Otherwise Engaged

updated 06/18/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/18/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It may be a woman's prerogative to change her mind, but surely Anne Heche has been pushing the envelope. The actress, whose personal romantic dramas seem to center not on boy meets girl but on boy or girl, spent two years in the mid-'90s with Steve Martin. Then came a 3½-year stint—at least half of it spent posing for photographers—as Mr. Ellen DeGeneres, complete with a wedding band that matched the one worn by the woman she called "my wife." Their breakup last August stunned everyone—except, perhaps, 27-year-old cameraman Coleman Laffoon, who met Heche last summer. She was in San Jose, directing a documentary about DeGeneres's return to standup; he was part of her crew. Just days after Heche mysteriously wandered up to the rural Fresno, Calif., home of strangers last Aug. 19 and asked to take a shower and watch TV (she was briefly hospitalized and released), he was on the Toronto set of her forthcoming thriller John Q, offering a decidedly heterosexual sort of comfort. Says producer Mark Burg: "They were utterly inseparable."

And so began the romance that on May 25—Heche's 32nd birthday—found Laffoon in her L.A. home on bended knee, toting an heirloom diamond given to him by his grandmother and, according to his mother, Anne, asking Heche "to be his partner for life." Is her "Yes" a final answer to that other life? Heche isn't addressing the question, and DeGeneres isn't either. "Anne is a modern woman," says a friend, L.A. stylist Phillip Bloch. "If she feels like going out with a man, she will. If she wants to go out with a woman, she will." For now, though, she is fully committed to finding a wedding dress. "Something with a little femininity," predicts Bloch, "and just the tiniest bit odd."

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