SCREEN June 2, 1997
From cameraman to estate owner.
Palos wants to make Huatulco the next famous production center.
Any new paradise for location film production would have to be warm and sunny when Chicago winters are very cold and dark. That describes Huatulco, about 400 miles south of Mexico City on the Pacific Coast where the religion, calm and commerce color Tony Palos dreams.
Huatulco has nine bays along more than 20 miles of coastline with 27 sandy, gorgeous beaches. It is being developed by the Mexican government as the next Ixtapa, Cabo San Lucas or Cancun. This means the water in Huatulco is pure enough to drink. Think of going to Mexico and using the ice cubes or opening your mouth in the shower without a concern!
Rooms become brighter when Tony Palos talks about the building of Villa Azomail, the home he built in the newest Mexican hideaway. Azomali means tranquility, peace and a state of well being, qualities Tony often shares.
At 38, Tony Palos has been a broadcast engineer at WMAQ for over 20 years. Beginning at age 26, it took this energetic, deeply religious man eight years of part-time study to graduate college. Its the sort of dedication Tony needed to create his magnificent four-bedroom villa. Nine years ago, after a Chicago waiter whispered about the wonders of Huatulco, Tony went to see for himself and fell in love with the land and the plans. He immediately wanted to buy land there.
But first he had a religious experience. Tony explains, "I was standing on this little beach in Huatulco and I felt that God had touched me. At that moment I was able to see what Huatulco would become. Then another message came to me: as beautiful as Huatulco is, it is only a minor grain of sand when compared to heaven. God was telling me that I would own a piece of property here and I would become successful. But if in any way I became corrupt or immoral, then God would not give this to me because it would bar me from realizing heaven."
High school and college buddies became his investors. Tony bought land only to have a neighbors building block his ocean view, leading to another religious experience. He became so frustrated about his Huatulco project that he visited the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Tony recalls, "When I went there, I really had a lot hatred in my heart towards the world, myself, the woman who owned the property beneath mine and the Mexican government for guaranteeing that no one would block my view. During the taxi ride I told myself Ill put everything in the Blessed Mothers hands. Id ask her if I was supposed to lose all this money. If I was, then Id accept it as divine providence."
Very shortly after that, Tony got a new building site in an even better location. "So far, only two billionaires and I are on the street."
So Tony Palos, Chicago cameraman-engineer, became Tony Palos, estate owner in Mexico.
The official opening Sept. 13, 1996 was preceded by a Mass of Thanksgiving. "Before the Mass," Tony remembers, "I told my buddies if they didnt go to Mass, they could go to the party but theyd have to pay a cover charge. I said pray to the God of your choice - Buddha, Confucius or pray to yourself just go to the church. Two hundred people came. After the priest blessed the house, we had a fiesta with a band and everything. The party went until 5 a.m."
Tony says he cant wait for the Chicago production community to discover Huatulco. He extols the perfect October-to-April sunny days.
The living room and the dinning room of the bright, white Villa Azomali have no walls. Tony explains that this helps the creative process. "Every morning you wake up, you look at the ocean. And you kind of bond mystically with a higher power, you really do. Since the house is open, it helps communication.
"Its inexpensive to shoot in Huatulco," he comments. "As we speak, one dollar will give you eight pesos, so whatever you shoot will cost you almost nothing as far as feeding and housing everybody is concerned." For instance, most taxi rides in Huatulco are less than $3 with a generous tip.
Tony Palos is enjoying the changes in his life. He still intends to go to law school and one day and hed like to marry. But first there are a few more villas to build in Mexico.
Tonys next goal is to make Huatulco a famous production center. He wants a movie company to set a film in Huatulco or Sports Illustrated to shoot its swimsuit edition there.
Knowing Tony all of that will come to pass.
Norman Mark is a freelance voice and on-camera talent, represented by CED, who writes occasionally for SCREEN.