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Hua Hin
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Surfing the waves, airwaves that is

Andy Curtis has dealt with the demands of dueling careers throughout his working life, but realizes the importance of always having a passion for what he is doing.  On his Facebook page, he describes himself as a voice-over artist, a radio presenter, an audio producer, a dog father, and a food and beverage professional. I was intrigued to learn about his long involvement in the hospitality industry, especially as a restaurant manager in an establishment in the Gordon Ramsey franchise. I was sure that with experience like that, he would be able to substantially improve my ability to cuss. But it appears Gordon Ramsey’s reputation may all just be media hype, since Andy’s experience of him was quite positive, describing Gordon as a very charismatic man.

With this article for my People of Hua Hin series, I have had to move sideways from my intended path.  I had originally stated that I wanted the community to direct the people I interview, with each interviewee providing me with the names of two further people they considered had an interesting story to tell.  My last candidate, Dr Pawat Seritrakul, did exactly that, but for a variety of reasons beyond his control, neither were appropriate or available at this time. So, I returned to my first interviewee, Wendy Herbert, a woman with a great familiarity with the people of Hua Hin, for guidance.

And what better way to connect with the community of Hua Hin than to interview Andy Curtis?  Anyone who listens to local English-speaking radio in Hua Hin will be familiar with his name and voice, but I suspect many will, like me, have never seen his face before this article.

Andy has had a long love affair with Asia, working in Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur as well as Thailand.  But none of that was on the mind of the school aged Andy Curtis. Like his namesake Tony Curtis, he wanted to be an actor and indeed graced the small screen in Grange Hill, a British children’s television drama series, originally produced by the BBC and portraying life in a typical comprehensive school.

Just short of turning 12 years of age, Andy discovered another of his life’s passions, DJing. He took over from the mobile disco operator at his elder sister’s birthday party and managed to really get the party pumping. Andy had always lived in a musically rich environment.  His mother listened to what he called “black music” such as Motown or Soul, his dad had more middle-of-the road tastes and enjoyed The Eagles, Abba and Boney M, while his sister was into punk and reggae.  An aficionado of Soul music to this day, it was at this point that Andy first realised he could make money out of this passion.

Never one to put too much effort into his schoolwork anyway, Andy was working semi-professionally as a DJ at 14, turning pro at 18.  After school, he determined that a university education was not for him, luckily as the required O-level in Mathematics had eluded him.  He says algebra and trigonometry all went in one ear and out the other.

So, while his friends from Dulwich College, an academically selective independent school founded in 1619, were heading off to University, Andy, then 17, was beginning to expand his media skills repertoire by joining a pirate radio station as its breakfast host.  Not long after, Andy joined Juliana’s, a company still in existence, which provided DJ services and much more to 5-star hotels.  It was with Juliana’s that his love affair with Asia began and flourished.

But the most formative period of his media career was to be in Hong Kong, where he initially worked on British Forces Radio, BFBS, using state-of-the-art broadcast equipment and “learning to do radio properly”. His original intention of spending 6 months in Hong Kong somehow eventually amounted to 35 years, though not consecutive ones. He returned to the UK for a brief time, having sent out 60 demo tapes of his media skills.  Offered 5 jobs, but none of them remunerated well enough to satisfy him, it wasn’t long before Andy was back in Hong Kong.

Andy always displayed strong skills and a high level of understanding in promotions work, so one job he took on was as an all-round media guy for the Marco Polo hotel chain.  A disagreement with a supervisor, an apology that was never given to him and an impulsive nature saw Andy quit that job and move sideways into Food and Beverage management, a period of his career that lasted almost 20 years and saw him working in pubs, bars, restaurants and fine dining establishments.  Indeed, Andy has owned and run 3 different restaurants, 2 of them at the same time. One of the biggest buzzes he ever experienced was as front-of-house at one of his restaurants, serving a dish prepared by his wife, totally wowing the customers who called it the best food of their lives.

Joanne, Andy’s wife of 17 years, whom he met in Hong Kong, is a very accomplished chef.  She is Thai, but lived from the age of 11 in Hong Kong with her mother and stepfather. Andy speaks Cantonese, but has limited Thai and is quite envious of his wife, daughter and stepson who are trilingual.  I bet I know which language they use to keep a secret or whinge behind his back! 

Joanne has had a profound influence on Andy as she has the ability to see things in greater detail than him.  They work well together for the benefit of their family, and although he is a few years her senior, he has never treated her as anything less than an equal in their partnership.  Clever man.  Happy wife, happy life. 

The political unrest in Hong Kong in 2019 was a very disturbing time for the Curtis family. Getting to work and even school became a perilous undertaking with protestors facing off with police firing live rounds.  At this time, a trip to Hua Hin for his 50th birthday, and a meeting with Richard Buckle of Surf 102.5 FM, lead to another fork in Andy’s career path, re-igniting his love of this part of Thailand that had started with his honeymoon in Cha-am in 2005, which romantically coincided with that year’s Loy Krathong festival.

