Scraping the Bottom of the Balloon-Boy Barrel

October 20 2009, 10:44 AM

As news organizations wait for Larimer County officials to formally file charges against Richard Heene---and possibly his wife---news about the alleged balloon-boy hoaxter has descended into a search for the most arcane and embarrassing details of his life. As Salt Lake Tribune columnist Sean P. Means headlines a recent column, "'Balloon Boy' floats into the media's crosshairs." Richard Heene definitely wanted to be famous, writes The Denver Post, quoting his associates, including Perry Caravello, an actor and comedian, who says he worked with Heene on odd projects and storm-chasing videos. RadarOnline, meanwhile, notes that Heene likes to play practical jokes, as illustrated by video of Heene participating in a pilot for the television show "Laughing Gas." TMZ reports Heene has a minor criminal record in Los Angeles, where he was arrested in April 1997 and charged with misdemeanor vandalism, vehicle tampering, and disturbing the peace. Heene pleaded no contest, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years of probation, and was ordered to pay $100 in restitution. The "Today" show has an interview with Colorado State University student Robert Thomas, who claims Richard Heene plotted the stunt long ago. When he saw the balloon go up, Thomas thought, "Who would possibly do something like this? It has to be Richard Heene" (via People).

The whole scandal shows just how "reality show" culture has gotten out of control. It's just "sickening" to Frazier Moore of The Associated Press. Westword puts that in perspective with its list of "reality tv's top five attention whores." Meanwhile, a Ballon Boy game is making its way around the Internet.