DTLA - Love is a many-splendored thing. In retrospect, so are bad dates.

That much was made clear when Los Angeles Downtown News launched its annual Valentine’s Day Love Story contest. We asked our readers to submit 200-word tales about the highs and lows of love and dating. We had three categories: Best Wedding Day/Engagement Story, Most Romantic Story and Best Worst First Date Story.

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The tales were as diverse as Downtown itself. Some made us laugh and others got us a little choked up. Several made us fearful for all those still in the dating pool. Others reminded us of the gems that can be found in said pool.

Below are the winning stories, and a few others that deserve to be shared. Thanks to everyone who got into the spirit. Happy

Valentine’s Day.

First Place Winner


We met at a Ray Lamontagne show at the Orpheum. Luckily, her date was in the bathroom. After a while, I knew I would ask her to marry me. When she brought up marriage, she told me I needed to ask her dad. I responded, “He intimidates me.” She was disappointed, thinking another year would go by, but little did she know the week before I had bought a ring, driven to his house without calling and asked for her hand. On her birthday I told her we were going to dinner at Umamicatessen. She complained about the walk in heels. Her friends were already there, thinking it was a surprise party.

As we walked by a line at the Orpheum we saw the manager, Eddy. I made eye contact and asked if we could take a picture in the lobby where we had met three years earlier. He smiled and said yes — Eddy was in on it. As he took our picture, I dropped to a knee and proposed in the lobby. Random strangers applauded.

The surprise birthday party was actually a surprise engagement party for her and our friends.

—Anthony Saccacio

Anthony is our grand prize winner! Way to go Anthony! He’ll receive a one-night stay in a deluxe room at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza, dinner for two at Noé restaurant and parking. 

Second Place Winner

Past to Present

I  love surprises. Always have.

David was the class clown in elementary school. Looking back, I remember more things about him than anyone else. He was always a little

disheveled and his hair was never combed. The only words I recall ever speaking to him during those years were, “Go comb your hair!” That was over 50 years ago.

I recently met David again at a get-together with friends. He was nothing like I remember him. Clean-shaven, impeccably dressed and every hair in place. I didn’t know what to say, but managed to squeeze out the words, “You combed your hair!” We soon began dating. Me, a grandmother, dating at age 60!

David asked me to marry him this past Christmas, to which I replied, “Yes!”

I can’t think of a better way to begin 2016 than with a new love and outlook on life. Love can come unexpectedly and can be thrilling and romantic at any age.

I love a good fairy tale romance. Always will.

—Carina Forsythe

Carina is our second prize winner and gets a $100 gift card to

Patina Restaurant Group.

Third Place Winner

First Impressions Can Be Deceiving

It began very un-PC. 

I saw him in an African drum performance. He was the only white guy on stage, and I said to myself, “He thinks he’s black.” I attended a party at his home with a mutual friend of ours who happens to be a lesbian, and when she and I walked in the door, he looked at both of us and decided that I was gay. 

Months later, I arrived at rehearsal for a musical and the drummer was the musical director, but we didn’t recognize each other. At the cast party, we talked and talked and realized we had crossed paths before and laughed about our first impressions. Just before midnight, everyone was dancing and I was in his arms, but when he tried to pull me a bit too close I realized it was time to say goodnight. I quickly headed out the door (I had just broken up with a guy and reminded myself that I was on a self-imposed break from anything that could turn into dating). 

The next morning I awoke to a funny, romantic one-liner text addressed to “Cinderella.” We’ve been together ever since.

—Mary Crescenzo

Mary came in third place, and gets a gift card for a movie night

at the Regal L.A. Live cinemas including popcorn and drinks.

Honorable Mention 

Livin’ La Vida Loca

We had just started dating. She had tickets to a Ricky Martin concert in San Jose and we had the best time. I was speeding while driving back to L.A. and took my eyes off the road for a second. The car veered into the dirt median strip and I did everything wrong: Jerked the steering wheel, slammed the brakes, spun out and flipped us over into a ditch. I blacked out. She woke me up. Then she ran back up to the freeway until she flagged down a trucker. At the ER, I had cuts on my arms, face and scalp sewn up. Luckily we didn’t have any broken bones. The nurses joked that we were “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” She got a hotel room, bathed the blood off me, and woke me up throughout the night like the doctor told her. I almost killed us, so I told her I would understand if she left me. But she stuck with me, and I asked her to marry me on Valentine’s Day. We’ve been married 15 years now and have two beautiful children.

