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To hear Peter Deep tell the story, Club Mañana was a big, big deal.
“It was huge! The line on a Saturday night would be from the front door, where the condo is now, all the way down to where El Torito is. The entire block. I employed 200 people. At the height of the business, I had 200 employees. So, you know, I was larger than life.”
The condo he’s talking about is Zenith Vallarta, located in Emiliano Zapata at the intersection of Venustiano Carranza and Calle Constitución. As recently as five years ago, the lot was home to the biggest gay entertainment complex in Puerto Vallarta. Peter Deep, its sole proprietor, came out of retirement almost immediately upon his arrival nearly ten years earlier when he renovated a hacienda he had purchased originally to be his dwelling.
“I’ve retired three times in my life,” he told me over the phone one day in mid-August. “That was number two.”
Puerto Vallarta is growing fast and so its recent history is always open to revision, if it’s being recorded or acknowledged at all. A newcomer cannot fathom a time when the skyline of this colonia wasn’t filled with towering housing developments. People who have lived here a while love to talk about the Vallarta they recall, places and people who have passed on, and perhaps one of the biggest sources of recent nostalgia is Club Mañana.
In hindsight, it was an experiment. Each major city in the United States at one time had a mammoth establishment that presented an all-in-one experience: dance club, country bar, piano bar, leather bar, etc, etc. And though the original Paco Paco apparently maintained a similar feel, it was Club Mañana that upped the ante and continued expanding and growing—fitting for its owner’s outsize personality—until it couldn’t sustain itself any longer.
The bar closed in 2013 and Deep left the city shortly thereafter. Many people I met over the last month referenced the bar but few spoke of the owner personally, and when I realized how ubiquitously the memory of the club survives in the collective consciousness, the question presented itself: where is he now?
This is Peter Deep’s story.
“I was a nightclub owner,” he said. “To me, it was just a bar. It’s a business. But to everybody else, you’re this thing, you know?”
“I would go to places, me and [my partner] Chris, and we were famous,” he said, incredulous all these years later. “We were ‘Peter and Chris. Peter and Chris!’ We would go out someplace and be told ‘oh, you don’t pay.’ That kind of thing. ‘Oh, no charge for your meal. Here, this is on us.’ If I went somewhere to see a show, they would announce ‘Peter Deep is in the audience.’ They would announce it! So you become this thing and I’m like, that’s not me at all. I’m just a guy. But that’s what happened, so there were all sorts of rumors about me all the time and, I guess, there still is. When I was there, I was murdered a couple times and I was arrested several times and none of these things happened!”
Born and raised in Boston, he spent nearly all his young adult life working in gay entertainment establishments across the U.S. during their heyday as gay visibility grew in the 1970s and 80s. Depending on the region of the country, gay bars then were moving away from secret back alley locations to larger places easily identifiable to locals and travelers. “I’d do the gay circuit,” he said, where over those years he traveled from his home in Boston, down to Florida, and eventually he took up permanent residence in Los Angeles.
“I would just kind of bum around,” he said. “I drank too much. I did way too much cocaine. I ended up having these huge problems. I ended up moving to Los Angeles. I took a job and ended up getting sober in 1988. I was really good at what I did, managing bars and clubs and so in 1991 I opened my own, opened my own club in Los Angeles. It’s still going. It’s still around.”
That bar, a sex club, is called The Zone. It opened during a time before the antiretroviral therapy was developed to combat AIDS, long before PrEP was invented. Just a few years earlier, in the mid-1980s, amid peak hysteria regarding the ‘gay cancer’ and its transmission, health authorities in some cities—not to mention fear among patrons—forced the closure of many bathhouses. Opening a sex club during this time, then, was a controversial endeavor.
“Even in the 1990s to open a bar in Los Angeles you needed at least $2 million,” he said. “I didn’t have that kind of money so I opened this club on a shoe string. At the time there was a chief of police who was a redneck. The police were corrupt. They used to beat up gays. So opening night they came and they hauled me off, handcuffed me, threw me in jail for the night. No charges! Just to let me know who was boss.”
