Strange But True

Balloon Boy Flight Fifth Anniversary: Where Are The Heenes Now?

Five years ago today, we have a pretty good idea where you were -- watching TV coverage of a balloon floating over a wide swath of Colorado, supposedly with a young Fort Collins boy named Falcon Heene inside.

As we soon learned, Falcon, promptly dubbed "Balloon Boy," wasn't inside what his father, Richard, dubbed an "experimental craft;" he was perfectly safe on Terra Firma. Richard and his wife, Mayumi, subsequently pleaded guilty to perpetrating what was characterized as a hoax -- but where are they now? Living in Florida -- and still trying to worm their way into the media spotlight. Photos, videos and details below.

See also: Balloon Boy: A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You

Our original October 15, 2009 post about the drama reads like so:
When you woke up this morning, did you think you'd be riveted by the story of a Fort Collins kid who may or may not have floated away in a silvery balloon? And if so, are you being treated for assorted ailments at the Capitol Hill Medicine Shoppe?

At this point, none of the reporters with the approximately seven gazillion media outlets covering this bizarro tale know what the hell's going on, including our colleagues at the Village Voice, who've been breathlessly updating each development, from the revelation that the Heene family at the center of this drama recently appeared on the TV series Wife Swap to the fact that the missing boy, named (naturally) Falcon, can be seen in the YouTube video above rapping about "pussification." Oh yeah: There's already a website up called And thus, a legend was born -- or something like that.

It won't surprise you to discover that no longer exists. The site lasted about as long as Richard Heene's credibility concerning his claim that he really, truly thought Falcon was aboard the balloon, as opposed to hiding in the family garage.

The entire spectacle was beautifully symbolized by the Heenes appearance on the Today show, during which Falcon vomited on live TV:

In the end, the Heene parents, represented by attorney David Lane, offered a guilty plea regarding a false report of Falcon's "journey," which was widely considered to have been a publicity stunt to gin up interest in a reality show. Shortly thereafter, Richard began making the national TV rounds in a belated attempt to spin the story in a more positive direction. In an excerpt from a January 2010 post, we wrote that he "spent much of last week insisting that he'd lied about lying during appearances alongside Larry King and the Today show's Matt Lauer. And while Lane hasn't formally challenged the Heenes' restitution charge of over $47,000 for prompting the balloon chase, he tells the Fort Collins Coloradoan that the amount is "ridiculously high." He adds, "They don't have to pay rescuers for doing their job. This is cops getting paid to be cops whether they're sitting around doing nothing or tracking a balloon."

Shortly thereafter, the Heenes relocated to Florida, with Richard trying to make some cash via Bear Scratch, a novelty gadget seen here....

...and two years later, he was pimping other gadgets, including the Your Shake Down....

...and Truck TransFormers:

But shockingly enough, neither of these brainstorms flew, as it were. So how to make a living? Off the kids, of course!

Earlier this year, the Oprah Winfrey Network put together a Where Are They Now piece on the Heenes in which Richard again tearfully claims there'd never been a hoax before revealing that the family was living off the proceeds of the Heene Boyz, a heavy metal combo featuring his three sons, including Falcon, who's now a tween. By the way, the OWN video finds Richard adding that the family decided to move out of Colorado because "the energy was kind of on the negative side."

You think?

Here's the OWN piece.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts