One by one, the 5 BSB arrived at the Presidential Suite in Indianapolis' Canterbury Hotel for their noon 'Teen People' photo shoot, each accompanied by his own bodyguard. A police is stationed outside their room too, and with good reason too: Fans have been staking out in or by the hotel to try to get a glimps of one of the Backstreet Boys. That morning several teenage girls roam the halls, hoping to get a peek at the Boys. One gilr, accompanied by friends and her mother, clunches homemade, bare-chested Howie Dorough doll, complete with pony tail and leather pants.
Nick Carter (20), last to arrive, straggle sin bleary-eyed, he leaps onto AJ McLean (22, wrestles him onto a bed, Nick smootches his pal on the cheek, the AJ makes the all mighty "leave me alone look" face. He and the other guys are tired om the mid-March day, having gone out the night before tp bowl and play paint tag to celebrate the end of their SOLD-OUT 'Millennium' tour.
After promoting their 12 million-selling 'Millennium' for a year now, there are no signs of the Boys cooling down. Even the BIG annoucment that the cousins, Brian Littrell (25) and Kevin Richardson (28), have both become engaged seems to have done nothing but temper Backstreet Fever. Brian says, "I've gotten a few 'Marry me instead' (sighs), but those are ok too!."
Too say that Backstreet Boys have had a successful year would be a major understatement. 'Millennium' not only outsold all competitors in 1999 but also became the first of the recent teen-pop albums to be favorably acknowledged by crititcs and the postadolescent crowd. "I Want It That Way" even spent 52 days on the Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.
BSB also have been EXTREAMLY well received by fans for their physical attractions. Kevin was declared the 'Sexiest Pop Star' by 'People' magazine- to the great musement of his pals. "They call me Mr. Sexy," he says, rolling his eyes. One European magazine gave the others even more ammunition by dubbing Kevin "Mr. Body Beautiful." "We still bust his chops about it," says Howie (26).
But, of course, golden-boy Nick still comes first with the devoted fans (Like me). "All I can say is, it's very flattering," he says, appearing uncomfortable. "I try to make myself look as normal as possible because I like peopel to relate to me." But Nick is no slave to his fans' expectations: "If I feel like cutting my hair, I'll do it!" he says, running his hand through is hair. At the Billboard Music Awards in Decemeber, he gelled his hair straight up, an idea tha came to him in the limo en route to the ceremony. (For a longlocked Howie, his hair-raising experiences can be traced back to high school: "I let my mom relax my hair in junior year, and I went to school and everyone thought I had a toupee on my heard," he recollects.)
Now that more eyes focus on the Boys, one might expect their image more important to the,, but AJ insits the opposite is true. "You get up at seven in the morining, you get on the tour bus, and there are fans outside. You just don't care how you look. But," he emphasizesm, "you MUST brush your teeth. THAT'S A MUST!!"
When recalling his own prefame years, AJ says, "I was a geek! Everyday I wuld go to school with a different style: One day I'd wear something really ghetto fabulous and one day I would go prepped out." Today, he says, "tons if kids come uo to me and say 'I like your style because you're different.'" (His tactoo tally is up to eight!)
But enough about their looks. The compliments from their fans are fine, but, says Howie, "We really want them to respect our music first."
Not to worry. Simply being cute doesn't get your six Grammy nominations (for '99 and 2000 combined)- and some wonder whether it was the band's youth appeal that prevented them from taking home a single trophy from February awards. Nick says they weren't bothered by the shutout. "Just to be able to preform at the Grammys an dto be nominated against other people like Santana- it's an honor to be with is category," he says. "I would have like to take home an award, but everyone gets their time to shine. Maybe [ours will be] in 30 years, like Santana."
The Grammys favor serious artists, and 'Millennium' certainly had its share of serious singles. The video for "Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely" couldn't be more earnets. "We wanted to make the video really deep," says Howie, explaining that the song was the last they'd recored with one of their first producer, Denniz Pop, who died of stomache cancer in 1998. They aimed to show their fans that life as a member of one of the world's biggest pop band is "not so glamour," says Brian, whose May 1998 heart surgery is dramatized in the clip. "Everybody has to deal with tragedies and loss."