But the club was quite popular.
“It was an enormously successful business, amazingly,” he said. “It was great. The sex club was not a new thing, but they were always kind of in the shadows. I’ve never been a sex club kind of person. I didn’t go to my club to get laid. It’s not my thing. It’s like at Mañana, I didn’t drink there either.”
The move to Puerto Vallarta, which happened only a few years later, was documented on the first season of Million Dollar Listing, a TV reality show. (Described as “a desperate seller,” Deep was personally referenced in a 2006 review of the series published in The New Yorker). He purchased the hacienda that would later become Club Mañana, and upon his permanent arrival he discovered his nightlife neighbors wouldn’t allow for a comfortable night’s rest.
Before it closed, Paco Paco—the bar complex that preceded Paco’s Ranch—was located around the corner on Ignacio L. Vallarta, a location next to El Torito Sports Bar that this past winter was home to a series of food trucks, box cars collectively branded El Guapo.
“That’s where Paco Paco was,” he said, “and they had a rooftop and they would blast music until 6:00 a.m. So we couldn’t sleep! It was horrible. Horrible! So I said, you know what? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. We moved out, rented a house up in Amapas and I remodeled that hacienda into a nightclub. And opened in November 2005 pretty much right in time for [American] Thanksgiving. We kept the swimming pool, added a waterfall, a dancefloor. We had an outdoor dancefloor and stage, we had an indoor dancefloor where we played Latin music and the outside was American-style, disco dance crap.”
The bar was a success nearly out of the gate, though according to Deep it required a degree of coaching for the DJs he employed.
“They used to play—you know the Cher song, ‘Believe?’” he said. “They’d play it three times a night. Because people would always come and say ‘will you play ‘Believe?’ and they’d play it. It was 2005, 2006 and the song was already eight, nine years old. That’s just an example of their playlists, of what they did. They were just playing to the requests, they had no idea about building a name for themselves.”
“So I said, ‘you can never play Cher, you cannot play anything from the 80s or 90s. That’s it!‘ I just put my foot down and forced them to play current music, and they actually took to it. They loved it. The people loved it because it was new, it was exciting, it wasn’t the same old crap. And so the club just took off.”
Logan Miller first visited Vallarta around the time Club Mañana opened in 2005 and upon his permanent arrival here a few years later he co-founded a concierge service and became fully immersed in the nightlife opportunities here. Of course, he enjoyed this professional research, too.
“Every Saturday we had a core group of friends and we had our spot on the dancefloor,” he said of Mañana during its most successful peak era. “We didn’t even bother about texting, ‘are you there yet?’ We just knew if we showed up at some point from 11 p.m. to 1 or 2 a.m. that all our friends would be there on the dancefloor.”
“At Club Mañana,” he continued, “the majority was going to be gay guys on vacation who wanted to dance with their shirts off until 6 or 7 a.m. to the circuit divas, but you would see people in tables, order table service and it would be very mixed.”
“We were the ones who brought the Kinsey Six first,” Deep said, “and we brought Gloria Trevi here so we were really known for our entertainment. We had a full-time choreographer and I had a full-time dance team of six people in addition to all the drag queens. And so we would break it up and we would have—we called them ‘spots.’ Everyone would dance and then the place would go dark and there’d be like a 3 or 4 minute dance number with these hot guys on the stage. Not stripping, these were regular professional dancers. Or a drag number with Diva or whatever. So we really broke it up.”
Bill Hevener worked at the bar shortly before it closed in 2013. An early supporter of what became Vallarta’s LGBT business association, he took an interest in Club Mañana because it was large enough to house large scale parties that the association—which was developed initially to create Vallarta Pride—intended to produce.
“When I moved here,” he said, “Club Mañana was in full force, it had recently opened. At first it was magical. It was the place to go, and the thing that I loved about it and Vallarta was that the gay community here was different from in the U.S. Provincetown was becoming like a poor man’s Nantucket, where if you didn’t have money and you had to have a certain type of person and a certain type of look. That’s not the Provincetown that I grew up with. The Provincetown that I grew up with was what Vallarta was when I got here, which was everyone and their brother was going. And everybody went to Club Mañana.”
