by Dr. Iain
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
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
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
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