Once upon a time, in a far away land known as Florida, is where our story begins. The year was 1995 and it was a time where Clinton reigned, iPods didn’t exist and gas cost less than a dollar. The people lived in a magical era, long before the 2000s and a dark day known as 9/11. Peace still could be found all across the land. And in this land there lived five very talented Boys. You might have heard of them in legends past. They sang in a little boyband we’ve come to know as The Backstreet Boys.
These Boys didn’t have the best of lives, working hard in an old sweaty warehouse. For hours they’d go on and on, dancing in synchronization without many breaks at all. Because these Boys had a dream. A dream of being famous and beloved by all they came across. Slowly but surely this was happening. They’d been performing for the people of Orlando, a small kingdom in the land of Florida. And girls were beginning to swoon at the sight of these Boys. Especially the youngest.
See of these five Boys, there was someone special in particular. The oldest, Kevin, was angry all the time. Too serious for any who seemed to like him. The next one, Howie, was far too quiet. People usually forgot he was even there after a short period of time. Until he winked at you. The middle one was Brian. Brian was the opposite of the two oldest. Cute and hyperactive, he was one of the ones who you couldn’t forget. He was also very protective of the youngest member who we will get to in a moment. But first we have the second youngest, named Alexander. He didn’t like not being the center of attention so he did what he could to rebel. He called himself AJ and would one day manage to change his hair to every color of the rainbow over the years. But sadly, he couldn’t get the love that dear Nickolas earned without thought.
Nickolas was the youngest of these five surrogate brothers and the sweetest one of all. He had hair the color of sunshine and eyes that matched the ocean he adored. He wasn’t the brightest of the bunch by any means, but in the grand scheme of things that didn’t seem to matter much. Too many were taken in by his innocent charm to care. He wasn’t manipulative or cruel with his natural gifts. He’d just smile sheepishly and continue doing what he loved. To some who knew him, he was affectionately known as Blondie. Unlike the others, he was born to a poor family who knew nothing but greed. Despite this, he was simply grateful for the four bandmates that soon became a family for him instead.
There was a man who oversaw the Boys on a daily basis. His purpose was also greed but the Boys knew that. They saw it as the simple price to be paid for their dreams to come true. Like a dark fairy godmother of sorts. His name was Johnny and while he wasn’t cruel, he was harsh and cold. He would have them sweating their lives away in that nasty warehouse no matter how cold or how hot. They would dance all through the days and all through the nights. Then, they would be forced to sing along with the dancing while his assistant Fatima tapped her stick again and again. She loved these five men dearly but was under Johnny’s control as well. So alas, there was naught she could do to aid them beyond sharing her worldly dance expertise.
“It’s okay.” Blondie told himself on a particularly rough rehearsal. “One day, we’ll be able to bring joy to the world by sharing our dancing and music with them!”
AJ grinned. “The world will know our names!”
Blondie shook his head sweetly. “While that’d be great, I just want to be able to sing, dance, and make people happy. Even if they don’t someday know our names.”
“Let’s get back to work.” Kevin told them both sternly, always the responsible one. “Neither is going to happen unless we keep working!”
And so the Boys danced, singing their happy tune though their faces were worn and tired. What they didn’t see was the man lurking in the shadows, watching with beady yet yearning eyes for the star known as Blondie. He was well known with the circles of…well, no one really beyond our Boys. At least back then. But he had money, lots of money that he funded into this special project. He too wanted them to become stars like no one’s ever dreamed. And this man, wanting to be called “Big Poppa” but known more commonly now as “The Beast”, asked for nothing in return.
But nothing ever comes without a price. All along, he had a goal in mind in return for his charity.
Now Nick’s—Sorry, Blondie’s family was quite large. He was the eldest of the siblings at the age of fifteen with three sisters and a younger brother. All of whom relied on their brother to be sure everything was right. Not just right morally but with money, food, their home, and well being. Now seeing that Blonde was still a child should that have been his responsibility? No but not all parents are warm and caring as they should be. So his parents, Jane and Bob Carter, put all their faith on their son’s young shoulders. That he would someday reach his dreams and they’d make lots and lots of money on it.