“It was an old house,” he added. “So it had all this mysterious, almost bathhouse feel to it because there were terraces here, and little rooms, so there were all these little places that you could explore aside from just a room full of people dancing. It made it very interesting, I think.”
Though he is not without detractors locally, Peter Deep is universally credited with promoting his establishment and the city at large to an international gay audience long before any individual, government agency, or business attempted it.
“People would come from all over the world,” Miller said. “I remember one year it was named one of the top 5 gay bars in the world. This is how long ago we’re talking, it’s when Gay.com was still a thing and was still a reputable website that people would regularly visit. Club Mañana had advertising banners there and on Manhunt so you could be wherever, in London or Singapore or Israel or Tel Aviv and you’d be chatting on Manhunt and see a Club Manana/Puerto Vallarta banner come across the screen.”
“I promoted all over the United States,” Peter Deep told me. “You’ve probably heard of Vallarta Fever, well Vallarta Fever was me! I started that. It was Latin Fever before me. But I started doing Vallarta Fever. There was so much excitement in the club. All the locals got a break, the locals, most the time they got in free. We had this thing, this fingerprint scanner, to the locals we asked ‘give us your fingerprint’ and they would get their fingerprint and it would say ‘I’m a local’ and they would get in for free. It was fun. It was so fuckin’ popular. All the locals felt so special.”
“When you have an idea in your head and you present that idea and you have 2000 people every night having a wonderful time, and they’re enjoying themselves because of what I created, it’s a real rush. There’s a lot of enjoyment that comes out of that.”
But it was just a short five or so years later that, according to Deep, a convergence of self-inflicted setbacks and strange coincidences contributed to the collapse of Club Mañana.
“Even at the club in Los Angeles, the guys always liked new stuff,” he said, “so there was always a section that was under renovation. I’d just think of new ways for guys to have sex and I would build this thing and then we would unveil it and everybody would be like ‘wow, it’s fabulous,’ because it was always changing, it was always new and exciting. And I did the same thing with Mañana. You’d be out there dancing and then, all of a sudden, there’s a show. The show would last three minutes and then there’s another song, another DJ, just always something. I just wanted to keep the excitement going. It was a very exciting place, it really was. That’s what people liked about it.”
The problem: it was already an enormous facility and, under Deep’s direction, it was only getting bigger. “It was at that time when I expanded,” he said. “I did all my renovations and I’d spent like I don’t know how many millions of dollars. Roberto’s restaurant, where it is now, I gutted that entire building. I redid the entire building. It had a garden in back, and I built a building there. I spent a ton of money. I was really stupid. When push comes to shove, it was all my fault that the place went under.”
Bill Hevener, who worked at the bar before it closed, agrees. “The problem was that he made it so big that you’d need 500 people to make it feel like a party,” he told me. “Mexicans like to be packed in. If they’re not packed, they don’t feel like they’re having a party. Like at Paco Paco, you’d have 50 people and the place felt like it was packed.”
“It was sad,” he said, “because Peter was the only one at the time who was promoting internationally. But yeah, he just destroyed his business.”
“You know, I was stupid,” Peter told me separately. “I was stupid. I thought, ‘oh the recession is only gonna last a year or two and when we come out of this recession I’m gonna be golden because I’ll be positioned so good. Well, it lasted longer than a year or two. It just got like, every year, you’d think that it couldn’t get any worse, and then it did!”
“It never rains there in the wintertime, you know?” he asked, rhetorically. “It doesn’t rain, right? When you’re there in high season, there’s no rain. Two years in a row, it rained New Year’s Eve! And I have an outdoor club. New Year’s Eve, it’s raining and I have an outdoor club. What do you do? It was crazy!”
