Interview with Thomas Paine Haag Duggan

By Greta Cobar

Carol Fondiller used to baby-sit Thomas Duggan, formerly known as Thomas Haag, Anna’s son. Yes, Anna Haag, who with John Haag operated the Venice West Cafe at 7 Dudley from 1962-66. John, Anna and Carol were also on the collective of the first Beachhead in 1968. One person who knew all of them from the beginning was Thomas.

Thomas, tell me about Carol. I had just talked to her on the phone about a month ago. I told her that I had just opened a bike shop, and she was proud. She said that she remembers how much fun she had with her little red Schwinn. I really wanted to interview her on camera, to just let the camera roll while we talked. I regret not getting around to that.

I have lots of fun memories of Carol. She was part of the group that my mom always hanged with. It was her, my father Bob Duggan, Jay the Bubbleman, Tomito, Lil’ Joe and Gloria Scott. I remember Carol baby-sitting me. I remember that I could always go to her house, any day, any time. I was around 5 years old, I remember them sitting around smoking pot. They always gave me the roach, and I would eat it. When they were through with the joint, they always said: “save the roach for Thomas.”

My mom and Carol used to hang out on the boardwalk all the time. As a matter of fact, my mom was one of the first, if not the first, vendor on the boardwalk. She made beautiful jewelry.

Tell me about your childhood. I grew up as Thomas Haag, but when I was 17 I had my son Jasen, and it was at that time that my mom told me that Bob Duggan was my father. I figure John must have cheated on her or something, and they were still married, but separated, and she got pregnant. I then changed my name to Thomas Duggan. But both John and Bob were a big part of my childhood, they both took me camping and stuff. One time John ran out of money during a camping trip, and we had to go through some really weird shit. Anyways, I have a sister, Duanna, who is 3 years younger than me. She lives in Colorado with her child. She is the one child that Anna and John Haag had together.

How was growing up in Venice? I remember going to Westminster Elementary School, and all doors had to be locked when Venice High students got out. They would come to get us. But I stayed out of trouble by staying out of certain places at certain times. I even graduated from Venice High.

My mom used to take us to Umbria, Italy, where she was from, every summer. We would leave a few days after school was over and did not come back till a few days before school started again. It was cool because I got to experience another culture, but I always felt like I was missing out on what was going on in Venice during that time. It was funny how different my life here was compared to my cousins’ in Italy. Over there they would get in trouble for not having their shirts tucked in, while over here I was really big into biking, skating, baseball, but also drugs and alcohol. I did so many drugs that I was through with all of that by 16. Same thing with alcohol, by 20 I had had enough. One time, I was 11, and our plane for Italy was supposed to leave at like 3 pm or something, but by noon I was so drunk that my mom got really pissed. God, she was so pissed! It was probably because I couldn’t help her carry anything. We used to have duffle bags full of stuff to take to Italy for presents.

But one common ground that I found with my Italian cousins was soccer. That’s what we played. And I also got to know another culture. My grandfather would send me to the store to buy him alcohol. And I learned to speak fluent Italian. While in Italy, I spoke Italian to my mother. But over here we always spoke English.

And what have you done since? I left Venice for 13 years, from 1987 to 2000, to live with my dad Bob Duggan in Aspen, Colorado. I graduated from the security school that my father has going on there, worked for him, taught shooting. Really did not like the weather, just too much snow.

Just this past April, Thomas opened a bike shop in the heart of Venice, just three blocks north of the post office on Main St. and San Juan. It’s a cool little place, and you should all check it out. He sells all kinds of old Schwinns that I almost drooled over, but also Backward Circle Bikes, those colorful skinny bikes that people ballet on at a stop light. What’s up with these bikes, Thomas? Well, I sell more of these than anybody else. My friend who started the company told me today “you’re in the lead.” When they bring these bikes in from Taiwan, they have to have a break on them and a chain guard, for security purposes. But then people take the chain guard and the break off, and they stop them by skidding the back wheel with a foot. I recently learned how to do that, but I still like beach cruisers best.

We rode bikes together to Carol’s memorial. He rode a wheelie most of the way.

I felt honored to be part of Carol’s memorial and to be able to continue her legacy with the Beachhead.