As soon as the subway doors opened, Thao Nguyen could sense she was in trouble. A short blond man boarded the train and locked his eyes on her. She felt a jolt of panic as the uptown R accelerated into a tunnel and the man sat down across from her and started rubbing his crotch. Nguyen, 22, was wearing a blouse and long pants, having just come from a job interview in Soho. He unzipped his fly and grinned.
She looked away but could see the man’s increasingly agitated reflection in the pockmarked train window. To avoid eye contact, she reached in her bag and pulled out her camera-equipped cell phone. She turned it on. Turned it off. Thought about the Mace canister she was carrying as she fumbled the phone to the floor. When she sat up, the man had his penis out of his pants.
Just a few feet away, a Japanese tourist couple chatted, oblivious to the goings-on. Nguyen’s Mace was right there, at her fingertips. She thought one more time about using it—then snapped a picture instead.
The man zipped up, and when the doors opened at the next station, he bolted. Nguyen took a deep breath and a couple of moments to compose herself, then looked at the shot she’d taken. There it was, captured in the lurid yellow subway light. She got off the train at 34th Street to report the incident to a policewoman. The officer took the report but didn’t want to see the photo. So that evening, Nguyen, a Web designer, uploaded the image to the girl-power site Laundromatic.net, hoping someone would identify her flasher.
Soon, the page filled with posts from other New Yorkers who had been flashed, ogled, or groped on the subway. “Why does this always happen on that damn R train?” rainey_daze wrote. “This has happened to me TWICE on there.” More sites started linking, and within a week, some 45,000 people had seen the picture. On August 27, the Daily News ran the flasher photo on page one, propelling the story around the world, from TV stations in Japan and the Netherlands to papers in Israel and Australia. “Holy shit! That’s Stu from accounting!” one wag wrote beneath the photo on Gothamist.com, noting the wholesome appearance of the perpetrator.
With his black polo shirt, dress socks, and sensible sneakers, he simply didn’t fit the widely held perception of subway perverts. Weren’t they supposed to be greasy men in shabby raincoats? Some are. Just two weeks before, local blogs had linked to photos of a real “old-school trench-coat flasher,” in the victim’s words, with hollow eyes and an unshaven chin. But this one looked like a soccer dad.
Dan Hoyt lives on East 10th Street, in a tiny room behind a shop. His roommate sleeps on a loft over a door that leads to the basement, while Hoyt, 43 and divorced, sleeps on a raised wooden loft with a couch and coffee table underneath. Next to his bed are stacks of videos, including Starship Troopers, a 1997 sci-fi comedy about an invasion of space bugs. I scan for porn movies and blow-up sex dolls, to no avail.
Hoyt, who’s five-three and light pink, is prying the top off a young coconut. “Just look at that meat,” he says, poking around with a knife. “It’s really, really soft and fleshy.” He dumps the coconut water into a blender, adds a few macadamia nuts and a glop of raw vanilla extract. He presses a button. The machine whirs. Twenty seconds later, I’m sipping a beverage Hoyt calls nut milk. “High alkaline,” he says. “Really good for you.”
Soon, he’s stuffing endives with a “cream cheese” made from puréed coconut, macadamia nuts, shallots, lemon juice, and salt. Using a food processor, he makes a cake of coconut flakes, pecans, vanilla extract, and dates, topped with sliced figs. He also makes chocolate pudding out of avocados, honey, and cocoa powder. “The kids love it!” he boasts.
Before he became last year’s most infamous subway masturbator following his September 1 arrest, Hoyt had semi-fame in New Age circles as an innovator in the city’s small but growing raw-food scene. In 1999, he and his ex-wife, business partner, and best friend Tolentin “Mun” Chan opened New York’s first raw-food restaurant, Quintessence, on East 10th Street. They had room for only seven tables, but lines formed out the door. Woody Harrelson, Crispin Glover, and Lou Reed ate there. Carol Alt invited Hoyt to do a segment on Fox 5’s Good Day New York.
Hoyt first discovered raw food in the mid-nineties through his neighbor David Jubb, who runs a health-food shop on East 12th Street called Jubb’s Longevity. Jubb wears a Hare Krishna–style topknot on his head and is prone to oracular pronouncements. (“The ancient ones wanted us to know it’s no secret why death occurs,” Jubb says, “so they put eat in the middle.”)