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Rich Way To Make a Getaway
Edwin R. Shrake
August 31, 1970
First the Mexican army chased out the peasants, then Texan Troy Post built 'the most prestigious club anybody ever heard of,' a $30 million hideout just for good ol' boys—and girls—with lots of money
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August 31, 1970

Rich Way To Make A Getaway

First the Mexican army chased out the peasants, then Texan Troy Post built 'the most prestigious club anybody ever heard of,' a $30 million hideout just for good ol' boys—and girls—with lots of money

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Besides watching over, and slightly altering, the two courses (one seaside links and one U.S. country club conventional), Ukauka had the responsibility of being certain the golfers had grass to play on. A golf course a few miles down the road had been under construction for years and still looked like Death Valley. Jimmy flew to Tifton, Ga. and returned with an attaché case full of sprigs of Tifgreen and Tiflawn (dwarf). He planted the grass and nurtured it until he could cut out blocks for companies of workmen to sprig into the ground by hand. Within two months of the sprigging, vast fields of green lawn flourished at Tres Vidas.

Post wanted Tres Vidas to be "the most exclusive country club in the world." The first 250 members were invited to join at $5,000 each plus $40 monthly dues, a bargain for those who care. Each additional 100 members paid an extra $1,000 initiation. At the moment there are about 500 members, and they own about 200 private jets, more jets than could be mustered by the Mexican air force.

The Tres Vidas board of directors includes Post, Ling, former Mexican President Miguel Alemán (chairman), Sir Frank Packer of Australia, Bolivian tin baron Antenor Patino, Count Ferdinand von Bismarck of Germany, chemical magnate Tokusaburo Kosaka of Japan, Giovanni Agnelli of Fiat, Italian politician and fashion designer Marchese Emilio Pucci di Barsento, Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands, Prince Franz Joseph II of Liechtenstein, Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Portuguese Duke of Cadaval, the Spanish Duke of Arion, Count Jean de Beaumont of France, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Anderson, Richard Berlin of Hearst, former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Gustave Levy, John D. Harper of Alcoa, Gordon Metcalf of Sears, Roebuck, George Moore of First National City Bank of New York. Then there are ordinary members like Texas lumber tycoon Arthur Temple, Gary Laughlin of the oil business in Texas and Argentina, and Harding Lawrence of Braniff, whose wife is Mary Wells of the advertising agency, and so many others that they ought to wear numbers on their backs. Post's delight at this is immense; never was such a crowd assembled in McConnel. "This is the most prestigious club anybody ever heard of," he grins. "Why, our board of directors reads like Who's Who itself."

One problem in getting all these lovely folks together is Acapulco's artificial season. Those who read society columns know one is not to be found anywhere near Acapulco between Easter and Thanksgiving. "Hawaii used to have a season, too, but the jets changed that. Now Hawaii is just as crowded in July and August as it is in January and February. Jets will make Acapulco a 12-month resort," says Post. "The Acapulco season," Ukauka says, "is an invention of gringos who don't know better."

They are right about the season. The worst time to be in Acapulco is in late April and early May, when farmers in the hills and out in the tierra caliente are burning fields to prepare for the next planting. A haze like smog covers the sky, and the hills are brown and dry. When the rainy season comes in June the skies clear up, hills turn green and the sun is hot for long periods, broken by rain. Fishermen figure there will be 60 days of sun and 60 days of rain, in no predictable order, during the rainy season. Weather then has some drama. Rather than the unrelieved sunny glory of winter ("Another gorgeous day in Acapulco," says Tres Vidas tennis pro Don Budge every morning, with more than a touch of boredom), the rainy season offers terrible thunderstorms with inspiring shows of lightning and nights of wind driving the rain hard against the roof and shutters. Every so often a Pacific hurricane may blow away the awnings and the rain gauge, close the port and cause flooding in mountain villages that are never quite prepared for frequent catastrophes.

