Love at Second Sight
Nikki and John McMann’s sweet harmony
Nikki and John McMann enjoy a quiet life in Pound Ridge, where they describe themselves as “very social, but wannabe hermits.”
Photo by Rana Faure
Nikki McMann fondly opens her handmade scrapbook titled “Chapter 1: The Beginning,” lingering over handwritten love letters, notes scrawled on napkins, silly cards, and photos she and her husband, John, sent to each other in the early days of their relationship, when they lived on opposite coasts. But their strong and sure romance really began in Chapter 2. As Nikki likes to say, theirs is a tale of “love at second sight.”
First sight happened in summer 1994. Nikki, a student at UCLA, traveled to New York City for a few modeling jobs. She was staying in a model apartment, and one of the other young women there invited her to listen to a couple of DJs she knew at Les Poulets. The DJs turned out to be Armand Van Helden and his friend, John “Horse” McMann. Van Helden met up with the models while John was spinning records, and John joined the group when his set was over.
Nikki was immediately smitten with John, and the two spent the evening talking on a rooftop until sunrise. After a few days of getting to know one another in New York (John, who lived in Boston, was in New York interviewing with a record label), Nikki left to go back to LA, and John recalls thinking, “I’m seeing the love of my life walk away.”
Without email, texts, or Facebook, they kept in touch sporadically, the old-fashioned way: every year, John, who moved to New York to work for Jive Records, tracked down a new phone number for Nikki as she finished college and moved around. Four years later, when John traveled to Los Angeles for business, he called Nikki and asked her out. When they saw each other again, it was “love at second sight.”
“There was electricity,” says John of that second meeting. “The feelings I had for her when we first met were instantaneous. The same passion and intensity was reignited four years later.”
“We were pretty much inseparable from that night,” says Nikki.
John returned to New York but found a lot more reasons to travel to Los Angeles for business in the coming months. They spent hours on the phone each day, and sent countless love letters and napkin-scrawled promises to each other. A few months later, John invited Nikki to spend a week with him on Martha’s Vineyard. They both knew it was a make-or-break trip; that they would either solidify their love on the quiet island—or not. At the end of the week, John turned to Nikki and said, “You can’t go back.” She happily decided to take the risk. “Luckily, it worked out!” she says with a smile.
Nikki did fly back to Los Angeles—in and out in one day—just to pack up her belongings. John got down on one knee and proposed a year later during dinner at One if By Land, Two if By Sea. A napkin from the restaurant is among the items tenderly pasted into the “Chapter 1” scrapbook. They soon married at the Silverado Resort in Napa, where Nikki’s family is in the wine business.
After brief stints in Hell’s Kitchen and Scarsdale, the couple moved to Pound Ridge in 2002, falling in love with a property with views of the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. They built their dream house, which they share with their middle-school-aged daughters, Kira and Alannah. They also bought a vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard, a place John calls “part of the McMann family DNA.” Today, John is senior vice president of promotions at Atlantic Records, and Nikki is a real-estate agent at William Raveis in Katonah.
“We really connected on a friendship level,” says Nikki of their romance. “We are best friends, even today. We find it very easy to talk to each other, and we have
a lot in common.” Including playing golf, which they enjoy as a couple and with their children.
“I think we have a good yin-and-yang support system,” says John. “Nikki is such a loving, accepting and positive force. And so am I. No relationship is perfect, but when you accept each other and do your best to be an even better partner, the harmony works.
“We just let love take over,” he says. Even if it happened at second sight.
ROCK ‘N ROLL ROMANCE When John and Nikki got married in Napa Valley, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake shook things up a bit.