Andy began hosting the Marriott Breakfast Show on Surf 102.5 FM remotely from Hong Kong, but when the protests continued to disrupt life in an insupportable way, Andy made the call that things needed to change, and started to look at options for the family.  Preparations for moving the family members, human and otherwise, were well under way when Covid-19 reared its ugly head. Luckily, Andy got his family on one of the last flights to leave Hong Kong before lockdown, but as airline companies had already stopped transporting large animals, there was no way for this self-confessed Dog Father to get his beloved pooches, Sunny, a black Labrador cross and Brownie, a German Shepherd cross, each weighing almost 40 kilograms, out of the country.  In the Curtis family, no-one is left behind, and this most definitely includes the four-legged members.  

So, Andy and his dogs spent 8 months separated from the majority of the family before they were able to reunite in Thailand.  These dogs aren’t pedigree animals, they are rescue dogs, but that certainly doesn’t diminish their value in Andy’s eyes. They, along with a pampered cat, are family members.

While he is a very focused career professional and prides himself on doing his job at an exemplary level, there is a real soft side to Andy Curtis.  He is a self-proclaimed awesome husband, a staunch protector of his 15-year-old daughter, and can’t live without his family.  The sacrifice of living 8 months without his family’s human members was a genuine one indeed and speaks heaps about the determination and love of this man for his whole family. Indeed, he cites being married for 17 years to someone who still likes him as his greatest achievement. His greatest weakness is making sudden, impulsive and sometimes much-regretted decisions due to boredom.

Andy has had to reinvent himself in Hua Hin to provide for the needs of his family, a job he takes most seriously. Post Covid, he feels the time is not right to return to the restaurant trade in an overcrowded Hua Hin dining scene, so he has turned to his media roots and is hosting a morning radio show in China on EZFM, which is pre-recorded a week in advance, as well as becoming involved in a new radio format in the UK called Radio Essentials which provides a premium hosting service to community radio and the like. 

Over his long career in the media, Andy has seen many technological changes which, luckily for him, allow his work life to continue, with great acoustics, from the broadcast studio he has set up in a corner of his bedroom. Social media, including Youtube, has provided Andy opportunity to partake in further freelance voiceover work.  He has engaged with 30 or so Youtube channels over the past 18 months, but sets himself a baseline standard, and will not engage with content that is overtly political or poorly written.  His reputation as a broadcaster of quality and integrity is important to Andy and he is all too aware of the need for greater accountability and regulation in the social media scene. Andy appreciates the clear benefits of modern technology but believes that somehow, unfortunately, it has lead to the world becoming a less safe place, a more angry place.

The rigours of the Covid-19 pandemic have had their impacts on almost everyone, worldwide.  Andy acknowledges he is luckier than many, but still has had his life somehow put on hold.  He will have been in Hua Hin for 2 years in a couple of months, but the move, while permanent in his mind, still feels temporary, as with no local, permanent full-time job as yet, he is still to buy a car or swap his house in Bangkok for one in Hua Hin.

While he is now in the second half of his 50s, Andy still has many things on his “to-do” list.  He has unfinished business in the Food and Beverage industry and believes, with different luck, no pandemic and a few more timely and sage choices, he could have been General Manager of a large hotel by now, given his skills, wide-ranging experience and commitment.

Andy wants to be able, within the next couple of years, to take his wife and daughter on an extended European vacation. As well as a much-needed holiday for all of them, he regrets that his daughter is still to have sufficient opportunity to truly know and appreciate her British grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins and they don’t know the remarkable young lady she has become. Like almost all of us, something guaranteed to make him happy would be a massive lottery win, so he could do exactly that. Andy understands that time with his elderly mother is precious indeed, after only recently losing his 84-year-old father, a talented dog trainer, who gifted Andy his love of pets. It is 15 years since Andy has been back to the UK, his then infant daughter and wife by his side.

Externally, on first glance, Andy Curtis is a polished, consummate professional, but on the inside, he is an amiable family man and a true home-body.  No stranger to a beer with mates, outside of the 3 months of Buddhist Lent, that is, Andy’s true preference is spending time at home, having a swim in the pool or watching a Marvel movie cuddled up with his equally fanatic daughter. While he has worked as Food and Beverage manager in big hotels and run restaurants of his own, he still appreciates normal home cooking.  A true Brit, when asked to nominate what he would choose as his last meal, his immediate response was that it would have to be roast chicken with all the trimmings.

Describing himself in just 3 words, Andy chose talkative, charismatic and pensive.  I can certainly attest to the first one.  I was supposed to be interviewing him, but getting a question in edgewise was not easy.  Charismatic was also on the mark.  Andy was a pleasure to interview because he is authentic and honest in his understanding of himself and the world. He vacillated between pensive and introverted for his third word.  I did feel he had a protective shell he had built around himself.  Although he appears very self-assured, what people think about him does matter to Andy Curtis.

I feel the world would be a better place if we all took to time to see ourselves from the point-of-view of those around us, just like Andy does.

My next interview subject and I heard about each other on the grapevine before we ever met.

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february, 2024