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Anne Heche addresses gossip columnist who criticized her sexuality 20 years ago

Heche opened up about her coming out experience, which she says was partially inspired by her father's death from AIDS in 1983.
/ Source: TODAY

Anne Heche was the subject of much tabloid fodder back in the 1990s.

Her surprising relationship with Ellen DeGeneres was splashed across Page Six and every magazine cover in the supermarket checkout line. And the buzz didn't stop after they broke up in 2000. When Heche began dating men again, critics inside and outside the LGBTQ community condemned her dating choices, even though she identified as sexually fluid.

Well, one gossip columnist has made amends with the 51-year-old actor on her podcast. The journalist and his subject of many years made up after having been at different ends of a media firestorm.

Michael Musto is known most for his column, "La Dolce Musto," which appeared in New York City's Village Voice from 1984 to 2013. Many of his musings were around the salacious bedfellows of Hollywood's closeted LGBTQ community. But in 2018, the 65-year-old journalist penned a heartfelt open letter to Heche for NewNowNext, apologizing to her for how he treated her during her relationship with DeGeneres and after.

Anne Heche and Michael Musto.Getty Images

"After your 2000 breakup with Ellen, all the strides you made in the press seemed to go backward and we all turned on you, I have to admit," he wrote. "You (and of course those you may have been harassing) deserved more compassion at this point, especially in light of the advances you and Ellen had made for the community and how celebrated you had been as a new member of our club."

In his letter to Heche, he also apologized for criticizing her when she began dating men after breaking up with DeGeneres.

"I, like everyone else, was forgetting that you were bi, not a closet lesbian who had finally come out then gone back in," he shared. "As you’d stated, all of your relationships before Ellen had been with men, so no one should have ruled out the fact that you could return to that sphere after you and Ellen were history. When you fell in love with Ellen, you acknowledged that this was something new, you had simply fallen for a person, regardless of their gender, and the pairing made sense for that moment. It was kismet, and it simply had happened."

On Heche's podcast, "Better Together," Musto read the letter out loud to her and her co-host, Heather Duffy, during an episode titled "The Power of Forgiveness." Musto said that the media's recent reckoning on its treatment of Britney Spears in 2007 has inspired him to reflect on his career differently as well, while Duffy added that Heche's acceptance of fluid sexuality was groundbreaking for its time, and something that today is heavily accepted.

Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche.Kurt Krieger / Corbis via Getty Images

"(Anne) never changed her narrative," Duffy said. "She always said the same thing she always said, 'I fell in love with a woman.' And it's only now that, that we as a society are catching up and are able to find the language and the understanding, you know, back then it was either you were gay or you were straight and there was nothing in between. And you were always saying the message that everybody's saying now and I think it's interesting, and it probably feels good to you now that people are finally catching up to what you were saying 20 some years ago."

Heche says she didn't keep tabs on the "nasty things" that were written about her in the press back then, but that Musto's open letter did reach her three years ago and it meant quite a lot.

"I wanted an apology from someone, anyone at all to acknowledge that perhaps maybe the perspective that was painted on me wasn't necessarily the full picture so I want you to know how much it did move me," she said to him. "And the importance of it and the impact that I want to readers to understand that when we do something that's nicer, kinder, in the right vein for others, it's gonna get to them some way. So I'm thrilled to be able to tell you three years later, your letter moved me. You're the first person and only person who did that as far as I know, and I want to bring you into the fold of my arms to say, 'You are a very unique man to have done that.'"

Heche also gave backstory for the moment when she first came out to the world, revealing that she only knew DeGeneres for four days prior to the first time they stepped out onto a movie premiere for the film "Volcano."

"First and foremost, I think it's important for people to know this story, whether or not people ask me why I did it or not. I think it's important to share with you my father was one of the first men to die of AIDS in 1983... in fact the New York Times called it the 'gay disease' the day after my father died," she shared.

Her father's "double life" informed her decision not to keep her sexuality in the shadows, and to come out to the world after knowing DeGeneres for only four days.

"That was a death sentence to me if I didn't put it first in my life. In my opinion, that lie meant my death and the only way I was going to be a survivor of my life was to live in the truth," she said. "What that did was challenged my commitment to it in a bigger way than I had ever imagined I would be challenged."

Heche explained that she almost lost a movie deal, the film "Six Days, Seven Nights" co-starring Harrison Ford, because of her coming out.

"By the way, the executive at Fox at that time was a gay woman who I didn't sleep with, and she's the one who told me before I got onto the red carpet that I would be fired," she shared.

But today, Heche is taking all that implicit and explicit homophobia and turning it into change, on her podcast and with the work she continues to do in her personal and professional life.

"It's such a big part of what Heather and I are doing in terms of placing the story in history so that we're able to talk about what I'm doing in terms of a conscious, loving thought," she said.

"When I came out, it was all emotion. I was just led by my emotions. I was activated by the truth. I was blown away by my opportunity to stand up for the very thing that I thought was going to save the lives of everybody, which is tell the truth and funnily enough, I still believe that. Now, I've cultivated a practice of it. I've written my second book and... it's easier for me to talk about the intelligence of what was not there when emotionally, I felt like there was one road in and it was being set free with the truth, and I was able to stand by it and it was a miracle of my life.

"I wear it as my most proudest badge of honor."