Kings, no Queens, one lassoed princess

(Illustration by Danny Schwartz / For The Times)

Jen and I met at Ohio University and started dating while she worked in Chicago and I worked in Washington. We came to Los Angeles in 2001 (her) and 2002 (me). Then, like all couples who move to Los Angeles, we broke up. After two years together, the “L.A. era” of our relationship lasted two months. We parted ways mutually, following an otherwise nice dinner at Bossa Nova on Sunset Boulevard. I drove past it for years thinking, “That place with the surprisingly affordable entrees is where we went the night it ended.”

For a few months we didn’t speak. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to let the other person move on, because anything else is torture. But there’s no denying chemistry.

Jen and I gradually wove our way back into one another’s lives. I directed a charity variety show that she choreographed and produced at iO West on Hollywood Boulevard. She appeared in a sketch comedy show I wrote. Our friends befriended each other. I became the unofficial godfather of her Swiffer-sized mutt, Chloe.

For seven years we went to each other’s birthday parties. We bought each other Christmas gifts. We hung out together when we went home to visit our families in Cleveland. I went to her book launches and public-speaking events. She came to my shows. We hiked the trails at Runyon and Fryman canyons and Griffith Park. We took each other to weddings. We had an easy friendship that was based on love and respect. Our friend Mike called us “the real-life Jerry and Elaine.”


Like Jerry and Elaine, we dated a cast of characters after we broke up. Unlike Jerry and Elaine, during our yadda-yadda-yadda years we discovered that no one else matched up.

One night at the Power House on Highland after a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, Jen, possibly under the influence of Chardonnay, said she still loved me. I had feelings for her too, but I was unsure how strong they were, and I didn’t want to lead her on and waste her time. I told her, while possibly under the influence of Guinness, that I still — and I can’t believe how stupid this sounds now — needed to kiss a few frogs.

I know. Someone punch me in the throat.

The more frogs I kissed, the more I appreciated Jen again as a loving, smart and funny woman. After her confession, over time, I began to think of her more. I actively looked for reasons to spend time with her.


I wanted to see if we still had it.

In March, 2010, I was invited to attend a Los Angeles Kings game. A burger chain was promoting its chocolate chip banana shake (which as president I would make available from public drinking fountains) and invited me, as a member of the media, to watch the game from a suite. Jen was my plus-one.

There are nights that are just perfect, when it all clicks. This was one of those nights. We talked and talked while the Kings did everything in their power to lose to Dallas, and everything Jen said and did hit me in the right way. I remember we were given promotional Snuggies, which we agreed made me look like a cult leader and made her look like a sorceress. Someone in the suite mistook us for a couple. It wasn’t the first time during our seven-year timeout this had happened. We ate free popcorn and made the jumbo video screen with Bailey, the Kings’ mascot. Jen’s smile flashed brighter than the ice on the Staples Center floor.

After the game (the now world champions lost, 4-1, by the way), we went to the Red Lion Tavern in Silver Lake for a friend’s birthday party. I bought a boot of beer to share because if you love America and you’re at the Red Lion that’s what you do. Our friend Bill told Jen, “You guys belong together,” and in an awesome mixed metaphor that Jen still repeats, “He needs to lasso his princess.”


Like I said, there was a boot full of beer involved.

We left the party in search of the Nana Queens food truck — our favorite. We drove around for an hour but were unable to find it. After determining that we would not get our fill of hot wings and banana pudding and that the Nana Queens Twitter account had possibly been hijacked by the Grilled Cheese Truck, I dropped Jen off at her place.

That Kings game, while we ate popcorn and modeled Snuggies and celebrated the precious rare miracle that is an NHL goal, was the first time I pictured us getting back together, just as Jen did at the Power House.

We married 18 months later in Cleveland. The Los Angeles Kings were not mentioned during our wedding mass or during any of the speeches at the rehearsal dinner or wedding reception, but they will always have a special place, as will boots of beer, lassoing princesses and missing food trucks.


Joe Donatelli is a journalist in Los Angeles. He is the managing editor of DAME Magazine and publishes the Humor Columnist.

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