Now that the the jig is up for Richard Heene and his puffed-up scheme to get famous with his balloon hoax, the Colorado man has been left looking rather desperate and crazy. For most, his stunt to gain attention (and possibly a TV contract), which put his entire family through a great deal of stress, was abominable and exploitative.
But this morning in the New York Times, columnist Frank Rich finds compassion for Heene, painting him in a landscape of deflated economic opportunity where the most dependable job opportunity is the round-the-clock media circus and all the real hoaxers go unpunished. Ultimately, Rich looks back to the Great Depression:
Heene is a direct descendant of those Americans of the Great Depression who fantasized, usually in vain, that they might find financial salvation if only they could grab a spotlight in show business. Some aspired to the “American Idol” of the day — “Major Bowes Amateur Hour,” a hugely popular weekly talent contest on network radio. Others traveled the seedy dance marathon circuit, entering 24/7 endurance contests that promised food and prize money in exchange for freak-show degradation and physical punishment. Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel memorializing this Depression milieu was aptly titled “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”
Read Frank Rich’s “In Defense of ‘Balloon Boy’ Dad.”
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