BY NATHAN SOLIS
HIGHLAND PARK — Scot Anthony Robinson once found himself leaping and bounding on stage, his voice booming through auditoriums full of school children captivated by his story about life as a homeless heroin addict. But recently, the 53-year-old had been panhandling outside the drive-thru Starbucks on York Boulevard after finding himself homeless a second time.
At the Highland Park Starbucks, Robinson made about $30 a day sitting near the entrance of the drive-thru parking lot. One day someone shouted, “Get out of here or I’m calling the cops,” according to Robinson.
Robinson is a trained film and stage actor. Some of his film credits include New York Undercover, Spike Lee’s Malcom X and an En Vogue music video.
For years he performed his one-man show, Vision Warrior, to auditoriums full of school children across the country, recounting his battle with addiction to heroin, cocaine and his rehabilitation. In his one-man show, he threw his entire body into the performance, reenacting an attempted suicide in a jail cell as well as his recovery.
After performances Robinson would hold group sessions with students to talk about peer pressure and self-esteem. He would stand there as a testament to how far one can fall and recover.
Drugs were responsible for his first homeless stint. The second time started with a phone call from his mother.
“She said, ‘Scot, I don’t want you to freak out, I’m not freaking out. I have cancer.’ And of course inside I freaked out, because my father had died a few years prior,” Robinson said in a recent interview.
Two days later he relocated his life to care for his mother in her Silver Lake apartment. In a short amount of time he would eat through his savings, giving himself entirely to her care and leaving his career, girlfriend and apartment in New York.
“Watching my mother lose her independence so gracefully makes me want to be a better person,” he said. “But watching her pass for so long, it wounded me.”
After his mother’s passing in 2012, Robinson grieved and attempted to return to work. But one night before a performance Robinson woke to find that half of his body was paralyzed. At first he chalked it up to a pinched nerve. He tried to perform, but found himself unable to get into the act as his arm was curled into his chest and his speech was slurred. Robinson did not receive any professional therapy, and a second stroke struck him one day while he was pumping gas.
“I just remember waking up and being surrounded by EMTs.”
Unable to work and with his savings cleaned out, it was only a matter of time until he lost his parent’s Silver Lake apartment. He lived for a while out of a leased car that was eventually repossessed.
“My whole life was in that car,” says Robinson, who took what he could carry out of the vehicle.
In Highland Park, Robinson apparently wore out his welcome at the York Boulevard Starbucks. He said he was banned from the store, and a district manager threatened trespassing charges. Employees confirmed that Robinson is not allowed on the premises.
As a stroke victim, Robinson cannot stand for a long stretch of time, so he is usually sitting, hunched over, his face low to the ground with a smile. Once he looked up and a woman was staring at him, upset at what she saw.
“She didn’t even know my story. She probably thought I was a junkie or drunk. But I was just smiling.”
Nathan Solis is a writer and photographer who grew up in El Sereno
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