Was I in sixth grade? I believe I was in sixth grade. 1989… that sounds right. About this time, five clean-cut Boston boys were starting to make waves with “(You Got It) The Right Stuff” and a video filled with silly shuffling-type dancing that my friends were beginning to emulate. New Kids On The Block. I thought it was cute and interesting.
My cousin, however, brought over her cassette, Hangin’ Tough, and convinced my sister and I that they were the coolest ever and that we needed to love them. It didn’t take a lot of convincing, as we worshipped my older cousin, and we loved cheesy pop garbage at our tender young ages.
Moving to junior high school, I acquired friends with New Kids love. Okay, that’s an understatement — my friends and I were rabid fiends for NKOTB. First I liked Donnie Wahlberg best, then switched to Jordan Knight. Jen flittered between Jonathan Knight and Joey McIntyre, while Sara liked Jordan and Stacy dug Donnie. We all agreed that Danny Wood was a monkey-faced barf bag. Sara and Jen saw them in concert in seventh grade, while Stacy and I went together in eighth grade.
I don’t really want to admit to the depth of our insane fandom. MTV has done specials featuring dorky kids who worship a celebrity to extreme lengths. If this had existed in our day, we would be prime fodder. The four of us bought pretty much every teen magazine on the market and would swap pinups and posters between us. Quite literally, we all had posters lining every inch of our walls from ceiling to floor (and in Jen’s case, the ceiling was covered as well). We all had many t-shirts, hats, pins, earrings, blankets, jackets, and pillows, some of them hand-made or customized. Sara had grown her hair out in a rattail similar to the ones worn by three of the guys.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We were actually a lot more twisted than that.
We often played the game of “Voodoo”: this involved taking Little Debbie/Hostess treats and smashing them in strategic areas of posters, then licking them off while one of the other of us girls narrated the story of what must be happening on the tour bus at that moment as one of the boys suddenly gets a “surprise.” To be fair, we often did this as well by throwing things at posters of Danny; the demise of the Monkey Man was usually near the top of our wishlist, just below wild and untamed sex with the boy of our choice.
Another odd thing we would do is sit down with a huge pad of paper and write notes back and forth to each other. We would each take on characters of a sort and end up telling an entire story — much like playing house — simply through these written notes. We spawned many an inside joke this way, crediting words and phrases to these five guys solely through our own creative wackiness. A prime example would be the time period where Donnie took to wearing a baseball cap adorned with the word, “hardwear.” We decided to take the double entendre full-force and painted Donnie in our fictional world as a pervert who would work in any sort of sexual innuendo into conversation whenever possible. My personal favorite was, “Say, have you heard the new Aerosmith album, Pump?” To this day, I can’t fully accept Mr. Wahlberg’s decision to become an actor without envisioning his silly, dirty thoughts.
Remember the Barbie-sized New Kids on the Block dolls? These spawned another game where we would lay on our backs on the floor, knees bent up with our feet flat on the floor, legs slightly apart. We would then stretch out the doll arms and fling them spinning high into the air. Where they landed, of course, measured their sexual voracity. You can bet safely that slamming headfirst into the crotch area was considered big points; you can also bet safely that while it wasn’t necessarily fun getting repeatedly hit by a twelve-inch flying plastic doll, we were laughing too hard to notice any bruises or marks.
The coup de grace, however, came with The Book (italicized, of course, as that was its title). Started by Jen and her niece, this lovely piece of work drifted between us four as well as other folks who wanted to add their chunks to our fictional soap opera. It began with twenty loose-leaf pages of a story where five girls met these five boys; amazingly enough, they coupled off and started having sex. In this book, of course, the five guys were the members of the New Kids on the Block; the five girls all represented five real-life girls, but none of our real names were used (I was Stacia). This allowed us to be completely nuts without admitting any particular interest or bizarre personal confession of any type.
Over the course of two years, this grew to 365 pages.
The Book has since been lost to the annals of time; I lended it to a friend, but she moved and things were misplaced, and I’m not entirely sure whatever happened to it. However, its discovery would not exactly top my list of literary accomplishments; in particular, use of the term “and they f*cked away” was used far too liberally (first appearing on page five). Aside from crudeness and junior high school ignorance of the intricacies of sexual intercourse, we remained far more creative than we had any right to be. Scenes were written of sex in a movie theater, accentuating the noises made when slamming against a loose seat by BANG inserting various BANG realistic accents BANG throughout the description BANG of the act itself. When Jen started reading romance novels, the sex got a whole lot more interesting; when I started getting interested in other musicians, like the Nelson brothers, we would just toss them into the mix as well. One girl in real life was pissing us off? They got to have sex with Danny.
Even without the existence of The Book, our fascination had long since grown above and beyond mere fandom. It really didn’t help that Jen and I were each wildly imaginative; putting us together was fuel for hell breaking loose. When others started dropping off of the bandwagon, Jen and I were still calling Boston’s 411 and asking for numbers of any family members whose names had ever been published. We were sneaking out late at night and heading over to an elementary school playground, creating another storyline adventure involving the phallic nature of the tube slide.
We were just a little strange. We argued and fought a lot as one would expect best friends of that age, but we always ended up reunited. There was literally nobody else on the planet who would even dare to comprehend the weird shit that we did, all in the name of love for the five boys from Beantown. And you know what? We liked it that way. As we started to get just a little too old to be worshipping pre-teen idols and their music fell out of fashion, we still wore our NKOTB badges proud.
At least, we did until high school rolled around. I was far too interested in pretty long-haired glamour boys with makeup and hot pink guitars. I gradually hopped off the New Kids train and jumped into the world of hair metal. I wasn’t the first of our friends to do it, but eventually we all succumbed to the wiles of rock boys who actually played instruments and wrote songs. Funny, as I look back at a track listing or two of the old NKOTB albums, I can’t even remember how more than half of the songs went.
Fifteen years later, I have attempted to go back and listen to the music sung by these five pubescents; people, let me tell you that it brings actual physical pain upon my being. Compared to the Backstreet Boys, the New Kids had much better written material, but it’s so dated that it cannot even be remotely appreciated for what it was. It’s so prominently “cheese” that it could be spread on crackers. Its sale should have depressed Wisconsin’s economy. The government should be handing it out to the hungry. If you have a mortal enemy whose ears you would enjoy seeing explode, play “Stay With Me Baby,” the Wahlberg-crooned reggae tune. Yes, reggae; even amidst my fangirl days, I knew that one was pure Limburger.
But the hormones were raging, and the doey eyes and smiles just for you were just too much to bear. They could somehow make horrible music sound utterly mesmerizing. If it wasn’t a gift, it was surely a pact with Satan. They captured me and although I can never truly live that down, they certainly gave me two years of completely unreal stories (and one hell of a bond, if not blackmail) with a group of girls who were all under the same crazy spell.