Backstreet Boys in Cincinnati: Long after it's over, the boy-band crush remains vivid

rcopley@herald-leader.comAugust 8, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    Backstreet Boys

    What: In concert with opening acts Jesse McCartney and DJ Pauly D.

    When: 7 p.m. Aug. 9

    Where: PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati

    Tickets: Limited tickets, for $114.05 each, were available earlier this week at Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.

Bethany Brooke Anderson remembers going to one of Backstreet Boys' back-to-back sold-out shows in Rupp Arena in 1999.

"I wore this silver, sequined top so that they would see me," says Anderson, who was then an eighth-grader at Tates Creek Middle School. "It didn't fit right, and it was horrible. But one of them, one of the ones we didn't care about, A.J. or Howie, pointed at me during the show, and I got so excited. And my friend said, 'You don't even like him,' and I was like, 'Yes I do! Yes I do!"

That was 14 years ago.

Now, Anderson, 28, is a Los Angeles-based actress and filmmaker, and she has no interest in seeing Backstreet Boys. She was even at an L.A. event last year attended by Backstreet Boy and Estill County native Kevin Richardson, and her heart skipped nary a beat.

"I was thinking, 10 or 15 years ago, I couldn't imagine being in the same room as one of the Backstreet Boys; I would die," she says. "And now, I didn't care."

There are plenty of people who do care, though, as evidenced by Friday night's Backstreet Boys concert at PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati. It is billed as sold out, although earlier this week, tickets were available at Ticketmaster.com.

The concert features the reunion of all five Backstreet Boys, including Lexington native Brian Littrell and Richardson, who had not performed with the group since 2006. They were the quintet who had teen and tween girls papering their bedroom walls and school lockers with pictures of the band, photos that would get good-night kisses. It renewed a teen tradition that goes back generations to bands like The Beatles, and it continues today with the heartthrob ensembles One Direction.

As decades pass, some fans carry a flicker of the torch into adulthood, and some completely move on. But they all have vivid memories.

"When I Wanna Hold Your Hand came out, my sister and I went nuts over them," Danville writer Elizabeth Orndorff said, recalling her own Beatle-mania growing up in Athens, Ga.

They collected Beatles cards that were like baseball cards, complete with the dry stick of gum, along with record albums, 45 rpm record sleeves, and magazines devoted to the Beatles.

Their father hated it.

He made the girls go to the basement to watch the Fab Four's iconic Ed Sullivan Show appearance, "because he didn't want to hear us screaming." He also refused to reschedule the family vacation when it coincided with the Beatles' concert in nearby Atlanta, even though the girls had spent a whole $5 each on tickets.

"There was a lot of crying," says Orndorff, 64.

Two decades later, Alison Kerr Courtney, growing up in Pittsburgh, had a similar disappointment when her mom wouldn't let her see Duran Duran.

The stylized quintet from the "second British invasion" was the closest thing the early MTV era had to Beatles-esque heartthrobs. Fans picked out which of the unrelated Taylors (bassist John, drummer Roger and guitarist Andy) they loved most, or was it singer Simon Le Bon? And they had plenty of time to check them out, watching videos for Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf.

"They were these incredible short films," said Courtney, 43. "I had never seen anything like it. My brother bought me a hat like Simon Le Bon wore in the Hungry Like the Wolf video, and I loved it."

Like many teen crushes, Courtney's love for Duran Duran burned hot and fast. Soon she was on to The Police and other bands that she appreciated mainly for their music.

"It was crushes," Anderson says of her Backstreet Boys obsession. "They took the place of liking boys. I didn't like real boys in real life, so we had these love affairs with the band."

In fact, she says, when she went to see Backstreet's boy-band rivals, 'N Sync, when they came to Rupp Arena in 2000, "It felt like I was cheating," Anderson says. "I mean, at that age, it was really cool just to get to go to a concert, but still, I didn't tell a lot of people."

Marty Wayman, 55, of Frankfort remembers that she and her friends divvied up members of The Monkees, with her alpha-girl best friend taking Davy Jones, of course.

"I was next, and the logical choice would have been Micky Dolenz," Wayman says. "It was him or one of the dorks."

She went with Peter Tork, letting her little sister have cute Micky, and later realizing that Mike Nesmith was the true artist of the quartet.

Wayman says they were possessive enough of their Monkees that if they had seen the Brady Bunch episode where Jones performed at Marcia Brady's prom, "we would have been horrified."

That episode from 1971 played on every teen fan's fantasy of meeting their idol. But in retrospect, former boy-band fans say there was something in the musicians' distance that was attractive.

"It was the first, safe love," says Tracy Schultz McIntosh, 50, who got stuck on The Partridge Family's David Cassidy. "You're ready to be interested in boys, but you don't want them to like you back, and you know these boys will never, ever approach you."

McIntosh says part of the appeal of boy bands is a perception of safeness.

Orndorff says that romantic interest in the Beatles really fell off with the group's 1965 album Rubber Soul, with song lyrics that weren't as easy to understand and seemed to allude to drug use. That's when they went from boy band to rock band, a transition that few acts successfully make.

Of course, wholesomeness is relative to the times. Duran Duran's MTV videos were sexual — Hungry Like a Wolf ended in a sweaty wrestling match between Le Bon and a beautiful, mysterious woman. Backstreet Boys had songs with overt lines including, "Am I sexual?" in the 1997 hit Everybody (Backstreet's Back).

Even so, the heartthrobs, including today's One Direction, are usually guys you could bring home to mother.

All the former boy-band fans say they are amused at young people fawning over the latest band.

"It makes you feel good and happy," Wayman says.

Anderson is a bit more cautious. "I don't think I would let my daughter fill her room with boy-band posters the way that I did," she said. She says the packaging and marketing behind many boy bands gives her pause. "That obsession really isn't something they should do."

Anderson has no interest in seeing Backstreet Boys live, she says, but it's sometimes fun to put their music on at parties and remember. Courtney, who works at The Morris Bookshop, says the store carries John Taylor's recent memoir, In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran. She hasn't read it, but she still listens to the band's music, and she follows Le Bon on Twitter (@SimonJCLeBON).

McIntosh will occasionally give Partridge Family records a spin and find herself humming one of Cassidy's songs. Orndorff is sometimes amused to walk into a bar "and hear a 20-year-old girl playing a Beatles song and having no idea what it was like when that first came out."

"I wouldn't trade those days for anything," she says.

Wayman still has all her Monkees albums.

"Once you fall in love, and fall in love so deep," she says, "it never goes away."


IF YOU GO

Backstreet Boys

What: In concert with opening acts Jesse McCartney and DJ Pauly D.

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 9

Where: PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati

Tickets: Limited tickets, for $114.05 each, were available earlier this week at Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: Copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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