These are the pop-culture touchstones that are turning the big 2-0 in 2019. Buzz60's Mercer Morrison has the story.
Remember when NSYNC triumphantly announced they had "No Strings Attached?"
The early 2000s had everything to do with Lou Pearlman, the man who created the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, who would later die behind bars in South Florida in 2016 while serving a 25-year sentence for organizing a $300 million Ponzi scheme.
Now, the era's preeminent boy bands – as well as LFO, Innosense, Take 5, C-Note and O-Town – are giving their version of events of how the mogul stole millions from them in "The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story." Produced by NSYNC member Lance Bass, it's currently streaming on YouTube.
In the film, Backstreet Boy AJ McLean explains how charming the Orlando-based producer could be. “If Lou wasn’t the entrepreneur that he was he would’ve been the best car salesman you’ve ever seen."
Here are five major revelations from the film.
Once they signed, Pearlman enacted a boy-band boot camp
When Pearlman signed 'N Sync, he got them a house, told them they could quit their jobs and started them on a boot camp in his unairconditioned airplane hangars.
It was the same for the Backstreet Boys, with the guys rehearsing for six to eight hours a day in the sweaty hangars, says McLean. “We were working our (butts) off day in and day out."
And man, was it hot during those Florida summers. “I’m surprised none of us got heatstroke,” says Chris Kirkpatrick. But he admits it worked: “As repetitive and annoying as it got, it was fun,” he adds.
But when they hit 10 million records, the numbers just didn't add up
After two years of endless touring and promoting their album, the members of NSYNC got their first checks at a fancy dinner with Pearlman and their families. The amount they received was shocking.
“I open up the envelope, I see the check, and oh my gosh, my heart sunk," says Bass. "I couldn’t believe the number I was looking at. The check was $10,000. And not to sound ungrateful … but when you compare it to how many hours we had put into this group for years, it didn’t even touch minimum wage. At all.”
AJ McLean says the Backstreet Boys, who were selling out stadiums and arenas at the time, noticed they were being stiffed, too, recalling, “Some of the guys couldn’t pay for their car payment or couldn’t pay for their apartment."
NSYNC's JC Chasez added, "Basically, we thought it was a normal thing to get 'food money' and then we thought essentially at the end of the road there would be some magical big check."
Their contracts were 'webs of robbery'
After years of being treated royally, the pop stars learned they had been picking up the bills the entire time – against their future profits. “Lou was making it seem like we were in so much debt that it would be a long time before we saw some real money," says Bass.
Then Chasez brought NSYNC's contracts to his lawyer uncle, who identified “webs of robbery,” says Kirkpatrick. For example, Pearlman identified himself as a band member, allowing him to reap 1/6th of the band's profits.
Though Justin Timberlake does not appear in "The Boy Band Con," his mom Lynn Harless appears on screen to talk about the moment she realized her son was being robbed by Pearlman.
“Every parent is protective of their child," she says. "Like everybody else I just wanted to kill him.”
Pearlman's home was a 'giant theme park'
NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys were among many who sued Pearlman, claiming he kept a grossly disproportionate amount of money earned from their music.
So where was all of that money going?
In the film, McLean explains how charming the Orlando-based producer could be. “If Lou wasn’t the entrepreneur that he was he would’ve been the best car salesman you’ve ever seen," he says in the documentary. And his home was a magnet for fun, "like a giant theme park."
Pearlman's house “was like Disneyland,” O-Town’s Ashley Parker Angel agrees. “He had this boat with wave runners, this crazy pool, and this private movie theater and he would have you over and have these boy band parties at his house.”
McLean recalls, "Nick (Carter) and I had a double birthday party at Lou’s house. It was a pool party, we invited all our friends. He was that inviting. He made himself more relatable to us by being this grown-up kid.”
Angel said Pearlman would offer unsolicited massages and inspect their abs.
“Lou would come into the rehearsal room. And he’d be like, 'Guys, let’s see your abs, take off your shirts,' " recalls Angel. "It feels like, ‘Oh, maybe this is part of having a mentor of a band who wants to make sure you’re in good shape.’ Because that’s what he would always say: ‘You gotta be able to sell teen magazines. Take off your shirt. Let me see your abs.’"
Bass says he never witnessed Pearlman preying on young boys, but there were still weird moments. "He’d give you a massage. He was touchy-feely. It always felt a little, ‘OK, I know what you’re doing.’ ”
A tearful Aaron Carter, who also worked with Pearlman, vociferously defends the music producer throughout the documentary.
“My opinion of Lou being a sexual predator is that is not true. That is so foul,” says Carter, whose brother Nick is a member of the Backstreet Boys. Later, he adds tearfully, “It hurts to see people continuously attack him."