—Ricardo Lira Acuna

Jealousy and Egg Cream

He was sitting at the counter of Wexler’s Deli at Grand Central Market. I recognized the tiny starfish birthmark on the back of his neck. We had met here a year ago today. The woman now seated next to him was gorgeous. There he was, instead of at work, sitting next to my replacement in our spot. I wanted to tap his shoulder, that shoulder I had kissed, rubbed, caressed a thousand times and ask, “Why?” It had been a perfect year. We were soul mates. We met at this counter when I spilled a chocolate egg cream on his new suit. The gorgeous woman swung her perfect legs in my direction, stood and then walked away. I saw him place a chocolate egg cream on the seat. What was that about? I stepped closer. Peeking out of the whipped cream, impaled on a cherry stem, was a beautiful diamond ring. Why had I doubted him? How did he know I’d be here? I slipped on the ring, took my place next to him at the counter and happily ever after sipped my egg cream.

—Susan Goldstein


Team Sodi Jam, a crazy combination of a Wisconsinite and an Angeleno, is comprised of Jodi Shapiro and Samuel Friedman. They began talking on the phone in November 2012. They were matched via Jodi’s friend and matchmaker on the dating website SawYouAtSinai.com. After a few weeks of phone calls, they moved on to Skype dates. Their first Skype call was four hours! They shared a love of board games, reading and bad puns.

They first met in person in December 2012, when Sam came to visit Jodi in L.A. The visit went very well and Sam even met Jodi’s parents. They continued to have phone calls and Skype dates. They tried to visit each other every three weeks or so. Jodi even went to visit Sam three times in the winter snow!

After seven months of blissful dating, Sam proposed to Jodi on Father’s Day 2013 at Picnic Point in Madison, Wisconsin. Jodi said, “Yes, of course!” Soon after Sam moved to Los Angeles. They were married on July 13, 2014.

The Team currently lives in Los Angeles and has a pug named


—Jodi L. Shapiro

Have a Drink or Eight

On a lonely Valentine’s Day in 2009, my friend Alex and I decided to beat the blues and visit the Grove for “singles awareness.” Eventually Alex got pretty drunk and passed out. Meanwhile, his phone was ringing off the hook. I decided to pick up (we were cool like that) and it happened to be his (also single) friend I hadn’t met yet. I told him, “Hey, your friend here is passed out and I have to drop him off now so he can’t join you guys.” He said to me, “Well, just drop him off and come yourself.” I thought to myself, why not? I dropped off Alex at his place and drove to Fantasia in Burbank, waited around a bit and almost left, but then around the corner the most handsome man I’d ever seen appeared. We hung out every day after that. I am so glad I took the chance. I thank Alex now, for getting drunk and landing me a husband.

—Adelina Kazaryants

Opening Day

After seven years, we were ready to do this. “Why don’t we do it in front of 56,000 of our closest family members? Let’s get married on the field of Dodger Stadium at a Friday Night Fireworks game,” he said. I had to do something — fast!

That’s when I did it: I planned his surprise wedding. I called a restaurant and put together “The Best Opening Day Ever.” All the details came together in two weeks. We obtained a marriage license “just in case we want to elope.” On a beautiful Thursday evening we drove to his “birthday dinner.” We talked by the water’s edge before going in. I wanted to remind him how much I loved and adored him. We headed up the elevator and down the red carpet where his daughter (whom I flew in from Chicago), my son, his fiancée, our pastor and his wife were waiting. He shed tears of joy once he realized what was happening. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Do you want to marry me? Now?” He screamed out, “H-E-double hockey sticks, yeah!” So we did, by the water, with our family. Best opening day ever. 

—Lisa Estrada McGuire

Office Romance

I had been working in the office for a year when I finally got the guts to ask Melina on a date. After our second date, we were pretty much living together because we couldn’t stand to be apart. After two months of dating, no one in our office knew that we were even seeing each other (this was against company policy).

On a late Friday afternoon, we were having a sales meeting with our team and about 10 other employees. I was giving a PowerPoint presentation, showcasing a big project we had ramping up. As I was finishing up my discussion, I said, “There’s still one last thing.”

I pressed the clicker and the final slide popped up: “Melina, will you marry me?” Everyone in the conference room was shocked and Melina almost fainted. After catching her breath, you know what her answer was. 

—Gustavo Alcantara

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2016