Looking Forward, Looking Back

After two books, two T-shirts, and six years of blogging I have done all I have set out to do in this less than trivial pursuit. I’ll be Medicare eligible on my upcoming Birthday in June. Reading is down, books may or may not be on the decline, more and more people even bad mouth good old Bangkok. So why continue being a Bangkok blogger in an even more instant gratification era of vanity going straight to audio and video, via podcasts and YouTube channels? It’s a good question. I missed the Kickstarter boat after all. I make a mean potato salad myself. He who hesitates in this day and age is indeed lost. 

I do this blog for a few reasons:

  1. It’s fun.
  2. I get to meet interesting people, read interesting books, and ask those people and authors questions.
  3. It seems like the right thing to do and it’s selfishly rewarding too. 

The most important thing I have learned in the last six years, but don’t always follow is, “Don’t burst my illusions and I wont burst yours.”  Calvino’s Law. 


John Flano says good morning to Bangkok

In six years there have been over three-hundred blog posts here. I still have a few more in me. So let’s get on with it, as one of those interesting people I have met along this journey, Christopher Minko, once said. 

I’m expanding my horizons in year seven. Starting with an interview with a Bangkok contradiction, good guy and bad guy, actor and man about town, John Flano. He only plays the bad guy in the movies. 

John Flano (seated) with another artist

KC: Welcome John Flano to Thailand Footprint. You’re a SAG card carrying actor, an avid motorcycle rider and a transplanted Californian. Lets talk about rejection. That’s the first thing I think about when I think of actors: rejection. What’s it like? I’m reminded of an old Wide World of Sports intro. “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Tell me about your thrills, chills, and defeats in any order you like.

JF: A WOW question. This could turn into a novel on this one subject. When Auditioning I give it my all. Most, if not all auditions you have very little info for the character or what they are looking for when walking in front of the Camera. Let’s just say that I rarely get upset when I don’t book a gig…. and of course I am beyond child like excited when I do book jobs. You must have thick skin and not take things personally in order to survive in this business. There absolutely have been a few gigs that I thought I was perfect for and the Audition seemed to go great….. But for what ever reason I didn’t get it. Damn it. Oh, well. On to the next.

I grew up with a Improvisational theater type background. I have booked jobs with large agencies, products, SAG Union Productions…. Domino’s Pizza, Shield Soap, Lee Jeans, Cadillac, Molson beer, Bud Dry, Jack in the Box Burgers…..  What was the question again??.. Oh yeah, Rejection. No one likes to be rejected on anything…. But as an actor hustling around… You can not let it be personal. I always say, just bite the bullet, smile and keep moving forward and upward.  

John Flano with some of his fans

KC: When did your passion for motorcycles begin? How many times have you been to the ER? (Ever been to Four Corners and Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside, California by the way?) .

JF: 1984 and Skyline Blvd and Alice’s was a frequent hang for me, especially midweek before lunch on a school day as there was virtually no traffic up there. I can fondly recall being over and grinding foot pegs on my Honda CB 750f super sport and also my Moto Guzzi 850-T3…… My other bikes were unable to grind pegs… πŸ˜… I honestly don’t know when the motorcycle thing happened. It has been in my blood. It is just a fluke that I grew up in a motorcycle family from a baby and when I did eventually meet my biological father he told me he grew up on motorcycles and skiing as I did. I was adopted at age 2.  I met both my biological parents separately when I was 21 yrs old.

I remember at 6 years of age…. Right before I started first grade and just after returning from living on Norfolk Island and our 4 year world tour….. Mounting a 5 hp Bonanza Mini bike and cracking the throttle wide open straight into a curb and I went airborne into a field of thorns… Stickers….. I was hooked ever since. 

One ER trip due to a tourist pulling out in front of me in Hawaii on the big island. Long story but I was on a Harley VRod rental putting along minding my own business…. a retired couple who just landed on the Island were in their Rental VW four-door Jetta and they were in the oncoming lane and just before they were about to pass me they decided to make a sudden left hand turn directly in front of me…. I laid the Harley down and my front wheel hit their right rear wheel and I high-sided up against the car and then flipped over it….. I then proceeded back up the mountain I had shortly just rode down but this time in back of an ambulance looking out the rear window as I was laying down in the gurney laughing as I heard the medic on the radio to the ER saying that they had a “donor” in bound.. πŸ˜… πŸ˜… When I arrived at the ER one of the nurses who met us upon arrival said, where is the donor?… The Ambulance medic said I was the donor.. πŸ˜… When they receive motorcyclists from accidents they normally do not live thus they call them donors as they accept to have organs from the motorcyclist to donate…. I sustained some injuries but I was okay. That was my only time to the ER from a motorcycle accident.

