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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

Mr. Wrongs and Other Crimes of the Dating Life

June 17, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

As a deputy district attorney, Leslie Kenyon has had her share of ticklish cases.

Take the time a woman was sexually accosted by a total stranger--while waiting in line at the DMV.

Another time, there was an 18-year-old who got shot in the leg by a gang punk. But the kid was too afraid to ID the shooter in court.

Other eyewitnesses felt the same.

Kenyon told the kid, "Look at you. Your leg is gone. Your life is never going to be the same. Why would you protect the person who did this to you?"

But suppose the shooter's friends came to the courtroom during the testimony?

"If a gang member walks in, I'll have him arrested for intimidating a witness," Kenyon promised.

The kid testified, so did the witnesses, and the prosecution slam-dunked the case.

Assault, battery, abduction, theft, Kenyon has encountered all kinds of dangerous activity since joining the Los Angeles D.A.'s office in 1984. Away from work, though, she has had to do something fraught with just as much peril:

Date.

*

A lot of unmarrieds find themselves in a similar situation. If you don't meet somebody by chance, if you don't have friends who fix you up on blind dates, if you don't have the time or inclination to go to places where single people mingle with other single people, then what do you do?

Kenyon paid $2,000 to a dating service.

A divorced mother, 41, summa cum laude at USC, degree from Loyola Law School, she had a number of good qualities to put on an application form. A co-worker had persuaded Kenyon that a respectable matchmaking service was the way to go.

She screened some suitable suitors and set out to meet Mr. Right.

One struck her as a nice guy.

"That was before he mentioned during the course of our meeting that he was a suspect in a homicide."

Well, at least they did have the law in common.

Then there was another gentleman who didn't seem at all bad to Kenyon, except for the part where he turned out to be recently released from a mental institution and an accused child molester.

Ah, every single mom's dream date.

Bachelor No. 3 was the best of the bunch. No criminal charges were pending against him, which is always a plus in a guy's favor.

This one was a chiropractor, who asked Kenyon to come to his office. It wasn't the most romantic setting for a first date, but she kept an open mind.

At least until he immediately invited her to lie on a table for a free examination.

Three strikes, you're supposed to be out.

"Those were the highlights," says Kenyon, who did endure a few more dates. "The rest of the guys were just boring."

One good thing came out of it.

Kenyon wrote a play. A farce called "Dating Service," it is based on her depressing after-hours experiences with princes not so charming. Originally it was a one-act, but now it's been expanded to inaugurate the La Strada's new dinner theater next week, at 3000 Los Feliz Blvd.

If crime can't pay, perhaps a date from hell can. But the best part is that Kenyon isn't doing this just to line her own pocketbook.

A portion of proceeds will go to a youth center sponsored by the Rampart Division of the LAPD and fitness guru Jack LaLanne. In a district rife with gang activity that has plagued the MacArthur Park and Pico-Union areas, this youth center, under the supervision of Officer Aaron McCraney and other volunteers, is intent upon giving "at-risk" kids a place to interact with cops in a drug-free, crime-free environment.

With luck, these boys will grow up to be men a woman would be proud to date.

*

A younger child asked Kenyon recently, "Is prostitution bad?"

It made her wince, because she sensed it to be a child's question about Mommy's job. But she answered it plainly. As part of her role in the D.A.'s office, Kenyon teaches crime prevention at elementary schools in rough neighborhoods. Kids need to be taught alternatives to that kind of life.

As for her social world, Kenyon is willing to be laughed at if it can raise funds for the Rampart-LaLanne center. A playbill notes: "Thank God her ridiculous love life can help prevent kids from committing crimes."

Does her character's love life on stage have a happy ending?

"Yes," she says. "It's a fantasy."

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.

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