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Title: "Just Another Thursday" (2/WIP)
They piled into the stretch limo waiting curbside and Kevin passed out 'cheat sheets' to each of them. Nick glanced down and read it over. Basic stuff. Stats on album sales and the current concert tour. Reminders to mention "The Call" and TRL if it could be worked in. It wasn't as if any of them needed this kind of stuff after hundreds of interviews done during the past eight years. Interviews were now second nature.
In fact, American interviews were really a breeze compared to interviewing abroad. European interviews were pure murder by comparison. The group would be put inside a room behind a table; hopefully they'd have water or some other beverage, because they'd need it.
Then they'd go through round after round of interviews--one group of media people after another. And the questions would seem almost identical with each new group. Sometimes the interviewer would be polite or even interested. Often, the person would be unimpressed by them--or even downright nasty. Why not at least show them some respect?
Nick and the guys were always respectful to the interviewers, after all. Turnabout seemed fair to Nick. But it didn't work that way--and Backstreet needed the media more than the media needed them.
They all handed the sheets back to Kevin who handed them to the security guy--who quickly folded the stack in half and concealed it in a pocket. Though they naturally always tried to prep, they didn't normally want these papers found. For some reason it was considered 'bad form' to actually prepare for an interview. The deejay would want them to be 'natural.' As if they were ever able to just be themselves during what was simply another performance.
It was nice to be attending this particular interview as a group. Later in the tour they'd stop doing that and go to splitting up the 'radio' assignments. The 'new' policy was for two--or maybe three--of the group to go to a station in a given city. The other guys were free to do whatever they liked. Nick knew everyone liked the idea of more free time, but somehow it made them seem less connected than they'd been in the past.
Nick remembered when they'd first been performing as a group and doing their first radio bits. No one had known them from Adam--and no one had much cared about what they'd said.
But during one radio bit he'd made the mistake of falling in with the deejay's spiel--and he'd played along. It had ended up very embarrassing--with Nick stammering and sputtering like crazy when things had turned drastically risqué.
Afterwards Kevin had taken him aside to speak to him. Nick was thankful to this day that Kev hadn't decided to just discuss the situation as a group.
Kevin had carefully explained that though they must always appear to be friends with the radio personalities--and with any media people who were willing to be friendly--that they could never really trust these people.
Kevin had been amazingly kind and patient while the two of them had discussed the mess. Nick remembered how hot his face had felt and how his heart had pounded and his hands had trembled. He'd messed up--and he'd expected Kevin to really read him the riot act. He frankly knew he'd deserved it.
But Kevin's voice had been calm. "It's all just another show. You just need to be so sweet and 'genuine' that no one realizes you're acting, Nick. But stick to the 'official' line on every question. If they ask something new, cock your head and seem to be really thinking it over. Then say something like, 'That's a really interesting question. I'll have to give it more thought and get back to you.' You get that?"
Nick had nodded in relief, thankful he wasn't in serious trouble. And he had learned a valuable lesson. Later Brian had told him that he and Kevin had discussed it and decided they should all practice interviewing. After that they'd turned it into a game that had them all in stitches.
For months after they'd play 'interview' and ask the most outrageous and disgusting things they could come up with. Or just keep repeating questions with different phrasing.
Brian liked to ask the underwear question. "But what do you wear, Nick? It is Nick, isn't it? Boxers or briefs?" Only moments later he'd ask, "But what color boxers do you wear, Nick? It is Nick, isn't it?" They'd all end up laughing so hard they'd be in tears.
Not too long after--with a few actual interviews under their belts--they'd become fairly comfortable with the process.
But Kevin had actually cautioned them not to be 'too' polished. "Make a mistake here or there. Or sound a tad embarrassed. That's okay. Keeps it sounding fresh and unpracticed." And so even now Nick would sometimes cock his head and seem to think the question over. Which was silly--when the answer jumped to his lips almost before the interviewer was done asking it.
Did the other guys feel any 'radio' nerves? Nick was uncertain. They all still admitted to nervousness before a concert appearance. Of course, that was different. That was the 'real' thing. Interviews and 'meet and greets' were something else. They didn't really require the same rush.
The car was slowing and all of the guys were putting on their 'meet and greet' faces. Even A.J. was grinning--though there was a certain bite to his look. Brian was wearing his biggest smile--and as he had a wonderful warm and large smile, it was pretty impressive.
