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A Tale of Three Couples

From cars to kismet, local marrieds share what brought them together 

A Highly Calibrated Meeting of Minds Under the Hood

Photograph: Kayla and Vincent Mulisano

In the classic comedy, My Cousin Vinny, actress Marisa Tomei steals the scenes with her encyclopedic knowledge of cars. It isn’t far from Greensboro’s own Kayla Mulisano, co-owner at Autologic of Greensboro. 

She and Vincent Mulisano are not only a couple, they work shoulder-to-shoulder at Autologic, where they’ve built a following among car aficionados. (They frequently work on cars from as far as Charleston, S.C.) Vincent, the master technician, founded the business in 2007. Kayla is the service manager.

“We work differently,” Vincent says, each one playing to his or her strengths.

He insists that “car chicks” didn’t turn his head. But — when he first got to know Kayla, her mechanical aptitude appealed.

Vincent adds shyly, “She was drop dead gorgeous and she knew cars.” Falling for Kayla happened very, very fast in his telling.

Kayla met Vincent through her older brother, but only in passing. In 2009, they began dating while she was working in BMW restoration at Korman Autoworks by day and taking college courses by night. “If I needed help on a car that none of my guys could figure out, he could help.”

“It started with a car thing. It began as just enjoying each other,” says Kayla. He admits he had serious thoughts about their relationship within six months. “It was pretty fast. I knew right off the bat,” he says.

In May of 2015 Kayla left Korman, joining Vincent at Autologic.

Well before then, by 2009, they were a couple. He began thinking about putting a ring on her finger, later spending months poring over the design with a friend who dealt in diamonds.

“I was the one, you had to hit me on the back of the head with a bat,” she says. “I liked his brain and his sense of humor. He made me laugh.” 

“It was a whole bunch of everything all at once,” a clearly smitten Vincent says. “Okay, she’s gorgeous. She knows cars. She’s quick witted. Snaps back with jokes. Say something snarky and she has a reply. Laughs, smiles. Acts like a girl, and giggles.”

And he liked Kayla’s proclivity to change her hair color with the seasons, and her feminine aspect.

Not just another car chick

But there was a shared romance with cars. Both have had personal project cars. Both did high performance driving (“racing” to mere mortals) events. For a long time, automobiles claimed a huge chunk of their lives. When they grew involved in animal rescue with greyhounds, they did less of those activities.

In 2011, Vincent planned his proposal. He called ahead to Bleu restaurant in Winston-Salem and asked to be seated in a certain place. To entice her to dress up, Vincent led Kayla to think they were meeting a valued friend and his wife. (“He’s like a father figure to me. She — Kayla— was very nervous about that.”) 

“We get to Winston-Salem and the friend calls,” he says.

Mysteriously calls as we’re getting out of the car,” she interjects, to cancel meeting them.

They were seated, ordered wine, and then, Kayla says, “He slapped a piece of bread out of my hand,” at which she explodes with laughter. Vincent was so nervous he admits he was struggling, trying to hold her attention while wrestling with the timing of the proposal — sabotaged by the arrival of the bread basket. He had a dreaded sense she would figure it all out and his surprise would be ruined.

“She was starting to feel something was going on and had a lot of nervous energy,” Vincent patiently explains. He absolutely couldn’t stall any longer. “So, I decided it was time.” 

He got down on bended knee “as she was doing these nervous nibbles,” Vincent laughs. Kayla hadn’t even noticed his princely kneel. “She had missed me completely,” he says — until she didn’t. He pantomimes her spluttering and blowing the bread out of her mouth. 

Then Kayla saw the ring.

He thought she’d say yes. “She said yes,” he says, smiling.

Five years later, they married at Topsail Island, October 26, 2016. In their wedding picture, they are standing in the sand, smiling hugely, with Elsha, an Irish wolfhound, at the forefront.

Officiant Reverend Skip did the honors, Kayla says.

