The End of Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche

Straight or gay, Hollywood love affairs so often crash and burn.

Perhaps life in the spotlight is not really more tragic, only more public.

Just a few months ago, Heche, 31, and Ellen DeGeneres, 42, were singing each other’s praises at the premiere of HBO’s If These Walls Could Talk II. Like any show business power couple, they held hands and joint interviews, finishing each other’s sentences, trying to express the same thought.

Reporters asked what would the walls say if the walls of their $3.5 million L.A. pad could talk, more than three years after going very public?

“They’d be saying that we are very excited and we’re very happy and in love three years later,” DeGeneres said.

“Yeah,” Heche agreed. “We’re very lucky women, that we get to have what we have.”

“It’s a celebration every single day,” DeGeneres continued. “It’s kind of disgusting and crazy that we’re like … Oh, we’re so lucky.”

“Yeah,” Heche butted in. “We’re lucky, we’re so lucky.”

Now Begins the Aftermath

The HBO movie was, at least in part, a bit of wish fulfillment. Heche directed DeGeneres and Sharon Stone in a segment about a lesbian couple trying to have a baby. In the months leading up to that interview, they spoke openly about wanting to have kids. Heche even told TV Guide that she hoped to be the one to carry the child.

And DeGeneres proclaimed her love for Heche, reflecting on the death of Princess Diana and the frailty of life. “If Anne goes, I want to go,” she said. “That’s how strongly I feel.”

Yet just 3 1/2 years after Heche announced her love for DeGeneres on Oprah, it all came apart, like so many other show business love affairs. On Saturday came a report in the New York Daily News of their relationship ending, and only hours later, a shaken and incoherent Heche parked her SUV along a central California highway and wandered up to a stranger’s home.

Fresno County sheriff’s deputies answered a call from the residents and sent her to University Medical Center. The actress was released within two hours and by Monday morning, she was on a flight to Toronto, where she began work on the film John Q with Denzel Washington.

Now begins the aftermath. Representatives of Heche and DeGeneres are not yet addressing the matter. But it’s likely that a relationship that has been oh-so-open will stay in our collective consciousness for some time to come.

Heche had kept a relatively low profile for the last several months, after receiving mixed reviews starring opposite Harrison Ford in the disappointing Six Days, Seven Nights. She had spent much of the last year collaborating with DeGeneres on If These Walls Could Talk II and filming DeGeneres’s three-month standup comedy tour, which aired on HBO last month.

All the while, like a happily married woman, Heche wore a wedding ring. She and her partner seemed to have settled into domestic bliss after the public uproar that peaked with the notorious Ellen episode that had DeGeneres’s character coming out of the closet.

‘It Wasn’t Working’

Like much of their relationship, news of their split came by way of tabloid.

“Unfortunately, we have decided to end our relationship,” the actresses said in a statement in the Daily News. “It is an amicable parting, and we greatly value the 3 1/2 years we have spent together. We hope everyone will respect our privacy through this difficult time.”

The parting doesn’t have anything to do with a third party, a source told the paper. “The relationship just ran its course … It wasn’t working.”

DeGeneres reportedly is living in the couple’s Hollywood Hills home, while Heche has been “staying with friends.”

Heche must now pick up a once-promising career, which began with an Outstanding Younger Actress Emmy in 1990 for her work in Another World. She also has starred in the remake of Psycho as well as Volcano and Return to Paradise.

Born in Ohio, she was discovered after a talent scout from the daytime drama As The World Turns spotted her in a high school play. She turned down an offer because she was just 15 years old and taking the job would have forced her family to relocate to New York.

That was a rocky time. Her father, a Baptist church choir director, was secretly gay. Shortly before he died of AIDS, he revealed his other life. Not long after, her brother was killed in a car accident. Heche says she helped support the family by singing in a local dinner theater.

After graduating, Heche seized an opportunity on Another World, and she was on her way to stardom. She first emerged as a gossip page item when she began dating Steve Martin, her co-star in A Simple Twist of Fate. But she says she was unprepared for what was to follow.

Hollywood’s Most Famous Lesbian Duo

Coming out as a one half of Hollywood’s most famous lesbian couple garnered lots of publicity, but both she and DeGeneres say it took a toll on their careers.

Some say that she has basked in the publicity of her love affair, nuzzling with DeGeneres at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner shortly after they announced their togetherness.

DeGeneres has complained that ABC was quick to bow out of her Emmy-winning TV series when she took on lesbian themes. Some 36 million viewers tuned in when her character “outed” herself. But in 1998, the ratings subsequently sank, and the network canceled on her.

When critics wondered how Heche would come across as Harrison Ford’s on-screen lover, she joked that straight actors have won Oscars for playing gays, but it doesn’t work the other way around. Not yet, anyway.

Like a lot of actors, she longs to be taken seriously. She says she trained as a soldier, hiking with 40 pounds of equipment and learning to fire an M-16 rifle for her latest role in Showtime’s One Kill, loosely based on the true story of a Marine captain and divorced mother accused of murdering her lover.

Heche has completed two upcoming Hollywood features — Auggie Rose, a love story with Jeff Goldblum, and Prozac Nation, in which she plays Christina Ricci’s psychiatrist.

But now Heche will see what fallout she will suffer from Saturday’s incident. Authorities would not say whether drugs may have been involved, but they did say that no criminal investigation would follow.

To be sure, Hollywood has seen some strange things, and in the realm of celebrity misbehavior, this hardly rates that high. The public tends to embrace casualties of lost love — perhaps, this time, even lost lesbian love.

ABCNEWS Radio contributed to this report.