KC: When did you first come to Bangkok and why did you decide to stay.

JF: I first visited the Kingdom of Siam in 1990. I was living and acting in Tokyo at the time. I had a break between two big commercials, Suntory Whiskey and Panasonic GAO TVs and decided to go to Bangkok with a fellow American Expat who was living in Tokyo and had to do a visa run. I found myself on an Island, Koh Samet, not so far from Bangkok and fell in love with the Thai culture, food and people. After Two weeks in Thailand I returned to Tokyo, picked up my money from the commercials and went back to Bangkok for 5 months. I had nothing but positive experiences and said I want to live here some day. I returned to San Francisco and then moved to Los Angeles until 2007; then I moved to Vietnam until 2013. I Love Bangkok and I Love Thailand.

John Flano, making friends during his Vietnam days

KC:. You seem to be the opposite of  a “Grumpy Gus” at heart, but could probably play one on the Big Screen just fine. What do you think of the complainers in life? How should they be treated, with compassion or with distance?>

JF: Thank you for your kind words. I have definitely had my moments of being grumpy for sure… πŸ˜… I think that is normal sometimes in life. You just can’t let it ruin your day or life in my opinion. Depending on what and how people are complaining dictates whether they should be distanced or you should feel compassion, I believe. But if someone is always complaining I would say distance is probably the best thing to do. No negative vibes please. Don’t harsh my buzz dude. 

KC: You mentioned you were adopted. When did you find out? What can you share about the adoption process for you? What can you share about nature vs nurture as it applies to John Flano? 

JC: It was in 5th grade when I was asking my mom what a baby looks like inside the womb. My mom showed me an illustration and I said, Wow mom, that is the way I was inside you, yeah??

She replied… “well, I think we need to talk”  at that moment I knew that I was not from them!!!!  I was so shocked but now things started to make sense to me. I was always so different from all of them. She told me that my mother was not well and was unable to keep me. Her baby was taken away from her. She wanted to keep me but was not allowed. My grandparents were also not good people, actually. At one point later my Grandmother said to me that it was better for me to live with the Flanagans because they didn’t want to screw me up like they did my mom. Crazy shit. So, my grandmother was always around me growing up but I didn’t realize that she was my grandmother until after the 5th grade. From that time on I would always grill my Mother and grandmother about my real mother and father. I didn’t get much info until just before I turned 21. I finally met both my real parents individually at that age. 

When I met my mother all we did is hold each other tightly and cry. She was happy and sad. She is a small petite woman with a huge heart of gold and she can ramble as can both my biological grandmothers. I have the “ramble” gene for sure. I can’t help it. My father is very pleasant but distant. Turns out he grew up on motorcycles and skiing as I did. So my father is/was a federal forest ranger up in Arnold California. We spent some time hanging out for a few years and then drifted apart. My mother and I would see each other occasionally over the years. I am very social due to my mother. I am also very good on my own because of my father.

I believe adoption is great when the family really wants to save a kid. My case was probably a bit unique due to the fact that the Flanagans had no intention of having another kid. Keep in mind that I was born in 1964 and the times were so different then. Families were different. Not much divorce back then. I have grown up dealing with certain childhood traumas as probably many kids do. But it was my friend’s families who really took good care of me.

KC: Talk about your community of creative types and friends in Bangkok. What do they mean to you? What do you like to do as a group. 

JF: I am very impressed with the creative community here. Pretty much everyone really gets along and is very supportive of each other and I really like that. We have Film makers, social events occasionally and those are great to get together and brain storm and network. There are screenings, exhibits that we all come together for. 

KC: What are you currently working on, John? 

JF: Currently I am shooting a great film called Spit and Sawdust, directed by veteran actor Byron Gibson. It is kind of a gang thing. I would say it is a mix between Quinton Tarantino and Guy Ritchie.  I really love working with this Director and cast.

John Flano at work on the set


KC: What are you afraid of? There’s gotta be something.

I am afraid of the scorn of women. Not that I have any reason to be subjected to such but it does scare me. I had a Thai girlfriend once; I didn’t want to eat her cooking. She was very upset with me about that. I am also constantly afraid of the way our world leaders are behaving. I will save you and not go further on this topic. I am also afraid of getting run over by a bus here in the Bangkok traffic.

John Flano, temporarily avoiding hell’s fury

JF: I want to thank you for your taking the time to interview me, Kevin. 

KC: Thank-you, John. Break a leg. And watch out for those Bangkok buses.