And of course be able to steal it from their son because he was underage, obviously.
They even had a backup plan in young Aaron (Blondie Junior). Because he was also fair though not as sweet, beautiful, and charming. How they would send him to the Beast so that his manservant Johnny could train him to be another someday popstar to be admired by all. He was only seven years old but being trained for his role fulfillment as well. Because the Carters could not handle poverty much longer. Soon it would only be that they were not wealthy enough. A monster would grow inside these two parents and consume them while inflicting pain on all those around those.
But that is a tale for another time.
The Mistress of the Carter Clan, Jane, was the one who took responsibility for her children’s roles in the family. So although the Beast soon reached out to them through Bob on the phone, it was she who took over the discussion. A knowing smile crossed her face as soon as she heard who called. Because although she was poor, cruel, untalented and greedy, she was not a dumb woman. In a way it likely would’ve been better if she had been. Blondie’s fate would’ve been far different.
“Hello Lou.” (This would be the Beast’s true human name, one that most have forgotten over time. Rightfully so.)
“Hello Jane. I came to request you pay what you owe me.”
Her brows furrowed, suddenly not feeling so confident. “What do you mean? I don’t owe you anything.”
“How can you say such a thing?” The Beast demanded furiously. “I have paid for clothing, for food, dance lessons, vocal training…I’ve even paid for limos to drive them around.”
“I…I did not mean to offend you.” Jane sputtered. “Mr. Pearlman, I only was confused because you never told us we would have to repay you for this. You always said you wanted to do it out of the goodness of your heart.”
“I doubt you ever believed those words.”
“I don’t have the money.” To be truthful what money Blondie had earned was already spent.
The smile could be heard in the Beast’s voice alone. “You don’t need to return the favor in money. I only ask for a sacrifice made instead.”
“What…kind of sacrifice?” She asked slowly.
“The kind you always intended to make someday.”
The sad part of it was, once Jane heard the offer she knew he was right. She had always intended on giving that up to do whatever it took. Years later when this tale spread over the countryside she’d deny it. Say she never knew but wish she had. But I will swear on a stack of Millennium CDs, the holiest of Backstreet albums, that she knew what the Beast planned to do.
Yes, she knew.
It was simply that she loved money more than she loved anything else.
A few nights after that memorably rough rehearsal, the five Boys were invited to the castle of the Beast. He often liked to check in on the five Boys who had garnered his favor. The planning went into this night with every detail accounted for. There were things he wanted to have happen and he used all of his great powers and wealth to line everything up. Nothing went forgotten. The Boys, having been used to living such commoner lives up till that point were in awe of the grand home and all the Beast’s possessions. He smiled charmingly at his guests as he led them into the home.
“This is incredible.” Brian said, his eyes wide. While Lexington was far from a back alley town, it was nothing like this. It was almost like he walked into another world.
The Beast nodded. “Thank you. You know I have a room filled with games and a basketball court outside. You kids enjoy yourself until dinner. Perhaps after we’ll go out for a limo ride.”
The others made a beeline for the court, obviously. But the Beast had other plans for our fair Blonde and he pulled him aside. He gave what was supposed to be charming smile (in reality came off more as a snarl if you prefer this scribe to be honest). Now Nick felt rather unnerved because surely any sensible teenager would. He ran a hand though his floppy golden bowl cut hair, giving a tiny smile. One that years later would make millions of girls scream unbeknownst to him. (Including this one.) In any event, to get back to our tale, he knew something would be coming from the Beast the moment he set his hand on Blondie’s shoulder.
“Nick, could you stay here for a moment son? I need to speak with you.”
