Five Questions for the New Kids Fan
Last night, nearly 15 years after calling it quits, the New Kids on the Block returned to Washington to play Verizon Center, no longer kids but men 35 to 39 years old.
And herds of women in their 20s and 30s forked over somewhere between $40 and $80 a ticket (assuming they paid face value), dug out their circa-1989 T-shirts and jumbo buttons from attics and garages and went to see them. And they skipped the VP debate to do it.
In an effort to better understand my Jordan Knight-loving sistas, I went to Verizon Center last night, too, partly to be part of this weird pilgrimage being undertaken by women my age, partly out of curiosity. Who still holds a torch for "Hangin' Tough" -- and seriously, why?
NKOTB was, in fact, my first concert, at RFK Stadium in July 1990. (Full disclosure: I was in the throes of an emotional affair with Jordan, and my mother tells me I was convinced he was looking right at me the whole show.) I don't remember that, but what I do recall, and what my research backs up, is that Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood and Jordan and Jonathan Knight might have been on fire in 1989, but by the time they rolled into RFK that summer, "The Right Stuff" had begun to seem so wrong. (Sometime around late 2009, pre-pubescent Hannah Montana fans are going to know exactly what I'm talking about.)
At the time, a writer noted in The Post's Weekend section that the New Kids' third album, "Step by Step," had been quickly knocked from the No. 1 position on Billboard by a guy named M.C. Hammer. And four days before that 1990 RFK show, 15,000 seats remained unsold (though filling the 42,000 seats they did manage to sell is no small feat.)
Outside Verizon Center last night, an astonishing 18 years later, I found women who had been at that show, too. I talked with committed fans, husbands of fans, moms of fans, skeptical friends of fans and gaggles of girlfriends-fans so I could understand how a boy band I had moved on from nearly 20 years ago still meant so much to the devoted. Here's what they said:
1. Why are you here?
Brittany Chisefsky, 23, Savage, Md.: "They were the first crush, the first boy band, the first everything."
Brandi Blevins, 27, Pasadena, Md.: "I'm here tonight because my friend who's a fan got great seats. And I want to hear if they can still hit their high notes."
Ruth Odachowski, 30, Ellicott City, Md.: "To relive my childhood."
Brian Tanner, 34, Raleigh, N.C.: "For my wife." ["Best husband in the whole world," his friend tells me.]
2. What was the response from friends and loved ones when you told them you were coming tonight?
Jodi Fochler, 25, Savage, Md.: "Everyone made fun of us. Nobody was very supportive."
Eva Yulina, 32, Vienna: "They think that I'm crazy, but I've been a fan of theirs since junior high. I'm happy they're back together after so long."
Tanner: "I've been ribbed for two weeks. My voicemail has been filled up with people playing New Kids songs."
Laurie Neary, 35, Mt. Airy, Md.: "My husband was just happy he didn't have to bring me. He said to me, 'I hope you don't think I'm taking you.' I said, 'Who says I want you to?' I don't need him to see me like this."
3. Fill in the blank. The next-best band after the New Kids is:
Tricia Richelsen, 30, Silver Spring: "There was never a best band after them." (A friend pipes in: "We weren't fans of anything before or after them. It was just them.")
Odachowski: "Bon Jovi."
Neary: "Is there one? I don't believe there is."
4. Song you most want to hear tonight?
Fochler: "Hangin' Tough."
Blevins: "Hangin' Tough."
Chris Haberkam, 29, Baltimore: "'Please Don't Go Girl.' I'm always singing it. I just want to see it live."
Tanner: "Hangin' Tough, so I can laugh."
5. Who is the cute one now?
Neary: "My heart will always belong to Jordan, but Jonathan is hotter than hot. He is a man."
Greg Packer, 44, Huntington, N.Y.: "I've seen them up close. I'd say Donnie looks the best."
Blevins: "Jordan. He's aged the best. Now that he's cut off his rattail ..."
Christine Dietrich, 31, Savage, Md.: "Jordan, still. Still."
Jay Haddad, 25, Silver Spring: "With this turnout, I think they must all look good."
-- Lavanya Ramanathan
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