"I don't know why, but somewhere I got the idea I wanted to be an architect," he said. "When I got out of the Army, I applied at USC, but a gal in admissions chuckled. She said the school was turning down 'A' students."
But a personal appeal to a dean helped get him into USC on a conditional basis. Moonlighting at an architectural firm during his schooling gave him a jump on his career: While most of his classmates had to accept apprenticeship jobs after graduating in 1961, Pagliuso opened a firm in Palos Verdes with an associate from his moonlighting days.
One of the firm's early projects was an apartment-sports club complex at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.
In 1968, Pagliuso opened a Honolulu office. Four years later, he bought it from his partners in an amicable parting of the ways. "My partners wanted to close the office, but I didn't," he said.
The office grew while state, national and international awards rolled in for projects Pagliuso handled in Hawaii, Australia, Japan and other Pacific Rim countries.
Meanwhile, the ownership of Media Five became dispersed as more architects were accepted as partners. Pagliuso and two others own the largest block, which amounts to 22%, he said.
Among the firm's regular clientele are Regent International in Hong Kong, which owns the Beverly Wilshire Hotel; Seibu Corp. and Tokyu Co., both in Tokyo; and Rosewood Corp., a Dallas company that owns the Hana Ranch Hotel.
Sometimes, the different cultures in distant lands have led to altercations.
While redesigning the Vanuatu Tokyu Hotel on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu, "the natives got a little restless, and one of the workers bit the ear off an Australian manager," Pagliuso said.
Media Five also has an office and a staff of 130 in Southport, Australia, near the famed Surfers Paradise beach. The office works only on Australian projects, he said. The number of personnel will be surpassed by the Costa Mesa office within a few years.
Work isn't slowing down in the Pacific Rim, he said, but Media Five has stopped marketing its services in Asia, preferring to concentrate on the half dozen or so Asian clients it has and to start anew on the mainland.
"In a way, I guess I also decided it was time to come home," Pagliuso said.