Now Brian, frowned because his partner in crime was being held back from the game. One that AJ already bet he’d win. Howie knew he’d lose because well, he’s Howie and unfortunately that’d happen for years. But it’s okay because he ends up finding a fountain of youth sometime before 2013 and the awkwardness of well, Howie, goes away. Kevin however, lingered in the doorway just out of view.
“Go on, I just wanna be sure Nick’s alright after he talks to Lou.” He said though he had darker suspicions of their benefactor’s intentions. Kevin was always the wisest of the group and his presence would insure the group’s survival through the darkest of times for years to come.
Although they sensed something was amiss, they knew better than to argue. The three Boys raced outside after grabbing a basketball from where it sat in the corner looking as if it’d never been used by the enormous Beast. Their childlike exuberance caused the oldest to grin a bit. Because in their lives there wasn’t much time for acting their ages. And even at the tender age of twenty three, Kevin sensed that soon there would be no time at all. It was a notion that would turn out to be true when their battles against an evil kingdom known as Transcontinental Records stole their innocence from them. (Well, what was left at least.)
During this, the Beast led Blondie to the couch with another attempt at a smile. “Come on, get comfy.” He patted the seat beside him. “No need to fear Big Poppa.”
Blondie sat, licking his lips nervously. “Okay.”
“I know you live pretty far; your mom always says it’s a long drive back to Tampa.”
“Yeah,” Though geography would never be his best subject. “It is.”
“Well with the early morning rehearsal I have scheduled tomorrow…”
“What rehearsal?” He asked in confusion, the Beast had promised them tomorrow off.
“I haven’t had a chance to tell you kids yet,” The Beast said calmly. “But yes there was a last minute rehearsal for a promo performance I have scheduled next week. You’ll love it. But the point is…” His eyes lit up at Blonde like he was staring at a pile of candy he wanted to eat. “I got permission from your mother to have you stay the night. This way you’ll get more rest and you’ll enjoy it I’m sure.”
Blondie however wasn’t so sure. “My mom said I need to stay here?”
“Because it’s best for the Backstreet Boys, yes.”
“What about the others? I don’t know…” Nothing about this felt right to poor naïve and beautiful Blondie.
Kevin had heard enough and decided to step forward. “If you want Nick, and if Lou’s okay with it…I’ll stay here too. AJ’s already staying at my apartment. Howie and Brian will be there to keep him company.” The three shared a small place on the other side of town. And while Blondie drove Kevin crazy most of their days, he had this innate urge to protect him. He had to keep him safe.
Blondie smiled purely from relief. “Can he? That’d be awesome!”
The Beast let out an almost inaudible growl as his many chins tensed. This wasn’t what he had in mind. Still, he supposed he could find a way to make it work. And if not he’d fire Kevin from the group if he had to before he discovered his true plans for Blondie. “Of course, whatever you guys want.”
The night was calm and peaceful yet Blondie stared at the ceiling. He hadn’t felt comfortable for a moment. When he first entered the room, there’d been a note left for him on the bed. He wasn’t sure who it was from. All he knew was that it was really creepy and unsettling.
Welcome Blondie, banish fear,
You’ll be prince and spoiled here.
Tell me your dreams, every night
I’ll grant them all for your delight
Oddly enough he was hungry as well. Thinking about this, it probably wasn’t so odd. He was fifteen and a growing boy after all. Growing Boys had to eat. Especially someday boyband superstars. So down the stairs he went to make a beeline for a kitchen. The house was large, dark and quiet. No other noises could be heard except for his own. Stealing to the fridge he opened the door and illuminated the massive yet lovely kitchen with an eerie glow. He was so absorbed with the possible yummy snack possibilities he somehow managed not to hear the heavy footsteps of the Beast.
One who’d been waiting for this very opportunity the entire evening.
“So you’re hungry too?”
Blondie virtually jumped out of his skin, almost dropping the can of soda in his hands. “Whoa! You scared me. Um, am I not allowed to? Sorry Lou, I got hungry and thought maybe I’d sleep better ya know…”
The Beast stepped closer. “Did you not get my note?”
