Home > Fonzie of the Week > Fonzie of the Week #10: Richard Heene (a.k.a. the Balloon Boy’s Dad)

Fonzie of the Week #10: Richard Heene (a.k.a. the Balloon Boy’s Dad)

October 19th, 2009 75 comments
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Richard HeeneSelecting this week’s Fonzie was quite an adventure. I originally considered making the Balloon Boy himself the Fonzie of the Week, back when we all thought he was up soaring the wild blue yonder – or possibly dead from falling out of the balloon. And then we all found out that he wasn’t in the balloon at all. What a letdown! Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the kid is safe. But you don’t become Fonzie of the Week by not engaging in crazy and/or dangerous stunts. You become Fonzie of the Week by contributing to the delinquency of a minor as part of an elaborate and poorly thought-out hoax. It’s actually very Fonzie-like if you think about it: can’t you just imagine the shenanigans Fonzie and the gang could get themselves into with a hot air balloon? In recognition of his sitcom-worthy scheme and the criminal charges soon to be leveled against the Balloon Boy’s father, I’m naming Richard Heene Fonzie of the Week.

Now most people are going to miss the forest for the trees and waste a bunch of time going on about how Heene is a terrible parent who is exploiting his children in a lame attempt to grab some attention and somehow turn that attention into reality TV stardom. All of that may be true, but take a moment to appreciate the sheer absurdity of what he’s created! It’s really quite brilliant; sort of a cross between Dadaism and Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” concept. Trust me, in 20 years performance artists will be studying Heene’s every skillful move. Consider if you will:

  • Heene named his son “Falcon,” which suggests that he’s been plotting some sort of high-altitude hijinks for this kid since birth. Very Andy Kaufman. We probably won’t really appreciate the scope of this hoax until 2018.
  • Look at this crazy flash animation that was put up on the homepage for The Science Detectives, a video series Mr. Heene has been involved in for years. Very impressive, in a first year art student sort of way.
  • Upon supposedly learning that his beloved son was soaring away in a weather balloon, Mr. Heene didn’t call 911; he called the local television news station. Some will say this is evidence that the whole scenario was a hoax. But they’re missing the point. He’s making a statement on who we really consider to be our heroes and saviors in the 21st century. Screw the police…Save us, Brian Williams!
  • Dude lists his profession on MySpace as “Science Detective.” I didn’t even know that was a real job until now. Just don’t tell him about CSI. It might break the poor guy’s heart.
  • He actually went on YouTube wearing a bra, in what one can only assume is an homage to the late, great Benny Hill. As progressive as Heene’s art is, he remembers to acknowledge the old masters. What a guy!

Here’s what it all comes down to: keeping in mind that Mr. Heene’s ultimate goal was reality show stardom, the true genius of the Balloon Boy episode lies not in the hoax itself, but in the resulting hoopla and his inevitable arrest. Heene might be insane, but he’s not stupid. Baby Jessica didn’t get her own reality show, and the Balloon Boy won’t either. But getting yourself arrested for pretending your son flew away in a spaceship-looking balloon you built in your garage? Mr. Heene couldn’t have done better if he got himself pregnant with Jon Gosselin’s octuplets…and I’m not sure he wouldn’t try. Richard Heene the concerned parent is a nobody, but Richard Heene the crazy wannabe scam artist is reality show gold! I promise, he’ll have his own show inside of a year. And I promise, it’ll suck big time. But you and I will both watch it at least once, and it’ll make some TV executives a boatload of cash. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Mr. Heene, I dub thee Fonzie. You might be batshit crazy, but your high level of media savvy is enviably cool, if slightly frightening. I bet your blog would have a million readers by now, but I still think I’ll try to do it the old-fashioned way. I don’t even have a weather balloon or a kid, so I really have no choice. At any rate, I hope you enjoy jail. I’ll be sure to tune in to your behind-bars Dateline NBC interview.

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