Local Personalities: Antonio (Tony) Pineda

by Dr. Iain Corness

Tony Pineda is one of the more complex characters in Pattaya, a city that has more than its fair share of complexities, let alone characters! Tony is an author, but described himself at one stage of the interview as a “bit player” on the stage of life. This is perhaps unkind, but Tony certainly does not fit into the average mainstream, being a refugee (in many ways) from the ‘Beat Generation’, whilst waiting for it to return, of which he is quite sure it will. “Surrealists were Surrealists until their dying day,” said Tony, as a partial explanation of his continued adherence to the Beat Generation concepts.

His background gives only a little insight to his complexity. He was born in El Salvador, but his parents emigrated to America, chasing the golden dollar dream. His father drove trucks (“a typical immigrant” said Tony), while his mother, who had been a teacher in El Salvador did menial jobs, as her command of English was not extensive. They lived in a typical immigrant Hispanic neighborhood, but so did his two sisters and one brother, and they did not turn out like Tony. “I have one sister who is a nun, with a doctorate in Theology, while my other sister and my brother are bourgeois with kids,” said Tony, encapsulating his family background in one sentence. However, writers can be sparing with words at times.

His schooling was also typically Hispanic, going to the local Jesuit school, but was cast out in his final year. I did not inquire why, but even after a short while with Tony it was obvious that Jesuits and the Beat poets did not have a symbiotic relationship! In Tony’s words, “I defected to the Beat movement.”

In those days in San Francisco, the Straight Theatre in the Haight area was a central meeting point for those with art (or even artistic pretensions). One could live cheaply amongst others of the same ilk. Tony was an actor in small plays, did some Flamenco dancing and was part of the ‘psychedelic scene’. “My roots are in alternative culture, in particular the psychedelic underground, which was driven underground,” said Tony.

I asked him what did he do for money to finance his existence in those days in the art community. “Nobody needed money then. There were communes. There was always a ‘crash pad’ around the corner. It was a (time and) place for painters, poets and writers to create very cheaply,” he explained.

In and out of those communes drifted many of the nameless and faceless, joined in their search for ‘where it was all at’ before moving on. But some did make it into the general consciousness of the ‘other’ (socially acceptable) society to become household names such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Tony knew Jim Morrison from The Doors and the celebrated poet Michael McClure who was later to become his mentor.

In his own personal search, Tony moved on too. But out of America to Spain and Madrid in the 1970s to study dance (and he still has the figure of a Flamenco dancer). Like so many others in the international art community, he began to move around Europe and, “I discovered Amsterdam, so I became a bit player like I was in San Francisco.”

During this period of his life, which was probably dedicated more to Hedonism rather than pure art, he did begin to expand his interests and mature. “I rediscovered symbolism and surrealism.” He also took as his personal mantra the oft-quoted phrase, “The only thing forbidden is to forbid!”

However, it was time to leave the hemp cafes and it could not be back to America. “Art in America has been totally prostituted into franchises. Nobody is creating ground-breaking art.” By now, Tony was in his stride. “There is an anti-intellectual movement in the USA. Somebody has to challenge the status quo. It needs a real spark somewhere. You have to believe in enlightened rational thought.” And then as a final gouge, “Creationism is inbred in Americans.” However, he did say, “There is an underground renaissance in San Francisco these days.” So perhaps all is not lost in the country’s euphoria of presidential campaigning!

Since it could not be America, his next move was to Thailand, a country he had visited and which had made indelible impressions on him. “Thailand (Buddhism) is now part of my culture,” said Tony simply.

Thailand became a place where Tony could read and meet kindred artistic souls, especially ones involved in the performing arts and movies. This is an area of his life that he does enjoy. “David Winters (the Kingmaker) cast me as Don Vincente dancing to the music of Bach and Vivaldi in the film,” said Tony, eyes sparkling with the memory so much, I thought he was going to get up and give me an impromptu performance! Dancing is still very much part of his life and loves, and he admits to enjoying the Marine Disco late at night. I doubt much whether he would even need a partner! Tony is a soloist.

Thailand also brought out more creativity with a need to write, and he has produced several manuscripts, has many novels “in the wings” as well as his currently published book The Magick Papers (set in the art and drug subculture). He is also writing a book called Chateau X.

Thailand has also become a place where he can indulge himself somewhat. “I enjoy great food and great wine,” said Tony, pouring another glass of red to go with the Au Bon Coin quiche and salad that he was patently enjoying immensely. “It doesn’t contribute to great art. As the Japanese say, we build our tombs with our teeth.” Whatever, I am sure Tony Pineda will be happy with his red wine and quiche tomb. From the searching underground psychedelic subculture, Tony Pineda has found himself, if nothing else, and he’ll look again later for the ‘universal truth’.