Last Easter there were some 250 members and guests at Tres Vidas for the weekend, and a large crowd gathered for a party in March to watch the solar eclipse from the roof of the Clubhouse (Rybar, Robert Finch, Joseph E. Levine and Linda Christian were among the participants who lay on cushions in a rather Moroccan setting and peeked at the eclipse through 20 boxes which had been built for the occasion at a cost of $100 each). But a couple of weeks later the entire club was entertaining less than 40 guests. The several restaurants, open from early morning until midnight under the chefdom of Emanuel de Camp of Maxim's in Paris, were empty of nearly all but waiters and a party of Oklahoma insurance salesmen and wives who had come to Tres Vidas as a reward for hot selling, the strobes of their movie cameras lighting up the ornate chandeliers and the fantastic ceiling of the cocktail lounge—a domed, patterned brick ceiling so lightly and artfully done it looks like woven straw.

When the insurance salesmen departed, there were less than 20 guests, the ratio of servants to guests at more than 30 to one. Tres Vidas has a staff of about 600, all paid higher than the local average wage of $2.50 per day and none of whom appear beaten down with labor. It is not unusual to look up from a book and find eight people somehow engaged around one two-bedroom villa—two men watering the flowers, another on an aluminum ladder changing light bulbs, one fiddling with the wooden lid that hides light switches for the pool each villa is equipped with, a security guard standing on the seawall in green coveralls, two more riding past in a golf cart, and inside the room a maid who has been there for hours and comes out occasionally to talk, to pull the pincers off a crab, to look at the ocean. With so few members and guests in the place, those who do arrive are curiosities, the only show for miles up and down the beach, where empty white red-tile-roofed villas stand like Palm Beach houses seen in a mirror that reflects the same image on and on. There is a more intelligent attitude toward work in Mexico than among the hustlers in the North. In the evening at Tres Vidas the setting sun is like a round wet cherry, and the light on the water is golden, and all along the seawall are gardeners and maids quietly watching the display for half an hour or more.

No matter how deserted Tres Vidas may be, Troy Post maintains his dream of exclusivity and respectability. Last spring Hugh Hefner of Playboy arrived in Acapulco in his private black 707 jet with a load of bunnies and dudes to meet Bernie Cornfeld, the peppy little fellow who bought himself a castle with money he made selling mutual funds in Europe. Cornfeld had been talking to Post about developing property at one end of Tres Vidas and Hefner now wished to discuss developing the other end. But no one had mentioned to Post that Hefner intended to be included. When the information reached Post that Hefner and several bunnies were inside the walls of Tres Vidas, well, as Ukauka put it, "the old man had a fit. He said ask Mr. Hefner to leave and tell Mr. Cornfeld there is no deal between us." Playboy magazine is banned in Mexico, where only men may bare their breasts in public, and you may believe that bunnies are certainly banned from Tres Vidas unless they arrive singly or with acceptable escorts. Cornfeld had reserved 10 bedrooms (two-bedroom villas rent for $250 per day), but he gave them up and quarters were found for the bunnies at Warren Avis' house in Las Brisas. Cornfeld and Hefner went off to look at sites in Zihautanejo, where there are no tall glass Hiltons and not a country club within 150 miles.

Such decorum is more a requirement of Tres Vidas than of the Acapulco community. In the afternoons Acapulco businessmen may be seen strolling along downtown streets carrying briefcases and with coat, shirt and necktie neatly folded over one arm. There is always some female tourist showing enough flesh to have her chased out of less sophisticated areas of Mexico. A few years ago a promoter from California moved to Acapulco and gave a cocktail party to celebrate his desire to build a big hotel. He hired a printer to do up 500 engraved invitations. Instead, the printer made 5,000 invitations, the surplus to be sold or given away in town. The cocktail party was jammed. People from the streets surged into the ballroom waving invitations. The Californian looked at this scene in dismay; most of those invited had come, as well as thousands of uninvited, and he was the only man in the room wearing a coat and tie.

This is not to say formal dress is expected at Tres Vidas. The requirement is for approved behavior. Many Tres Vidas members plan to build their own houses on the grounds. The design and decor of these houses must be certified by the board of directors as belonging to the "club village." If you don't fit in you git out.

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