The teen gulped heavily. “That, that was from you?”
“Of course. Nick,” He ruffled his hair. “You can have whatever you wish here. You need only ask.”
“Dude, that’s really nice of you.” Because Blondie had no idea what else to say. The fridge door shut and Blondie slowly stepped back until he was flat against it, staring up at the larger man with wide blue eyes.
He had no idea that he only became even more appealing to the Beast in that very moment. “Yes well, I enjoy having you around.” The Beast stroked his cheek.
“What are you doing?”
“Shh…” It was as if he was talking to a baby. “It’ll be alright. Your mother promised you to me in return for her own well being, your family’s.”
“Yes, it’s all been arranged.” He took another step forward, practically pinning the teen against the fridge.
“I know I look scary, but really I’m gentle. You could love me, despite my image.”
Nick swallowed hard, trying to figure out what to do next. He was terrified beyond belief. His mind was reeling. Did his mother really know something about this? Sure she was pushing the fame thing a bit hard but he never thought this would happen. No, it had to be the lies of the Beast. Before he could reply however another set of footsteps caused the Beast to turn away.
“What’s going on?” The heroine of this tale, Kevin asked casually yet somehow managing to sound accusatory at the same time. His massive caterpillar brows furrowed with fury. Legend says that set of brows is the source of his power.
The Beast, fearful of what Kevin could do, stepped away. “We’re talking Kevin.”
“Didn’t look like talking.” He smirked. “I’m sure Mrs. McLean would be interested in knowing what we’re talking about in the middle of the night.”
Now, Mrs. McLean was nothing at all like the parents of Blondie. While she would at times have her motives questioned she always made sure the Boys came first. She would pass this along to the other parents thus making it so the Carters caved and pretended the deal with the Beast never occurred. The other parents had magical powers of guilt. He would lose Blondie completely!
“What are you implying?”
The youngest wisely stayed quiet and used this time to slip around to stand next to the other Backstreet Boy.
“I don’t know Lou, what do you think I’m saying?”
The Beast glared. “I hope you’re not jealous of Nick’s talent. I could have you replaced.”
Kevin’s mighty brows were ready. His eyes were steel against the watery ones of the Beast. “You’d only prove what I’ll tell Denise true.”
“You really think you can defeat me?”
He pushed him back slightly. “I’m willing to risk my someday career on it. Are you willing to risk letting us go to someone else to get famous?”
“You stupid boy. You haven’t heard the last of me on this.” Shaking his head, he snorted and headed back to the stairs utterly enraged. Like it or not he needed these cash cows until he found others like them. “Because he couldn’t just let this lie. No, somehow, someday he would find a way to have his revenge. An image of the future would someday come to mind. A “Fat One” like himself, another with a frightening pineapple head to serve him in battle. And most deadly, the mighty Fro Boy he saw on Mickey Mouse Club. Yes. Someday. For now however he couldn’t defeat the might that was Kevin Richardson—the strongest of them all.
This did come at a price—until they left the kingdom of record labels, fans would never once hear Kevin’s beautiful voice after that day.
Without a word Kevin wrapped an arm around the teen and led him back to his bedroom. Though Blondie never admitted he needed it, the other stayed in his room and slept on the floor for the rest of his night. At times the Beast would again and again try to have Blondie in his clutches but to no avail. It took time to get away from the Beast’s power but one day they did escape. And the Beast sought to punish them for what he felt was their betrayal. The theft of his blondie. The battles the Backstreet Boys would have with the Beasts new servants, NSYNC would become that of Legend.
But this was where it all began.
In the end NSYNC shriveled back to where they once came. Fro Boy was too hard to defeat tragically but the world soon learned to accept that as the cost of letting the Beast have the power he had. The Beast was locked away where he could never do any other boyband wannabes harm ever again. Because he did with group after group of uglier and less talented groups as time went on. The Backstreet Boys stayed strong in their unity and harmonies. Twenty Years later and they are here to this day…
Living Happily Ever After.