be affectionate in front of the public? She had her arm around me?? Y'know the rumours that wasn't enough so everybody had to decide we were kissing, so what if we were kissing, but we weren't.
Anne Heche: It's not because we're doing something wrong or in your face, it's because that's how affectionate we are.
Ellen: We thought if we just put it all out there people would leave us alone, instead of trying to get the story or get the picture, we'll tell you the story, here's the story.

APRIL 30 1997- Ellen and Anne appear together on Oprah.
Ellen: It turned out to completely backfire on us.
Anne Heche: People were really shocked that I was telling the truth, a week after meeting Ellen, and didn't believe it was true, and all we kept thinking was time will tell them.
Ellen: People have to find something wrong with love, and that's what this all boils down to, its like how dare you love somebody that I don't think you should love, its my business who I love. I love a girl why does that hurt you? and I'm happy.. why does that hurt you, its just I don't know (sigh's, goes into Ellen mode) crazy, people are crazy.

Shortly before the puppy episode airs, ABC station in Birmingham Alabama announces it will not show the programme.
Ellen: Here is Birmingham Alabama, the station manager deciding who's going to be on television, that's frightening to know you can't even have the choice to turn it off or on. What kind of dictatorship is this that someone can decide what people watch.

APRIL 30th 1997- Over a year after it was first conceived the puppy episode is finally shown on ABC
Bruce Cohen film producer and gay activist: In Hollywood you kind of get a feel you can tell when if a movies going to open or a TV programme is going to premier, or even just a party. Sometimes there will be heat sometimes there isn't and there just started to be heat on this episode the day or two before.
Writer: I remember driving up to get to my street, it was completely blocked off, someone was having a party on the block and i thought this is sensational really terrific.
Ellen: We had this big party at CAA and they invited a lot of people to watch it in a huge theatre.
Betty DeGeneres: I remember seeing Shirley McLaine there and Sir Ian McClellan was there and I met him and the that was wonderful.
Melissa Etheridge: It was such a thrilling time cos Anne and Ellen they had just got together, it was just a couple of weeks into the relationship so I thought this was such a tabloid sort of moment.
Betty DeGeneres: We went into the auditorium to watch the show and I sat down the front and Ellen and Anne were at the back and I turned around and took a picture of them.
Ellen: There was a huge party, little did we know it would turn out a huge party for the world. It was weird I was getting phone calls from people in New York saying the streets are empty, that places were shutting early and during commercial breaks and after certain lines you could hear cheering like in New York.
Laura Dern: We went back to Ellen's house, hung out and just talked. I think by the end of the show Ellen was just exhausted, but what an amazing catharsis for her that must of been and I'm sure it was just exhausting by the time it had finally aired, she was ready to take a nap for a few days.

MAY 1 1997 - ABC/DISNEY are jubilant over the ratings 42 million people watched the puppy episode.
Gil Junger: One of the executives of Disney called me the next morning he said if this were a feature film, you had just directed a $280 million opening night its pretty phenomenal.
Dean Micheal Valentine: And a couple of people from Disney called and were thrilled because ABC at the time were doing very poorly in the ratings and this was a piece of good news.
Ellen: The next day basically I got a call saying... hey we did great here's a bottle of wine. Hmm you're welcome.

JULY 23rd 1997 - ABC says the show will take "baby steps" in exploring gay themes.
Ellen: I had said all along that I didn't want it to be too focused on being too gay and that was still my fear, and my internal homophobia. I didn't want to be the gay girl. I started going through a transformation about what was important and realising what's wrong if the show is focused on being gay instead of coming out and then going back to be a "normal person".
Dean Valentine: When you kind of say.. I am a lesbian.. its a kind of a big elephant in the room its really hard to just have tea and a conversation about something else, but I felt the great promise of the show was bringing people who are gay and straight together to a common point of view. I think that's what that episode did and I think some of that has been squandered over the last year.

SEPTEMBER 24 1997 - Ellen's fifth season starts only 12 million people tune in.
Ellen: We come back with amazing writers, every episode I'm proud of. It was not promoted at all so the numbers dropped off, which made a large part of the country very happy cos the conservative writers say how dare you think your gonna be successful and being a gay woman and having this on television.
Lou Sheridan: How many times can you show a lesbian showing affection people don't want that. The show had a parental warning.. well that wont do it.
Ellen: I guess I should stop being shocked by people attacking me it seems like I should get used to it but it still hurts.

MARCH 9 1997 - Gay activist Chastity bono is quoted as claiming the show is too gay.
Ellen: Yeah she's a friend you know and the article hurt what is too gay? What does that mean does anybody attack a show for being too heterosexual.
Ellen: She said it was taken out of context, and well maybe it was but some of those things what were said were shocking.

