Friday, March 17, 2006

The Leather Life Interview: Mark Beckler, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2006

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #282, March 17, 2006)

PHOTO: Mark Beckler

Mark Beckler, the new Mr. Minneapolis Eagle, is the eighth man to hold the title. In slightly more than two months he will represent The Minneapolis Eagle, and Minnesota, in the International Mr. Leather contest in Chicago.

Beckler is now preparing for that next level of competition. Part of that preparation, of course, is being interviewed by your humble columnist.

Let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born?

I was born in Mandan, North Dakota, and I grew up there. I went through Catholic grade school and then Mandan High School.

Mandan is a town of about twenty thousand people. The population of North Dakota is gradually declining—there are fewer people in the whole state than there are in the Twin Cities.

Are your parents still there?

Yup, they’re still living in Mandan. They’re both retired. I have a father who’s very artistic and a mother who’s business-minded. My parents have a really great relationship. They’re still married—it’ll be forty-four years in June.

What was it like growing up in North Dakota?

I think I’m really fortunate. I probably wouldn’t change anything: my experiences as a kid, coming to terms with my own sexuality, discussing it with my parents and my brothers.

My brother is the most phenomenal person in the world. I remember when he and I had “the discussion.” It was probably the latter eighties, early nineties, and he said, “You know, right now it’s really kind of cool to have somebody in your life who’s gay. And I’ve got the coolest person in my life who’s gay, and he’s my brother.” I thought that was really a nice thing for him to say.

What did you do after high school?

In college I started out as an art major. Made a switch to engineering major. Then I made another switch to architecture. I completed about three years of the program at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

I was paying for my own education, and I was very independent. I decided I was not going to graduate with $30,000 in student loans, and I chose to take some time off from school. I went to work full time—I was working two, three jobs. I ended up going back to school and finally got my finance degree after, I think, eight years of college.

When and how did you get into leather?

It was something I gradually got exposed to over the course of my life. That image of the Tom of Finland type of person has always been in my generation—this very attractive, masculine type of character.

I got into it basically because it was something that I wanted to be like. I wanted to have that kind of look, that outward appearance, if I could. I was always such a skinny little guy in high school. It awed me, inspired me.

Why did you enter the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest?

I was going to enter it last year. Unfortunately, my work schedule did not allow me to do it then.

I’ve had a really strong work ethic all my life. I work really hard—I get a lot of fulfillment out of accomplishing things in a work environment.

But a lot of people have told me that it rules my life too much, and I agree. This year I was assessing where I was in my personal life, and I decided I wanted to have more of a balance. That’s really what my efforts are going to be this year. So I decided, you know what, I’m going to enter the contest this year.

What other activities are you involved in right now? Your contest entry form said something about the rugby team?

This year I’m going to be playing rugby with the Minneapolis Mayhem. I’ve only been to one practice—the formal practices really start next week. They kicked my ass. I can’t believe how out of shape I am. But it was a lot of fun.

I used to play softball with the gay softball league years ago. Slid into home base, cracked my leg, fractured it in five pieces, had surgery. So I haven’t been doing anything from a team sport perspective for quite a few years.

The rugby team was a great opportunity, and it looks like a lot of fun. Hopefully, I’m not going to get too banged-up in the next few weeks.

What do you want to accomplish as Mr. Minneapolis Eagle, either at the contest or during the rest of your title year—or if you win IML?

I want to make sure I get to meet a lot of people. I want to make sure I represent Minneapolis the best I can. When it comes to the [International Mr. Leather] contest I’m going to do my best. And I’m just going to be who I am.

If I win IML—you know, when I entered the contest in Minneapolis, a lot of friends of mine said, “What if you win?” And I said, well, you know what—let’s cross that road if that happens.

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