AMY LOCANE STARRED OPPOSITE JOHNNY DEPP IN CRY-BABY AND WAS PART OF THE ORIGINAL MELROSE PLACE CAST. BUT THE FORMER HOLLYWOOD IT GIRL ACHIEVED INFAMY FOR SOMETHING FAR MORE SERIOUS—AND DEADLY.
By Lynette Rice
Original Source: ew.com
It started out as just another ordinary day. Whenever Amy Locane speaks to students about the night she drove drunk and killed a 60-year-old wife and mother of two, the former actress of Cry-Baby and Melrose Place fame likes to preface it by sharing the rather humdrum events that led up to it: On June 27, 2010, Locane woke up in her Hopewell, N.J., home, jogged with her young girls in a double stroller, then drove to a nearby theater to participate in the closing of a community play. After celebrating at a wrap party with the cast and crew, Locane met up with her then husband, Mark, and their two young daughters at a friends’ barbecue. “I try to tell the students that it was pretty normal,” explains Locane, 45. “I try to ground [the kids]with the details of anybody’s day, how it seems pretty mundane, but that something intense, larger than life, can happen.”
Though a jury would convict Locane of second-degree vehicular homicide and assault by an auto, Somerset County Superior Court presiding judge Robert B. Reed sentenced the actress to three out of a maximum 15 years in prison. He cited how unlikely it was that she’d ever drive drunk again and showed special concern for her daughters, the younger of whom suffers from an intestinal bowel disorder. Now Locane—who is in the process of a divorce from her husband, Mark, after seven years of marriage—is back in Hopewell, working a retail job in a home-and-garden store, living in a two-bedroom apartment, and trying to carve out a new life. “Some of the college kids I speak to are like, it’s not fair because someone died,” says Locane, who says she joined Alcoholics Anonymous after the collision and has been sober ever since. “I get that. It was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life. I understand how people would feel animosity toward me. It’s not an easy thing to go out and talk to these kids. But they say if you reach just one person, then you have tried to make the situation a little better. I mean, it will always be a horrible situation.”
While she walks and works in anonymity today, 27 years ago Locane was a promising young actress who missed her high school prom to star in a movie opposite Johnny Depp. She had already been modeling and making commercials since the age of 10, but Cry-Baby—a 1990 musical comedy about a teen rebel who falls for a rich and beautiful good girl—was the game changer that she and her stage mom, Helen, had been looking for. “The very first day, she came to rehearsal in my living room,” recalls director John Waters. “She had to make out with Johnny Depp with her mother sitting there. And she fainted! I do not blame her. She was a child and we had this cast that was probably the most insane group of people ever gathered to make one movie. We had Patty Hearst, David Nelson, Traci Lords. But Amy was great, a pro through the whole thing.”
Critics agreed. The New York Times said the “sweet-faced” Locane was “perfectly cast as a nice girl named Allison who’s just dying to turn naughty,” while EW dubbed her a “baby Ann-Margret.” Other film jobs followed, including a big role as Brendan Fraser’s love interest in the star-studded 1992 film School Ties, along with playing Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones’ daughter in 1994’s Blue Sky.
But trouble began creeping in as well, with Locane adding some off-camera drama to the highly anticipated Beverly Hills, 90210 spin-off Melrose Place. Locane was part of the original 1992 cast, nabbing the part of a Southern waitress named Sandy Louise Harling on Fox’s prime-time soap, but brought an attitude to the set that did not match her résumé. “She was a sweet young girl, but she overestimated her position in the business,” recalls her costar Doug Savant, who played Matt Fielding. “She had an immature outlook on how the progression of her career was going to go.”
After another decade appearing in straight-to-DVD movies like The Heist (starring Luke Perry, Ice T, and David Faustino), Locane began to second-guess whether it was worth flying back and forth from New Jersey to Los Angeles to audition for roles that she couldn’t get. “I just remember being 32 and sitting in sitcom class and staying at a friend’s house, and the friend had a dog and his crazy ex-girlfriend kept bringing more dogs she rescued from the desert, and I went, This really isn’t the life I want to be living,” recalls Locane. “I booked a plane ticket and came back home.”
If there’s anything Locane does recall, it’s when she woke up in a ditch after colliding with the Seemans’ car. By the time police arrived five minutes later, Helene Seeman had no pulse; her husband incurred broken ribs and a punctured lung. Ruckelshaus would testify to seeing Locane exit her car and pirouette into a ditch. “I’m pretty sure I had a concussion,” Locane says. As to reports that she giggled at the scene, Locane says, “I knew one of [the EMTs]was a husband of a girlfriend of mine. So I was like, ‘Hi.’ ”
Locane’s then husband, Bovenizer, still questions why Locane didn’t call him to pick her up or why she didn’t ask the Sagebiens to find her a ride. “That’s where the failure of this whole thing happened,” he says. “Mrs. Seeman would still be alive if Amy took responsible, adult steps.” But he is also grateful for the defense mounted on behalf of his wife by attorneys, who argued during the two-and-a-half-month criminal trial that Ruckelshaus distracted Locane by chasing her, and said Seeman took too long to turn into his own, unlit driveway. But
the jury wasn’t swayed: On Nov. 27, 2012, Locane was found guilty of second-degree vehicular homicide and assault by an auto. She was immediately remanded to jail. “The worst night of my life was when I had to tell the kids that their mother wasn’t coming home,” recalls Bovenizer, who split with Locane in November 2015.
By the time of her sentencing, Locane had already acclimated herself to a new life behind bars. “I went into county jail right after I was found guilty [in November],” she recalls. “Most people get bailed out and go home and be with their family, but I decided the sooner I got in, the sooner I would get out.” She passed the time by checking out books from the prison library, but she never stayed too long in one place. First, it was a gymnasium-style room with 60 other women, followed by a maximum-security area that made her feel like she was “living in Penn Station.” Next came a rehabilitation section of the prison, and then an area where she helped train puppies for work in law enforcement.
She migrated to women who were also convicted for drunk driving. “In prison she was in a section for people in recovery, so that probably helped her,” says Susanne Morgan, Locane’s AA sponsor (who was not incarcerated with her). “She’s very much a survivor. ”
That appeal is pending in the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court, while a six-year-old lawsuit filed by Seeman against Locane, Bovenizer, and the couple who hosted the barbecue drags on in civil court. Seeman would not comment for this story, but the lead trial attorney in the civil suit, Raymond Silverman, says the family supports the state’s actions. “While it has been a long ordeal for the Seeman family,” he says, “they remain resolute in seeing Ms. Locane and any other responsible parties brought to justice.”
It’s a justice that Locane’s legal team maintains has already been served. “Amy has always accepted responsibility for her role in the accident, which led to this tragic result,” says Wronko, whose firm is handling Locane’s appeal and advising her in the civil case, expected to head to trial in October. “The reality of it is, when you make arguments in criminal and civil cases, the question becomes ‘Was anyone responsible as well?’ ”
“I’m not minimizing what I did. That’s why I talk to high schoolers. It’s not as simple as don’t drink and drive.”AMY LOCANE