Does the name Falcon Heene ring any bells? No. Then allow me to refresh your memory: back in October 2009 in Colorado breaking news reported that 6-year-old Falcon Heene untethered and crawled inside a homemade helium balloon resembling a flying saucer – a “3D low-altitude vehicle” – constructed by his parents, American-born Richard Heene and his wife, Japanese-born Mayumi, which subsequently broke free and floated away, taking Falcon with it.
The family released a home video showing the balloon’s moment of escape and the fathers furious response, and claimed that it wasn’t until a little later on that Falcon’s older brother Bradford revealed to them that he had witnessed Falcon get inside the balloon which made them worry he never got out and had floated away to outer space.
Richard Heene claims he called the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to report the balloon and his son’s escape – although the sherriff’s office claim there was no proof he made that call. His next call was suspiciously not to police, but to the media to ask for a helicopter to help track the balloon and his son. Mayumi finally calls the police to report the possible situation with Falcon, and the police begin to assign manpower to locate and track the balloon. Airports in the vicinity of the balloons flight path were forced to ground planes to avoid collision.
As reporters began to arrive at the family home to cover the story, one recognises the address as one that previously featured on the 100th episode of ABC’s reality show Wife Swap.
The balloon eventually touches down in a field, with responding emergency services dismayed to report that it was empty. It was assumed that Falcon may have fallen out during the flight and a ‘body search’ begins for the missing child, utilising members of both the fire and police departments.
As a conference begins during which the County Sheriff begins to update the media on the search progress, he is interrupted by news that Falcon has been found safe and well hiding out at the family home.
The public gradually begin to suspect something is amiss when inspection of the balloon shows it wasn’t really sturdy enough to support the body of a small dog, let alone a child. Murmurs increase when it is revealed that both Richard and Mayumi Heene have a long, illustrious love affair with courting attention: the couple initially met at acting school, Richard was an amateur scientist described by those who knew his as, “…a shameless self-promoter who would do almost anything to advance his latest endeavor…” and they had appeared on Wife Swap, after which Richard tried and failed to use it as a springboard to attract attention in his concept show entitled “Science Detectives’.
Our moment of justification arrived when, after a few days of emotional media interviews during which Richard talks about kids doing the craziest things while also promoting the sheer awesomeness of his balloon, the family got a spot on the Larry King show in an interview handled by Wolf Blitzer who was filling in for King. During the interview Blitzer asks Falcon what so many interviewers had asked the boy and family previously, which was ‘Why he had stayed in hiding when he heard his parents calling his name?‘ and instead of giving his usual reply of, “I thought they would be mad at me,” in words that shall resound through the ages, Falcon says, “You guys said that, um, we did this for the show.” At that moment you can almost see Richard Heene’s every muscle contract and flop sweat begin to bead as he realises the game is up.
In subsequent live media interviews, Falcon repeatedly vomits while his family are being questioned, with Richard dismissing it as a stomach bug and not the physical reaction to extreme stress that everyone else suspects.
The Sheriffs office began to gather evidence to support allegations that the whole thing was a scam, and following Mayumi Heene failing lie detector test she admitted that the whole thing was set up, a hoax, mutually agreed to between Richard and herself. Richard stood by his claim that the entire time he believed his son was in the balloon, stating that his Japanese wife had some language barrier problems, misunderstanding the meaning of the word “hoax” when she allegedly confessed, and confusing it with the word ‘exhibition.’ Mayumi’s bachelor’s degree in English literature would contest this claim somewhat.
So, what happened next?
Well, Richard Heene pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to influence a public servant (in this case the local sheriff) and was sentenced to 90 days in jail; Mayumi was given a comparatively lighter sentence of 20 days in jail due to her cooperation; and in an attempt to recoup some of the financial losses (helicopter dispatch, fire and police searches..etc) the state also ordered the couple to pay $36,000 in restitution.
After Richard’s release from prison, he made another bid for publicity when he attempted to auction off the original balloon for a cool $1,000,000, claiming the proceeds would be donated to help with the Japanese Tsunami relief work with the vague assurance that, “…the money would definitely go to the right charities.” The balloon ended up being sold for a more realistic $2,500 and was purchased by a Denver sporting goods store owner, who planned to display it for a while before chopping it up and selling the pieces to idiots.
He also tried to promote a back scratching invention, which was basically a normal back scratcher that you attached to the wall in order to scratch without tiring out your overworked hands. Go America.
The family now live in Spring Hill, Florida, and one of Richard’s inventions actually paid off, catching the eye of AME International, which licensed the invention and claim to believe it could exceed $65million dollars in sales within 5-years. I won’t give it the time of day due to family’s previous history of whoring themselves out for media attention, but let’s just say that if you like lifting things onto trucks and like machines, this could be the thing for you.
As for Falcon? I kid you not, what you are about to read is true: he (now aged 9 – lead vocalist and bass) and his brothers Bradford (12 – lead guitar) and Ryo (11 – drums) have started a metal band called the Heene Boyz. Website blurb states that “…Falcon Heene was born with an unusually high pitch voice that is unique and adds to the metal sound of the band.” I believe what they are referring to not a freakish gift from god but is instead a period of life known as prepubescence, but regardless, it still sounds like a small, angry group of chipmunks running around inside Iron Maiden’s music truck. Although honestly not as awful as I was expecting. Not good, just not awful.
I swear by Grabthar’s Hammer, if I find out you’ve contributed a single penny to that attention hungry family and their grasping offspring then I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for music, I can tell you I don’t play or sing. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you empty your shopping cart now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will make you spend an hour locked in a room with Richard Heene while he tells you prison stories and aggressively promotes his latest venture.