Lisa Kate David has a singular to-do list. Right after “lose 10 pounds and buy cat litter” is "finish having the areolas tattooed" around her nipples, the last step of her reconstructive breast surgery following a double mastectomy in 2010.
The actress, writer and comedian can be forgiven for not getting around to it sooner. In October 2008, nine months after the birth of her daughter, she discovered that her husband of 10 years had been viewing child porn on the couple’s computer. After months of therapy, a lie detector test and a sting operation with the LAPD to gather evidence against him, she kicked him out and was getting her life back on track — only to face a breast cancer diagnosis.
The journey of that year and a half, including dozens of post-surgical coffees with suitors she met online, is the subject of her one-woman show, Dating in L.A. With No Nipples, which returns to the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks on Oct. 7 after a successful November 2014 run.
It’s probably not surprising that David, today happily remarried with a 7-year-old daughter, hasn’t quite found her Zen space when it comes to her pedophile ex. But the spunky, auburn-haired actress (she’s fond of comparing herself to Barbie) manages to convey the incredible details of those months without a shred of self-pity, and even humor.
“There’s always that part of me that can see [my life] from the outside — which I think is self-preservation — where I’m like, ‘This is totally absurd. Who does this happen to?’ I think it’s been my saving grace.”
Seven years ago, David was browsing online for Halloween costumes for her infant daughter when she stumbled across “Daddy’s Little Girl” in the browser's search history, an incest site featuring 5- and 6-year-old girls. Her then-husband's trite confession (it was just that one time!) was soon followed by more revelations, including Craigslist encounters with adult transsexual women, a file titled “Things I Shouldn’t Do” (freeze his sperm) and his therapist’s disclosure of alarming red flags concerning their daughter. After he failed a lie detector test confirming he was a threat to children and was shipped off for six weeks of mandatory treatment, David filed for divorce.
“Whenever I would read about someone who had no idea about the person they were with, I would think, ‘That woman has to be a moron,’” David says. “And then this happened to me, and I’m not a moron. Sociopaths are incredible liars.”
She was done with their marriage, but her ex kept insisting they’d work it out. David decided to use his delusion to her advantage. She recovered his hard drive from the service shop where he’d dropped it off to be wiped and took it to the LAPD. While the department worked through its six-month computer forensics backlog to build a case, she continued stringing along her ex to gather information, until she discovered she had breast cancer.
Scientists may not back this up, but David is convinced the stress of long months bottling her rage and keeping up appearances for her daughter led to her condition. Though her doctors recommended only a single mastectomy, David took the Angelina Jolie route and made it a double.
Her thinking at the time, she says, was: “‘I didn’t ask for this, but my daughter certainly didn’t ask for this.” As a single mom, she couldn’t afford for the cancer to come raring back one day.
A week after the surgery, before she could lift her arms above her head, David wore a wire to elicit a confession from her ex during a phone call while police officers stood by. They were hoping for a verbal admission on two points: viewing child porn and attraction to the couple’s daughter. David chatted about her surgery and follow-up radiation as her ex insisted he wanted to get back together. How can I, she asked, when you were using child porn? Yeah, he said, but I don’t do that anymore. Ding. Plus, she said, you were getting aroused by our daughter. That was only a couple times, he replied, and I didn’t do anything. Ding. David apparently gained so much incriminating evidence during the call, the officers told her she could have a career in setting people up.
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The events of those many months, David says, robbed her of her capacity for small talk. They also dwarfed any previous insecurities. She says that following her surgery she became practically fearless, pursuing breakfast, lunch and dinner dates every weekend. Her surgery, and her ex, were always first on the table. After everything, what was the worst that could happen, she thought. Someone wouldn’t call her back?
That distinctive spirit of sunny survival and steely optimism characterizes the show as well. It’s why David is telling her story: she’s determined not to let her or her daughter’s future be weighed down by her ex's past.
“It’s not my dirty secret, and it’s not her dirty secret," she says. "I don’t want there to be shame surrounding it.”
Dating in L.A. With No Nipples, through Nov. 11, Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com.