By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Despite LAPD ChiefWilliam Bratton’s claims that the city is safer than it has been in decades, many residents don’t feel the city is even close to being safe, especially with crass street crimes committed in broad daylight by lowlifes who would nab a laptop from a crippled man’s lap.
“Peter and others I know feel that the neighborhood still feels unsafe, with many drug crimes taking place, despite claims it is an up-and-coming neighborhood slowly gentrifying,” Derian says of Echo Park and Silver Lake. “Him being assaulted in the middle of the day is just an example of how misleading it is to see reports of the neighborhood being a livable place for people to move to, when he isn’t safe on his front lawn from the thieves trying to make a buck to buy their next fix.”
After the attack, Choyce was upset with the treatment he received at an area emergency room, saying he was dealt with extremely coldly: “All they did was be rude to me and call me ‘sir,’ ” he says. “I was bleeding, my computer was ruined, and I was getting ‘sirred’ to death.”
It wasn’t the first time Choyce, who has been openly gay since he was a boy, has been attacked. As a youth, he says, he was often beat up and called “faggot.” Choyce, who was raised in New Hampshire, was a nude model for many years in his 20s, before his body was ravaged by disease. His apartment is full of photos of him and other males, sans clothing, along with shots of tigers, elephants and religious images.
He was also a disc jockey in Boston for a time, and at his Benton Way apartment enjoys playing an eclectic collection of CDs. One recent day, Bruce Springsteen was singing about Spanish Johnny in “Incident on 57th Street,” followed by a song from Leonard Cohen that Choyce says is the only one ever written about his illness, kyphosis.
He’s not shy about his deformed body. He takes off his shirt and shows off his twisted back. It has a severe, hunchback look. Perhaps not surprisingly, in a city like Los Angeles where every other person is trying to get into “the industry,” Hollywood has tapped the unique-looking man. He has worked as an actor on Monk and Dexter, and openly touts himself as the “Hollywood Hunchback.”
“Central Casting has been very good to me,” says Choyce, but in recent years he has worked far less, not been well, and has struggled with pain medications — and addiction.
Despite his pain, he still swims and tries to stay fit, working out in a friend’s pool for up to four hours a day to stay strong. There’s not much more he can do, with five of the six lower discs in his spine virtually wiped out. But he still has a lot of hope, and takes a minute to plug a book by physician John Sarno, Mind Over Back Pain, saying, “I love this book.”
Facing the holidays, and thinking about the mean streets around him, Choyce says, “I think they saw a guy in a wheelchair and figured I would be an easy mark. But in the end, me and Unshkins kicked his ass . . . I just wish I had a laptop.”