Nick glued a smile to his face and patted his unruly hair. His acne was pretty much under control, so he wouldn't be nearly as self-conscious as when he was badly broken out. Even though it was radio, there were always people to meet in person. And often a crowd of fans would show up, too. There would probably be a lot of them, considering Nick's 'bad hair day' and all. He wished again that he looked better today.
One of their security guys jumped out while the car was pulling over to do the advance arrival preparation. It was a sad fact--but they couldn't travel without people specifically there to protect them from fans and possible fanatics. No one wanted to end up like John Lennon, after all.
When the car finally stopped, Nick jumped out and moved quickly toward the double-doors of the building. The other guys were on his heels, he knew. Kevin had caught everyone's attention and then tapped his watch just before the car had stopped--and Nick knew it meant there was a deadline. There was no time to stop for autographs or other fan interactions.
None of them liked to be rude to fans, but in cases like this it was pretty much unavoidable. The fans were always there--bless them. But the time to talk with them was not. It was best to move quickly and with determination. To look straight ahead and avoid eye contact. If you didn't actually 'see' a fan, then you weren't snubbing or avoiding them. So this was another practiced maneuver.
Generally Howie would try to give an overall 'group greeting' to the fans. He would smile broadly and swing in a circle waving. Even Kevin might join in and do the same. But Brian and Nick had their marching orders. They were the ones that fans were always 'dying' to meet--so they had to be the ones to get going and keep going when time was short.
Of course, once inside the building the game plan changed. Then it was all smiles and handshakes and looking directly into the eyes of the strangers they were meeting--and acting as pleased as possible to be there. Nick felt he was pretty good at this, except for the disadvantage of his height. He was just a bit too tall to give someone an easy and direct gaze.
Kevin had reminded him more than once not to stoop. "I know it's hard, but use your height to your advantage. Stand up straight and bend your head down and catch the attention of the person addressing you, Nick. You've done it for years--it's really no different now that you're taller."
But it had been different. And it had taken getting used to. Kevin had always been tall--so he didn't really understand. And the other guys didn't have this problem.
So Nick spent time alone in many a hotel room standing in front of a mirror and 'practicing' just the right head tilt or chin dip. Shoulders back soldier. And smile--don't forget to at least offer them a shy grin.
Well, it was all part of the business they were in. And Nick had to admit he loved his work. But he wanted to laugh when people made such a fuss about musicians--especially singers--who became actors. Or who wanted to act. Hell, why not? At least from Nick's experience they were all acting tons of the time, anyway. Not that the Backstreet Boys would or could admit it, but of course it was an act!
This didn't mean that he didn't care about his fans. The fans were wonderful and exciting and fun to see and meet. But not all of the time. Some days they were tiresome. Some days they were a burden. Some days Nick just wanted to be left alone. He knew the fans would always want their special chance to see them--the Backstreet Boys--but there were certainly days Nick wished he could just be a guy who wasn't famous.
Logically he knew this was impossible. He even knew he wasn't like 'normal' guys--and wouldn't know where to start to try to be. But it would be nice when he was covered in zits to be able to skip meeting girls--heck, anyone!--up close. He was sure they were all staring at his face and wondering why he was such a mess. And the same was true for days when his hair would only stand straight up no matter what he did. It was hard having a 'bad hair day' in front of dozens--or even thousands--of people.
And when Nick felt sick he had to go out and pretend he was fine and just do the best he could. It hadn't been all that long ago that Howie had been ill with some 24-hour virus. He'd even been vomiting. But even though he was shaking and pale he'd gone on stage and done the best he could.
Of course, they'd all been there. Nick had several of his own nightmare stories about being sick on stage. And it was like Brian with his current cold. Someone would probably write that 'Brian Littrell's voice is obviously enhanced for albums. It didn't have nearly the power this reporter expected to hear.' And then the rumors would fly again that they couldn't really sing at all.
But what were they to do? Have Brian skip the concert? Hardly. Go on stage and tell the audience that Brian was sick--and could they please excuse any mistakes he might make? Sure. That would go over big!
So all they could do was make the most of a difficult situation. Support one another at all times--but especially when one of them was having a difficult time. Sickness, family problems, unhappiness in their personal relationships or just growing pains--which Nick had experienced so often.
Kevin introduced each of them to the group of radio execs and Nick automatically gave his biggest smile along with his practiced firm handshake. After they'd finished the slew of various introductions--and the signing of autographs for children of staff members--it was finally time to 'march' into the studio.