The 2009 swine flu pandemic and a rash of negative new stories emanating from Mexico to the U.S. media in particular cast a heavy cloud over this city’s tourist industry. In some cases it directly forced the shuttering of a number of longtime businesses here. And Peter Deep/Club Mañana had one even more significant issue to contend with.
“It was my administrator,” he said. “He had set up all these phony companies. So I’m writing a check thinking that it’s going to pay whatever and it’s not. It’s going to his cousin, or it’s going to this other… the bills that he was presenting to me were phony.”
A shrewd negotiator, the administrator (according to Deep) fended off the bar’s legitimate creditors for so long that, by the time they approached Peter directly regarding his outstanding bills, the amounts owing had grown so large that Club Mañana buckled under the weight of it all.
“I called the beer company and I said ‘hey, what do I owe you?’ They told me I owed them like $300,000 dollars. And I was like ‘why did you give me that much credit?’ and they said ‘[the administrator] kept asking for it. He said you really needed it and if you didn’t get it that you were not gonna pay all of your bills. You were mad and you were angry.’ And I didn’t know any of this. I’m just stupid. I’m too trusting. I’m just dumb.”
“So I have a reputation of being this major unapproachable dick on wheels,” he said, “when these people didn’t even know me. I have this horrible reputation there now. I’m sure you’ve heard that.”
“I was heavily in debt,” he concluded, “and the recession was dragging on, and I just decided to sell the property, and move to… happier times, you know?”
Today, all thoughts of owning a bar in Mexico rest in the past. “I almost changed my mind, to talk to you about all this,” he said. “I didn’t want to bring it all up again. To be honest with you, if I was still in business there, I probably wouldn’t be telling you nearly half the stories of what I’ve told you.”
Ironically, the bar, the entertainment complex that was Club Mañana, may have been both ahead of its time and behind the times. The community here may have been too small to sustain such a gargantuan venture. Would it survive if another opened today? In the United States, similar size establishments have closed, too, thanks to rising rents due to gentrification in parts of town where gay bars once thrived. And the app culture now negates the need for anyone to leave his house and meet someone, speak to someone before you hook up with them; it’s led directly to the collapse of bars the size of Mañana elsewhere.
So what happened to Peter Deep? Where does he live now? What is he doing? The question lingered on the tongue of nearly everyone I spoke with regarding this article. And with it came speculation. One story I heard: he made millions from the sale of the property where Zenith Vallarta is developed and he travels the world on a yacht, drinking champagne with every meal. Another story: he still lives in Vallarta, here in Emiliano Zapata, just around the corner. And yet another: he moved to Europe but couldn’t afford to stay so he returned to Mexico.
The first years following his exit from Puerto Vallarta were whirlwind. In our conversation he mentioned Japan, Singapore, a seemingly endless list of cities. “I went to Asia first, straight to Asia and then Europe,” he concluded. “I went back to the states for a little bit, friends were opening a restaurant, expanding a restaurant, and they asked me to give them a hand so I did that for a summer. I’m retired now, so I just do what I want. I went to Puerto Vallarta, I think, for a couple months. I tried it. Too many bad memories.”
Though a few years have passed since he moved from here, Deep hasn’t laid down roots anywhere. “I’ve just been running around” he told me. “I don’t even have a home to speak of. I’ll spend two months here, three months there, and I love doing that.” But the life he’s discovered in Cyprus, the island nation where he lives now in the Mediterranean, has him seriously considering a permanent move.
“I’ve been here five months,” he said. “I like it here. I think I’m going to stay. I rented an apartment and when I figure out where exactly I want to live then I’ll just buy something. This is going to be my home.”
“I get up. I walk the dogs. I hang around. I’m retired!” he said. “I go to the store, or I’ll go to a 12-step meeting. I’ve been sober for 30 years. I have some investments so I manage those on a daily basis. Walk the dogs again, and feed the dogs, brush the dogs, what have you. Take a nap. I’m 63 years old. I take a nap. I’m old!
“So no,” he said, with a smile I could detect through a telephone line that stretched nearly 8000 miles away.
“I don’t live in Vallarta. But if anyone sees me there, tell them to say hello.”