“We were — soulmates — is an easy way to say it,” she says, “but we truly are.”

A creative duo tie the knot

Photograph: Chris King and Doug von der Lippe

Chris King and Doug von der Lippe can thank a treadmill and a goodhearted matchmaker for their relationship. Both entrepreneurs, von der Lippe is co-owner of Twin Brothers Antiques, formerly Shoppes on Patterson, in Greensboro, where identical twin Bruce is his partner. King is co-owner of Aqua Salon & Spa in Greensboro.

Von der Lippe says that “Our creative backgrounds allow us to understand and respect the hard work and dedication to a craft to become successful.”

“Chris and I first met back in 1999 — I think. We were both living different lives,” he says. He met King through his partner at the time. “I was a graphic designer and was asked if I could help with packaging graphics for a health food line that Chris’s partner was launching.”

Then von der Lippe moved to Florida where he lived and worked long term. Years later, his father, Eric von der Lippe, former director of the Greensboro Science Center, grew unwell, prompting his return to Greensboro in 2011. 

“My dad’s health was changing and it was time to come back home to help with his care and be closer to home and family.”

Soon came an opportune gym visit.

“I was at the gym on a treadmill running and a friend, Kathy, was on the treadmill next to me,” he explains. The friend asked a lot of questions, after having not seen von der Lippe in some years. “Questions like, where are you living, what are you doing for work, how are the kids, who are you seeing or dating, etc.?” But her last question was the kicker, von der Lippe says, and he told her he was seeing no one. The friend quickly asked if there was anyone he would like to go out with. 

“Without hesitating I said, ‘I wonder what Chris King is up to these days?’”

He still isn’t sure how his name happened to come to mind, yet adds, “I am so happy it did.”

As it turned out, Kathy had an appointment with King that week.

In rapid sequence, the matchmaker connected the two by phone and they planned to meet. “We had our first date [lunch date] at M’Coul’s Public House in downtown Greensboro and that is all it took.” That was April 18, 2011.

First impressions remain strong, adds von der Lippe:

Von der Lippe’s first impression of King was “Amazing blue eyes, looks like a model, handsome, genuine.”

King’s first impression was that von der Lippe was “a polite Southern gentleman, magnetic, who left an impression.”

After their date, both report there was an instant attraction to each other. “We definitely both felt that this could be significant,” admits von der Lippe.

“We dated for one-and-a-half years, then moved in together, and in 2014, when same sex marriage became legal in North Carolina, we knew we wanted to get married and make our blended family one,” he says. 

King and von der Lippe were married at the Congregational Church of Christ in a late morning ceremony on November 22, 2014. Von der Lippe’s children, Gabrielle, 21, and Grayson, 17, participated. Afterward, they all gathered in the fellowship hall and feasted on Honey Baked ham and other noshes.

Eight years later, commonalities outweigh the couple’s differences: “Love of family, caring, concerning, DIY’ers, love of the beach, wearing the same size — and — we can share our wardrobes,” von der Lippe jokes. 

King’s favorite thing about his partner is his love for and devotion to his children.

Von der Lippe says, “The glue in our relationship is our willingness to support each other no matter what. We always know that we have each other’s back. We are each other’s ‘ride or die’ partners for life.”

Two Couples, Two Weddings and a Broom Closet

Photograph: Don and Cynthia Adams

Lastly, a kismet story. 

I met my husband one golden autumn day at a Greensboro music festival. A fixup.

When a former colleague arrived with a guy in tow, a slow burn ensued. The afternoon was supposed to be a gal’s outing — gabbing about work and listening to tunes.

As for the new guy, he came along due to bassist Stanley Clarke’s jazz.

I mostly ignored the Fixed Up, who had the pleasing lilt of South Africa.

But that afternoon, I learned that it happened to be Fixed Up’s birthday. I believe that for at least one of the 365 days we earthlings spin around the sun in the vastness of space, one should be special. 

There should be cake. And tiny candles, pressing back against that universal darkness, to paraphrase Jim Dodson. 

