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L.A. Affairs: I was in L.A. to cover the Oscars. But on the red carpet, love found me

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I was still determined not to be the girl who moved across the country for a guy, but what would happen if I loosened my grip on that idea?
(Rebecca Kirby / For The Times)

I’ve never actually been to the Oscars but I’ve spent a good part of my television career awards-show-adjacent — on red carpets, interviewing celebrities about their fashion choices. The first time I came to L.A. to cover the ramp-up to the Oscars, I was living in New York and working as a TV producer. My assignment was to deliver fashion preview pieces during the week leading up to the awards, and to be on the red carpet the day-of. It sounds glamorous, and there were perks, like the stunning black satin heels designer Stuart Weitzman once gave me to wear. But in reality, covering red carpet arrivals consisted of me standing behind a giant hedge, screaming celebrities’ names at the top of my lungs to get their attention. “George Clooney!!! Over here!!” It wasn’t very dignified and God forbid I’d have to explain to my angry bosses back in New York why I couldn’t yell loudly enough to get Sandra Bullock to come over and tell me who she was wearing.

I had no plans to fall in love (not even with Clooney). But the editor I was working alongside that week, Hugh, was distractingly handsome. Tan and rugged, the word “cowboy” came to mind. He told me he lived in Silver Lake — I didn’t know what that meant or where it was. But like so many people in Los Angeles, it turns out, he’d just moved from New York. He was great to work with, grounded amid the insanity of a night of television where everyone is losing their minds on a minute-by-minute basis.

My mom told me to wear a red dress in my dating profile. At 69, I figured: Can’t hurt.

I was single at the time, focused on work. When one of my friends encouraged me to “get back out there” after my last relationship ended, I‘d rolled my eyes and gently told him to back off. But the night of the Oscars, sitting behind Hugh in the edit room, it briefly crossed my mind: What if after it was over, we walked to our cars at the same time? (His was a motorcycle, mine a rental that I’d already scratched twice.) If he asked me to grab a drink, would I say yes? But he didn’t.

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I returned to New York, keeping the red-carpet shoes. A few weeks later, I received a friend request on Facebook from Hugh. That’s weird, I thought, when I received his message. That editor from Oscar week? What could he possibly want?

I was too afraid to tell him exactly what I wanted: I didn’t want to be friends. I wanted more. I could have saved myself some time.

Facebook turned to emails turned to texts turned to long phone calls. And as I got to know him, I discovered he was the most soulful, kind and curious man I’d ever met. He told me he’d never move back to New York. He loved Los Angeles too much.

Too bad. I decided long ago that I’d never relocate for a man.

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I didn’t want to repeat the pattern of my own parents.

Growing up, we moved a lot, and it was always because my dad got a new job. My mom never seemed to have any say. When I finally got out on my own, I moved to New York City and I was so excited to make a home for myself, a place no one could ever make me leave.

When we broke up, I told him, “I set you free.” When he called back six weeks later, saying he might have made a mistake, I proceeded with caution. Then I fell head over heels for his new dog.

Hugh asked me to dinner and then flew to New York for it. It was a bold move. What if our long-distance connection wasn’t there in real life? What if this was all in my head? I wore my red-carpet shoes. He was standing outside the restaurant when I arrived. We said hi and then I kissed him. Because I needed to know. Could I kiss this man for the rest of my life?

Yes.

Three weeks later, I visited him in Los Angeles and he showed me his L.A. No publicists as far as the eye could see. A motorcycle ride to Mt. Baldy, jazz at a dark, hidden club in Glendale (who knew?). Bowls of hearty pasta at a restaurant so charming and romantic with the misfortune of being directly across the street from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a glowing “Tower Urology” sign.

I understand not unloading all your personal baggage on the first date. But by date No. 2? That’s the time to say: ‘By the way, I’m married and have three children.’

We dated long distance like that for eight months, alternating cities.

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I came out to Los Angeles to work the awards season and the Oscars again, only now, we were a couple. The morning after the Academy Awards that year, bleary-eyed, we went for omelets at Home in Los Feliz, then spent the day at Disneyland.

I started to see Los Angeles through Hugh’s eyes — this vast expanse of possibility and freedom. When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with the pioneers, people who risked their lives to go West and start a new life. Could I do the same?

I was still determined not to be the girl who moved across the country for a guy, but what would happen if I loosened my grip on that idea? After we dated almost a year, I applied for a job in Los Angeles and I got it. Just try it, I told myself. If it all falls apart, New York will always be there. I found an apartment with a tiny terrace in West Hollywood. I bought a Honda Civic I immediately scratched while pulling into my parking space after coming home from the dealership.

Every time Hugh told me how happy he was that I was in Los Angeles, I’d say something like, “It’s a great opportunity for my career,” like this was all a coincidence.

Then one morning over breakfast, he looked at me with his intense, brown eyes and said, “I want to acknowledge for one second that by moving to Los Angeles, you did something beautiful for us.”

It was the truth. Why was that so hard to admit?

Experience standout Oscar dresses from the last five decades, including Farrah Fawcett’s disco dress and Billy Porter’s tuxedo gown, in augmented reality.

Six months later, sitting outside at a loud Italian restaurant in Venice, Hugh scooted his chair away from the table, took my hands in his, and asked me to marry him. “Wait, are you sure?” I interrupted, then stopped, and let him finish the proposal. When he was done, I said yes.

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The night was beautifully clear and I could smell the ocean.

For me, the person who hadn’t ever taken risks in relationships, this was a new frontier. I didn’t move for work. I moved for love.

That was over 10 years ago. I don’t work on the red carpet anymore, but we live in Hollywood, so on Oscars Sunday we stay in, because who wants to drive with all those New Yorkers in town clogging the streets. We get on the couch with our cats and watch the show. Oscars-adjacent.

The author won four Daytime Emmy awards as a producer for “Good Morning America” and her work has appeared in Vice and the New York Times. She is on Instagram @colekazdin

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary: L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles — and we want to hear your story. You must allow your name to be published, and the story you tell has to be true. We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.


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