MARCH 11 1998 - Ellen wraps shooting on the final episode of the season.
Ellen: I've tried to keep the sense of humour in the show they didn't stop being funny, its just that its dealing with a subject matter where everyone is saying enough already. It's not enough already clearly or we wouldn't have the crime, the hate crimes, we wouldn't have suicides or the gay bashings, its not enough already.
Ellen On The Set Of the last episode of ellen - possibly the last episode ever.
Ellen: Is everybody here right now cause I'd like to say something, well what a way for me to say goodbye (Ellen is dressed in a funny outfit) like this. I can't thank you all enough for being so wonderful, and everybody who comes on the set, says how wonderful everybody is, you've been amazing crew, I think we've all worked together so well and so fast and so cohesive now, its been such a family. (Ellen starts crying) You've dealt with probably stuff that you don't deserve to deal with, because of my views and what I've decided to do with my life, you've been part of this controversial show, and I'm sure you get a lot of shit from a lot of people. The fact that you have stayed on board no matter what you're beliefs are, the fact that you have supported me through all of this and its been wonderful, wonderful run, thank you just thank you so much for being such good people, we'll all go on and hopefully we'll all work together in some capacity in some other place but thanks so much.
Ellen: I was crying hysterically and I'm walking off in that ridiculous outfit through the door that I usually run through every Friday saying goodbye, and I'm walking through to silence. I thought that's like a closing shot for you.
"was that funny enough for you?"
During The making of the programme ABC and Disney declined requests for interviews.
Ellen: I may not get the financial rewards that I should have and that I deserved. I may not have gotten that and i may not have gotten the support and I may not have gotten the ratings that I would have liked to have gotten because they didn't promote the show, but what I did get to do was my art, I did get to do what I do.
Anne: And you did get to change the world, even though they never wanted it to happen she got to change the world.
Ellen: Yeah, that too, and that happened.


Ellen's Coming Out Party..Saturday 25 April 1998 continued
Interviewer: Before you met Anne there must have been a lesbian feeding frenzy around you?
Ellen: Well they were like pilot fish I'll tell you that I was like a big old shark swimming in the ocean. No! it was very interesting.. if there's anything encouraging to come out is once you come forth with you sexuality.. I don't know what happens, but there's some pheromone that starts seeping out of your body somehow people sense it when your confident and sexual all of a sudden. So please, come out just for the sex of it really.
Interviewer: We could just tape that and use it as an ad.
Ellen: It is an ad... I don't want to recruit but it is a good thing.
Interviewer: Betty there you are in the role of the mother, when Ellen was growing up did you know that Ellen might be gay before she told you.
Betty: No I didn't really she was kind of a tomboy...she had an older brother called Vance who she adored and tried to be like, but a lot of little girls are tomboys.
Ellen: By sleeping the with the same woman, that's how I tried to be like him, whoever he would sleep with, I slept with.. I mean its a typical little sister thing.
Betty: No
Ellen: No I'm kidding Interviewer: The two of you came out basically at the same time. When you came out Anne who was more surprised yourself or your publicist?
Anne: Well I have to clarify something cos I never came out of anything, and I used to say then, I didn't come out, I just came into, I just came into this love affair with Ellen, and then all of a sudden "oh she came out of the closet", it wasn't like that.
Ellen: I can verify that she had never been with a women before.
Anne: But I think everyone around me was more shocked than I was definitely.
Interviewer: In the documentary you mentioned that after the Oscars you went home for this 17 hour session. Betty weren't you worried?
Betty: The house is huge, I didn't know anything was going on.
Ellen: We live in, like Buckingham Palace, we have the guards out the front, she didn't know what was going on.
Interviewer: When you made the decision to come out, you must have known other closet celebrities, did it sort of freak them out.
Ellen: Umm well I, yeah I know a lot of people in the business who are gay, and who are not out and we were friendly before the show aired I notice a little shift in people not wanting to be around me or a little uncomfortable ness if there were cameras.
Anne: Or they'll run past you very quickly.
Ellen: Yeah, there was someone who didn't want to be seen by us and ran right around us at the Golden Globes, so rewind that tape if you have it.
Ellen: I have a feeling she will come out soon anyway.
Anne: Now you're narrowing it down to female.
Ellen (with that grin): She is between the age of 30-33 and is a Taurus... that is all I will say.
Interviewer: We are coming up to the episode. The episode won an Emmy last year and now a Peabody award, the network must be beside themselves.
Ellen: I don't know they didn't call me, I haven't heard from anyone, that's why it is such an honour to be here it really is. You don't know what it means to me that a network that carries my show would fly me here and this party and huge celebration and have this whole night when my own home my own network didn't do this, and I can't thank you enough for having us.
Interviewer: Well I hope you enjoy the rest of the party.


Interviewer is asking when people got their first funny feeling they were gay.
Ellen: My first was probably the first time I slept with a man, would be the indication because while we were doing it I kept singing that Peggy Lee song in my head.. "Is that all there is". I swear to God I'm not even making that up... seriously just laying there thinking is that all there is, and then I think, well I can go way back but that was the first really obvious sign that this is not working for me.