And a wish granted.

Fixed Up eventually confessed that he was thinking of returning home to South Africa.

Relieved that this would be a friends-only relationship — after all, Fixed Up practically had one foot out the door — I thawed. 

We arranged platonic movie dates and hung out. He was educated, charming, progressive. Cultural references sometimes baffled him given TV was late (1976) in coming to South Africa.

As for me, there was a slow dawning.  Then, a stronger intuition. 

This man was supposed to be in my life.

I watched as he wistfully fanned pictures from home across the kitchen table: climbs in the Drakensberg, Table Mountain draped in clouds overlooking picturesque Cape Town. Paarl and the Winelands, the bush and game parks, exquisite Cape Dutch architecture.

His world. His home.

And Fixed Up was homesick.

Another night, over a glass of wine, he quietly told me he was on the cusp of resigning from his job. He seemed sad, as if he had failed himself. 

As an avid traveler, I opened my mouth to say, I will visit you.

But instead, independent of my brain, my mouth said, you’re not leaving. Fixed Up looked at me sharply. 

You’re staying here and marrying me.

In my memory, he left hastily as my cheeks flamed. 

He phoned a few days later to ask, “When?”

What had I done? 

Rattled, I blustered, saying work was terrible that week. A dance ensued. 

Six weeks later, we both ran out of excuses. 

We got a marriage license, thinking it best to elope. Perhaps Asheville . . . far from family who would question my sanity.

There we discovered our license wasn’t valid outside Guilford County, and the wedding was deferred

Otherwise, we had a wonderful time. Inscrutably, I bought him a dulcimer kit in Biltmore Village. I warmed to my intended. To Fixed Up’s affability, intelligence, good manners. Kindness.

We returned from Asheville in time to attend my friend’s wedding — a posh evening affair at Blandwood Carriage House. 

The bride, twice divorced, was beautiful, a highly strung artistic creature. She had a scrumptious gown (with makeup artist and hairdresser), string quartet, white tulips flown in from Holland, colossal cake and reception, and flowing champagne. 

As she floated down the aisle, you could hear breaths catching.

For the evening, I had paired a vintage dress with pearls and a veiled hat I’d bought at a yard sale, feeling Chanel-esque.

We fidgeted through the ceremony, thinking of our failed elopement.

“I’m here, you’re here, a minister’s here,” my intended whispered. “Let’s get married here.”

“We don’t even know the minister!” I hissed. “That’s not how things work here.” 

His look said, just watch me.

I was drinking wine when Fixed Up returned looking flushed and triumphant.

“Chuck says he’ll marry us. Put your glass down!”

We agreed no one could know; it would be horrible to steal someone’s wedding. Which is exactly what we were about to do. Our plans to slip outside were dashed by sleet: “It’s ice-balling,” my fiancé reported, utterly in awe of sleet — a complete novelty.

We stole through the basement surreptitiously looking for an empty room.

Finding a utility closet, we squeezed inside with Chuck. Needing Chuck’s wife as a witness, all four of us pushed against mops, brooms and buckets, which meant leaving the door ajar in order to breathe.

After vows, we danced, exultant, hugging our secret.

Before they departed on a Colorado honeymoon, after the cake cutting ritual, photos and champagne toasts, it seemed only right to tell the couple. “Take all the tulips home with you!” the bride exclaimed. 

It snowed, and my new husband spent a great deal of that night overwhelmed by its beauty.

The next day, a Monday, we returned to work, outwardly the same sort of different as before.

We skirted telling others. Because . . . who gets married at someone else’s wedding? Women told me that “they could never.” Men would high five my husband.

Our wedding benefactors did not last through the honeymoon. The bride returned home a few days later alone, never to discuss why. 

Weeks became months. Months became years. We are old marrieds now; stubbornly loyal, accustomed to one another. Quirky in the same places.

And we have no idea how it has worked, but it has.   OH