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Onan The Vegetarian

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Spotting his photo on the Daily News front page of August 27 was quite a buzz kill for Hoyt, who’d hosted a party the previous night with Chan at the Jivamukti Yoga Center on Lafayette Street. Mun’s Dynamic Life Festival, as they called it, was a way for the duo to introduce people to their shared passions. Before an audience of about 150, Hoyt showed off concoctions like hemp-seed burgers and raw mango-blueberry pie.

At the peak of their success, Hoyt and Chan owned three Quintessence restaurants around the city. The Upper East Side outpost shuttered during the winter of 2004; their Upper West Side branch, at 87th and Amsterdam, closed abruptly in January. In the weeks after Hoyt’s highly publicized arrest, his restaurants received prank calls on a daily basis. “Do you have sperm on the menu today?” inquired one caller. A blogger discovered Hoyt’s name was an anagram for “hand toy.” Raw-food enthusiast Denise Mari says she dined at Quintessence “40 times in a row” when she first switched to the diet; later she took six months of classes with Hoyt to prepare his recipes on her own. Before his arrest, she admired him. Afterward she wondered, “Do we abandon somebody because this happened? Or do we say this was a friend; we stay by them?” For some, the choice was easy. One Quintessence regular posted an irate e-mail to a local raw-food list, arguing for a boycott of Hoyt’s eateries. Other adherents believe he simply fell off the program. “I don’t think he was eating totally raw,” one wrote.

Convicted of public lewdness, a misdemeanor, on February 27, Hoyt is awaiting sentencing on April 18, when he’ll likely receive two years’ probation. He’s already begun court-ordered counseling, but he finds the sessions “a little long-winded.” He’s looking into an alternative therapy called EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which Hoyt believes removes emotional problems like stains from a shirt. “They go right to where the stress points are and eliminate them,” he says.

The subway incident has spawned a mini-movement of sorts. Inspired by Nguyen, a 15-year-old Queens girl used a cell phone to snap her own picture of a man who flashed her on the 7 train on March 3. A group of Nguyen’s East Village fans have started Hollabacknyc.com, a blog that encourages all women to “holla back” at street harassers by taking cell-phone pictures and posting them online. Nguyen “took the leap to say, ‘Uh-uh. This is not okay,’ ” says Hollaback co-founder Emily May. “She’s our princess,” adds another co-founder, Lauren Spees. “He picked the wrong person to do this to,” Nguyen says.

Not surprisingly, Hoyt himself disapproves of such tactics. In his account, the perpetrator is Nguyen, who misread his intentions (he claims he was already mid-masturbation when she stepped onto the train) and then humiliated him by posting his picture on the Web. He says he didn’t even realize he’d been photographed. “Even so, I wouldn’t imagine somebody throwing it up on the Internet for millions of people and destroying your life like that,” he says. “It’s one thing to take it to the police. But on the Internet, I read a lot of people saying, ‘That was not too cool of her. That was really screwed up.’ ”

Hoyt believes that if he and Nguyen had only met under different circumstances, she might really like him. “You know, she’d go, ‘That guy’s pretty cool. He’s got this restaurant, and he’s fun,’ ” Hoyt says. “She’d probably want to go out with me.”


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