Hanging out as his nightclub alter ego, Petey Punkineaty, Petey Mongelli looks like a shorter version of Pete Burns, the wild-haired, cross-dressing lead singer from the '80s group Dead or Alive. So when a woman approached him several months ago at the now-defunct Squeeze nightclub and asked if he'd pose for a photograph with her, he figured she was just looking for a funny keepsake.
But she sent the photo to The Jenny Jones Show, hoping that it would qualify her for one of the program's date-a-weirdo episodes. It didn't work -- for her. But the show's producers were so taken with Punkineaty, age 27, that they gave him a call and soon discovered that he has a huge collection of toys, lunch boxes, action figures, and other memorabilia connected to vintage kids' TV shows.
In early March, Punkineaty was flown to Chicago, where three dates were arranged with "normal" women, who weren't told beforehand what he looked like or what he was going to ask them to do. The dates were taped and shared with the Jenny audience the day he and the women appeared as guests on the show, which aired March 13. Punkineaty showed up on roller skates, wearing an H.R. Pufnstuf T-shirt and toting a Dr. Seuss lunch box. His dates weren't in costume at the time, but in the tapes they were. One of them, dressed in full Cat-in-the-Hat garb, was seen ordering green eggs and ham for dinner, while another, dressed as an Oompa-Loompa from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, gorged on chocolates in a candy store.
Much like the Wonka character Mike TV, Punkineaty lives in a fantasy world rooted in pop culture. "The character is just from growing up listening to Kiss, watching too much TV, and going to Catholic school," Mongelli says of his alter ego. "You have to wear a uniform, and you just want to do anything different."
At the age of eighteen, the native New Yorker started to hit the nightclubs in outlandish uniforms that represented the less-restrained side of his personality. "People always think I'm a little outrageous, but I'm more outrageous when I go out," Mongelli says. "My mom calls me a cartoon character."
As Punkineaty, Mongelli is taking advantage of the publicity generated by the Jenny show to get his foot in the entertainment-industry door. His first foray: the Breakfast Club 80s Retro Party at the Manray South nightclub in Pompano Beach May 21. Former MTV VJ Nina Blackwood will guest-host, and the party will include an '80s trivia contest, a Milli Vanilli lip-synch "tribute" contest, and '80s videos galore.
Blackwood agreed to show up after a call from mutual friend Brett Forest, a local events promoter. "[Brett] explained a little bit about Petey's character," Blackwood says. "It sounds like it is kind of an innocent, goofy kind of character, so [his party] sounded like fun."
In real life Mongelli is a local stagehand and part-time concert roadie by trade. Before the Jenny show came along, his only performances as Punkineaty took place in standup clubs on open-mic nights. Mongelli doesn't crack jokes so much as play up his Punkineaty persona.
So what's next? More parties. He's working on getting Butch Patrick, the former Eddie Munster, to cohost an upcoming bash. "The parties are to build up my character [recognition] and have a good time," he says. "Maybe it will turn into a little, like, short-movie thing." Stay tuned.
-- John Ferri
The Breakfast Club 80s Retro Party will begin at 9 p.m. Thursday, May 21, at Manray South, 4301 N. Federal Hwy., Pompano Beach. Cover is $10. Call 954-788-2345.