Ricki Lake Says Her Late Husband Helped Her Find Love Anew

Ricki Lake said she doesn’t care if she sounds “hippy-dippy woo-woo.” The actor, documentary filmmaker and former talk show host credits her second husband, Christian Evans, with leading her to her third.

“I believe Christian orchestrated this whole thing,” said Ms. Lake, 53, who married Ross Burningham, 54, a partner in the law firm of Gunderson Dettmer, at her Malibu home on Jan. 2.

Mr. Evans died of suicide in February 2017. But not, perhaps, without foresight. “When he passed over, he started taking care of me. He wanted me to find love — I believe Ross is the man Christian wishes he could have been for me.”

Ms. Lake and Mr. Burningham met on June 26, 2020, when both were living in Marina del Rey, Calif. Mr. Burningham, a divorced father of four, had recently moved to Los Angeles from San Diego for work. Ms. Lake, who has two sons with her first husband, Rob Sussman, was also in the neighborhood temporarily. “I had been building my dream house in Malibu for seven years,” she said. By that summer, it was nearing completion.

Covid, however, was just getting started.

“We were at that point in the pandemic where you were afraid of everyone,” she said, but also made giddy by seeing familiar faces. Ms. Lake ran into an acquaintance, Gem Cocker, on her daily beach walk with her dog, Mama. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! How’s it going?’”

Ms. Cocker asked Ms. Lake her relationship status. When Ms. Lake said she was single, Ms. Cocker shifted to matchmaker mode, texting Mr. Burningham, a former colleague.

“She texted me and said, ‘I just ran into a friend and thought you might want to connect with her. Her name is Ricki Lake, and she’s wonderful,’” he said, recalling the exchange. Mr. Burningham’s knowledge of Ms. Lake’s career was limited. “I knew she had been a talk show host back in the day,” he said. “I don’t know if I ever watched it.”

Credit…Laura Grier/Beautiful Day Photography
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In July 2020, Ms. Lake and Mr. Burningham had their first date on his patio. Ms. Lake, who has publicly discussed her struggles with hair loss, had a gray pixie cut and was wearing an orange tie-dye muumuu. At first, Mr. Burningham recalled thinking, “this is not my usual type. I’m not sure if this is going to be a love connection.”

It was. But getting there took a while.

“We had kind of an awkward hug at the end of the date and then neither of us followed up,” Ms. Lake said. For weeks, she was distracted by the resurfacing of a man she previously dated. But when she recognized that relationship was going nowhere, she texted Mr. Burningham. “I said, ‘Are we ever going to go out again?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ ”

That Halloween, Ms. Lake canceled plans to go to a party out of Covid concerns. Then, still in costume as a chameleon, she invited Mr. Burningham over. He told her he would come only if she wanted to make it a sleepover. “You’re going to have to deal with me in the morning,’” he said.

They fell in love that night, under a blue moon. “A light bulb went off,” Ms. Lake said of their connection.

On Feb. 14, 2021, Ms. Lake and Mr. Burningham moved into her Malibu dream home together. As they climbed into their new Jacuzzi, naked, for the first time that night, “I just felt this overwhelming desire to ask her to be my wife,” Mr. Burningham said. Ms. Lake preceded her “yes” with a swear word she said would have offended Mr. Burningham’s devoutly Mormon parents.

“It was just that, every step of this relationship has felt so right and so aligned,” she said.

The date of their Jan. 2 backyard wedding, attended by 23 guests, was picked so all six of their children could be with them. Mandy Ingber, a friend of the couple and a Universal Life Church minister, led the short ceremony with their other friend, Christopher Morris, taking part.

Ms. Lake wore an orange caftan — a reminder of their first date. Mr. Burningham wore a black long-sleeved shirt and khakis.

Each read handwritten vows. “But the truth is, we didn’t need to because we say our vows every night, when we talk about how much we love each other,” Ms. Lake said. “The way he looks at me is the best feeling in the world.”

“And you know what?” she added. “I deserve him.”

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