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September 24th, 2003 Kim Colton | Hitched
 

Hitched

Norla and Michael Richards

     
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Norla and Michael Richards
AUGUST 12, 2003

Imagine this scene: A woman clears a downtown Portland dance floor as she dances provocatively--or, as she calls it, "simulates masturbation." Men gather around to watch, some ask her for a dance, but the woman steadfastly refuses their requests, and instead focuses her gaze on one man.

This dance is for him.

Pretty intense, no?

Not if you ask Michael Richards, now 43 and a driver for a medical transport company. He didn't even notice. A musician since childhood, Michael was too busy watching the band on stage to catch the seductive dance that Norla Hansen, now 51 and an addictions counselor, had fashioned just for him. He didn't realize that Norla was the same woman who, minutes earlier, had "accidentally" bumped into him on her way to the bathroom.

Even if he did notice, why would he care?

He'd seen Norla arrive at downtown's Candlelight Room with another man. He assumed she was married.

Norla did, in fact, show up at the bar with a male friend, but he wasn't a husband or a boyfriend, just a friend. She saw Michael the minute she walked into the bar and was arrested by his features: broad shoulders, husky frame, long, black dreadlocks.

"I spotted him, and I thought, 'Damn, I've got to get his attention,'" Norla recalls.

Michael's lack of interest only served to heighten her efforts, Norla says, noting that she's used to attracting male attention. "He was oblivious to me," she says. "I liked that about him."

Her final chance came as she saw Michael leaving the bar. When she found him outside perched in a friend's Jeep, that's when she made a more direct move. "Hi, my name is Norla," she recalls saying. "Do you want my phone number?"

This approach might have been more forward than her previous attempts, but it was also more successful. "I've never seen anybody move so fast," she says of Michael's quick jump from the Jeep to the sidewalk in an effort to procure her phone number.

When he called the next day, Norla wanted to make sure he didn't pick up mixed signals from the night before. She warned him that if "all you want to do is try to fuck me," he had the wrong woman. At first, the only response he could muster was stunned silence. "I was kind of quiet for a minute," Michael recalls. "And then I said, 'Well, no, how about some coffee?'"

Her untamed nature might seem a contrast to his more understated temperament, but Norla claims the two immediately found each other's company complementary.

"He calls us soulmates," she says of Michael. "We have the same thoughts; we're so connected."

Turns out, Michael has two passions, Stratocaster guitars and old-school Cadillacs, that bring out his wilder side. For one of their first dates, Michael asked Norla to accompany him to a cousin's wedding. He rented a newer Cadillac Northstar, and the two had so much fun cruising, they never made it to the wedding.

That was five years ago, and since then, the two have spent almost every day together. These days, Norla says they're more likely to listen to music from inside their North Portland garage than at Portland's blues and funk clubs.

The idea of marriage surfaced this summer after the death of Norla's mother, and their wedding was a modest celebration of their wilder beginnings. They married in a small ceremony at Northeast Portland's Augustana Lutheran Church--it's their favorite, Norla says, for its Sunday-night jazz service--in front of 20 friends and family.

And yet, the couple couldn't let their big day pass without a certain amount of flash: After the ceremony, the bride and groom sped away in Michael's triple-burgundy 1970 Cadillac Fleetwood.

 
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