For his part, Howie drew upon the experiense of losing his 37-year-old sister, Caroline, to lupus in 1998. (He's since established a foundation in her name, the Caroline Dorough-Cochran Lupus Memorial Foundation.) "To me, the video was a tribute," he says. "She's making me be the strong person in my family, the one that goes out there and makes a differnce."
Kevin drew upon the emmotions from a tragedy of his own for his own scenses: He lost his father, Jerald, to cancer in 1991. "At first I was angery because he was 49 years old abd he was such a good, generous man and a good father," he says. "The on;y thing that helped me get through that was the fact that in the hopsital, there were, like, five- and six-years-old dying. I was like, 'You know what? At least my dad got 49 years.'"
The boys are now hard at work on their third U.S. release, scheduled to drop in October. The planed to be more involved in the songwritting and producing; AJ says that a double CD is even a possibility. To write it, "we're going to take a trip to an island (this alredy happened) for a few weeks, just us five and studio engineers, "he says. "We're trying to go a little more edgey, but that doesn't mean that we're going to change our style totaly!"
Brian- who cowrote 'Millennium's' "Larger Than Life" and "The Perfect fan"- nods in agreement. "The chemistry and feel of the previous albums will be the same, just little older. And productionwise, we're looking for a natural, raw feel, where everything isn't prefect. We want to go with a live-sounding studio band, kind of like the Beatles."
This spring they also began work on individual projects. AJ was the first to break away from the group, launching a mini solo tour in March (gone and passed) as alter ego Johnny No Name to benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, which helps restore music programs in public schools. "The kids, I think, were really proud that one of us finally stood up and did something on our own," says AJ, who preformed material by the likes of Prodigy and Stone Temple Pilots. "I guess the fans were waiting to see which one was going to be the first to have the guts to do it. As always, the firts one to do something off the wall is me ." He also joined Howie writting and producting songs for pop trio EYC. On his own, Howie cowrote the song "I like It" for mandy Moore's platninum debut, 'So Real'. Mean while, Nick is moonlighting as a writer and potenitial producer for a still-unnamed rock band made up of friends.
Kevin and Brian have side projects of their own to attend to: weddings. Last November, Kevin grabbed a quite moment with the father of his girlfriend, Kristin Willits, at a BSB concert and asked him for her hand i marriage. Kristin (29) a dancer, was on tour with Cher in Europe at the time. "We've been going out off and on for eight yearsm" he says Kevin, who would like to tie the knot "sooner rather than later" but has yet to set a date. Ywo met while working at Walt Disney World. "I was a tour guide, a Ninja Turtle, Aladdin, all that," he says. "I met her in the cafeteria. It was the first time I went up to a total stranger and asked her out." The pair dated for six months before Kristin left to work on a cruise ship. Since then, it's been long distance love. "We ended up breaking up for a little while," he says, "It's been hard."
The breakup made the proposal even more unexpected. "We were going to Kentucky to Kansas, where her family lives, for Christmas," says Kevin. "I was like, "We;ve gotta go to Orlando'- I have house there- 'I've got some Christmas presents there.' So we went, and we went to a place on the beach where I first told her I loved her. She freaked out! She thought I got the ring out of a gum-ball machine."
A few day later, on Christmas night, Brian proposed to Leighanne Wallace (30) in Maritta, GA., presenting her with a canary-yellow diamond engagement ring. They met three years ago when Leighanne, an actress, was an extra in the video "As Long As You Love Me." "She was there in the beginning, when things were beginning to take off," Brina says. "She was the second face I saw when I woke up from my heart sugery. I saw my grandmother's first, then leighanne's."
With the Backstreet Boys' intense work schedule, married life won't be easy, but the future grooms are optimistic. "Our fianc? know we got here through hard work and perseverance," says Brian, "and they're behind us all the way."-Laura Jaminson