John-John Punki, the reigning Mr. Eagle, will be giving up his crown and sash to the new victor on October 7 after an extremely successful year; however, he says, “I’ll still be around – I’m not going anywhere!”
Punki has implemented several new events and ideas for New York’s thriving club, The New York Eagle Bar, while running various charity affairs and triumphant party celebrations. I spoke with him about his accomplishments and feelings as the time grows near to give up his title.
So John, you had a very busy year.
I did. It’s been quite the journey.
I understand that you’ve done a lot of cool things?
When I ran for this title, I said that I wanted to bring things that people wanted to see for the regular customers. There’s really been a range of things that I have done since last year when I became Mr. Eagle. I did a monthly party. It was called “Bear.”
In the LGBT community, there are so many big guys. There are all types of big guys: chubby big guys, muscle big guys and all the people that love them. So I did this monthly party to bring that type of crowd out. That party in particular has been a big success, and it happens every third Friday of every month. People come out to it, and they just enjoy themselves. You can see on the Eagle’s social media platforms the different types of people that come out for this party, and it’s definitely been a range of folks. I’m really proud of that.
What is one of the best experiences you’ve had this year?
That’s a hard question. The thing I love the best is the fact that Derek, the owner of The Eagle, is so open and so flexible when it comes to the types of events that I want to have.
For example, I did a Latin Leather party. I was so excited to do it. It was the first time that the Eagle Bar played Spanish music. The Eagle is known more for this dark, sexy music, or rock ‘n’ roll, like Rock ‘n’ Roll Fridays. So you wouldn’t think that the Eagle Bar would play Spanish music. So I went to Derek and told him that I wanted to do a fundraiser that is a Latin dance party. When he asked me more about it, I explained that the fundraiser would be for an organization for transgender Latina women based here in New York. It’s a national organization, and given the fact that Trump is our president and the fucked up stuff that he’s done, I wanted to do a fundraiser that would raise money for people that are deeply impacted. He said, “Let’s do it.” We did it, and it was a great success. We had a DJ playing salsa and merengue, and people came out to dance. We raised a thousand dollars for the organization. I think that event is one of my highlights.
I also worked with Team Eagle, who are a great group of guys and raise money every single year for the LGBT community, specifically for HIV/AIDS services at the LGBT Center. Every year they ride in September, I believe it’s from New York to Boston. I teamed up with them and did a vendor mart, which we called The Leather Mart. Leather is so expensive, and to find different vendors, you have to go all throughout the city. So we wanted to do an event at The Eagle where the vendors actually brought their products to the bar. We did a five-hour event where the vendors came to the bar and sold their products directly then and there. We wanted to do something that would give back to the vendors to show that we appreciate them.
How do you feel about giving up your crown? Are you going to miss being Mr. Eagle?
I am going to miss it, but I’m not going anywhere. Even though I pass on the sash to the next Mr. Eagle, I’m still going to be around the Eagle Bar and bring ideas to Derek. I look forward to working with the next Mr. Eagle to make sure that he has just as an amazing year as I have had. It was really great.
Outside of the events I’ve also been able to travel, and I’ve also been able to bring workshops to the Eagle Bar. For example, I worked with someone who facilitated a workshop on food play. It was on how to use desserts. We specifically chose brownies and learned how to use them in an intimate setting with someone. How do you use them for pleasure, and how you can use brownies for punishment. That was a really exciting workshop, and I’m going to be doing another workshop on September 14. I’m going to have someone come in and do a wax play workshop. I’ve never seen wax used before, but we have a couple of people who are excited about it.
So I’ve done these monthly parties, and I’ve done charity events. We did a charity event the other day. I teamed up with another title holder, and we did a jock strap auction. We had a bunch of models come onstage on the first floor of the bar. They wore jockstraps, and people bid on them. All the money that we raised went to Rainbow Railroad, which is an organization based in Canada that offers assistance to gay refugees. Especially since some of the reports that we have coming from Russia, for example, how gay men are being punished and tortured. We raised over $800 for that organization to give them more resources. It’s been amazing, and I’ve gotten to meet so many people: the regular customers, the new customers. It’s really been exciting. I’m going to miss that part of it, but I will still be around.
When does the new Mr. Eagle crowning take place?
Saturday, October 7. It is actually a weekend event. So on October 6, I’m going to do another vendor mart, and then at 9 p.m. that evening, on Friday, the contestants will do a meet and greet. So they will come to the bar. They are supposed to mingle with the customers and the judges and get to know each other. The next day on Saturday, we do interviews, and that evening is the contest. That evening I will sadly take my sash off and give it to the next Mr. Eagle.