FALL 2022

Editor’s Letter

Anne Heche, who died suddenly in August, was seventeen in 1987, when she began playing the twins Marley and Vicky on Another World, my favorite soap. Marley was a kindly drip in mauve Ann Taylor suits and a pained smile. Vicky, the conniver, had bouncy hair and dressed like Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease. Even in comas after separate car accidents, Marley was a pill and Vicky was the draw. A decade later, Heche performed as one half of the world’s most famous gay couple. She pulled Ellen out of the closet and onto Oprah’s couch, turbo-boosting queer visibility, before leaving Ellen for a cameraman. Classic Vicky.

After that, the public’s sympathies remained with Ellen, but for me, a formerly straight person in love with a woman for the first time, Heche was the draw. I was feeling exhilarated but also terrified and unrecognizable, as if I’d awakened in Oz and there was no bridge to my previous life. Heche’s clueless entitlement—her refusal to be appropriately “private” in homophobic (though queer) Hollywood, her brazen coming out as a gay rights action hero—was classic, well, Anne Heche. She was “a lot.”

But really, the nineties ur-girl of “a lot” was Elizabeth Wurtzel, who died in 2019 from breast cancer and would have been fifty-five this past July. “Elizabeth had a talent for never stating the obvious, to the point that her declarations seemed absurd,” her friend, Jan Boyer, told me. “But later, that absurd comment was, in fact, correct.”

“Elizabeth was an unconditional friend,” Indigo Girl Amy Ray remembered. “She would contact me out the blue through the years—always a cryptic note with some little nugget that might be hard to face but was golden truth, the more I pondered it.”

As an editor at Ms. in the mid-1990s, I wrote a short-lived feminist gossip column called Grapevine. Trawling for gossip, I went to a filmset where Elizabeth was cameo-ing as herself. She invited me to a party, I went, and, just like that, we were baby shower-level pals, Springsteen-at-the-Garden friends. Her end-of-the-night phone calls were epic. As if she could sense you were about to say goodbye, she’d cue up a personal story about, say, Paul Westerberg. “I’m not good at the day-to-day in relationships, but you want me in triage,” she once told me.

I was in awe of her unfiltered brilliance and her unashamed love of what she loved. “Book covers should be more like album covers,” she said after her nude photo shoot for Bitch. Pamela Anderson was her beauty ideal, and people who acted like they preferred a more pared-down aesthetic like Claire Danes were lying to appear, what, more noble? Bruce Springsteen was always in style. She adored the Indigo Girls, a ballsy stand in the sausage party of rock journalists. From her first days out of undergrad, she made a living from her in-your-face writing and, when she saw her enfant terrible days were numbered, pivoted and got a law degree from Yale. Fame was fun, power even better. “Feminism was not meant to be a movement composed solely of social workers and people who work for nonprofits.”

What is the alternative to being “a lot,” anyway? Just right? Not enough? Mauve Marley? Elizabeth “saw that the marketing of ‘maturity’ and ‘adult life,’ especially to women, meant the exchange of restlessness for ‘a padlock of security—kids you do or don’t want, Tiffany silver you never use,’” as Laurie Stone noted, quoting Elizabeth from 2013. I was flattered when she introduced me at a reading once by saying, “I want to be Jennifer Baumgardner when I grow up” because I perceived it the conventional way—i.e., it’s good to be a grown-up with responsibilities, attuned to self-sacrifice. But the more I’ve pondered it, I see the golden truth hidden in that statement: Be Elizabeth Wurtzel before you grow up. Be Anne Heche. Be a lot.

—Jennifer Baumgardner

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