Nick and Brian stood together and close to the deejay. It was generally accepted that they'd be questioned more frequently than the others.
Sometimes they discussed in advance who was in the mood to take the lead at a given interview or event. Kevin frequently would speak--as the unacknowledged leader of the group this was a normal occurrence.
But from time to time either Howie or A.J. would offer to speak up. This was always a relief to Nick and Brian who were so frequently in the teenybopper 'frying pan' as long-time group favorites.
Recently Kevin had been pushing his new charity involvement--which meant he was eager to speak up. Often when the focus fell on their charities, Howie would speak about Lupus and his beloved dead sister for whom he'd started a special charity fund. And Brian always liked to mention kids or his fund for heart-related illnesses.
Especially in recent years, A.J. had become the group rebel--with his outrageous multitude of tattoos and his facial hair, with his piercings and his wild and ever-changing hair colors. To say nothing of his curious clothing choices, his large and impressive jewelry--and those constant sunglasses.
Would fans have been surprised--perhaps even disappointed--if they'd known that A.J.'s sunglasses were actually prescription eyewear? That when he wasn't wearing them, he was wearing contact lenses? Nick didn't know.
Nick had occasionally worn his own glasses to different events. But usually he stuck to contacts and didn't allude to needing them. It was funny, but you never knew what little thing might turn a fan off. And they were all in the business of keeping their fans happy.
The deejay was a total 'showboat' asshole. It only took Nick a few minutes of listening to the man's crap to realize that fact. But he continued to grin and nod as innocently as possible--not giving away his assessment. One glance behind the man's back to Brian confirmed that his friend had made the same call. And Nick knew that if both he and Brian had caught this that the other three were probably way ahead of them.
The man was supposedly discussing what he planned to say on air as they all listened to "The Call" playing merrily away in the background. Kevin shot Nick an amused glance--it was one of those 'yeah, sure' expressions. Nick grinned back. They knew they'd have to work this guy or he'd make them look stupid.
Just another Thursday, Nick thought. Someone else who wants his 15-plus minutes of fame--and didn't mind if he took it at their expense. Later the guy would take whatever they said and make some re-mix he could play back. Catch one of them saying a certain word that would sound funny when repeated over and over. Or a line from either Brian or Kevin where they'd drawl a bit more than usual. Those were easy to make ridiculous.
No matter what, they couldn't win with a guy like this. But they'd be on their toes and at least make him work for it.
Nick wanted to groan and frown as the bastard went to work on Brian on open air. Brian's tone and expression were enthusiastic and warm as he chatted about his wife and dogs. But he was forced to clear his throat several times.
Nick noticed that the deejay occasionally drank from a mug--but the man made no move to offer anything to Brian in spite of his obvious discomfort. Nick shot Kevin a glance and Kevin shook his head almost imperceptibly in warning. There was no point in getting visibly upset. This was deliberate malice on the part of the deejay, after all.
Brian paused to catch his breath and Nick decided to bite the bullet and just jump in. He made a joke and everyone laughed--including the deejay, who had been caught entirely off guard. Nick started bantering back and forth with the man--acting as if he wanted to be the man's 'buddy.'
Nick could see the ploy was working. His overly friendly behavior was appealing to the deejay's vanity. The man turned and asked each of the other guys some small question--but in every case he cut off their answers before they could finish responding.
Then he turned back to Nick and they began another round of 'I'm Nick Carter's friend--see how important I am?' while the rest of the guys hid their amusement. Nick gladly played along. Maybe the guy would be so pleased that he'd actually give them a break. Maybe he'd even replay straight portions of the spot later in the day--and give "The Call" more airtime.
When they were finally finished the guy was all over Nick. He paraded Nick through a few more areas and made sure as many people as possible saw them together. Then he had an assistant take a photo of him standing close to Nick with Nick's arm draped around his shoulder.
The parting handshakes were warm--and the group received an invitation to return again any time. Nick looked directly into the eyes of the deejay and decided to go all out. He offered a quick wink and wicked grin--a 'just between us' moment. The man was practically drooling. So much for that asshole, Nick thought as they departed.
"Lunch?" A.J. asked hopefully as they sank gratefully into the plush seats of the limo.
Kevin shook his head. "Photo shoot. Then lunch. Then... ah..."
Howie finished for him. "Then run to the venue and do a staging check. They don't know which size is gonna fit here. And you practically toppled the last time we did the short stage, A.J."
A.J. leaned forward and gave Howie a playful punch. "Look who's talking! I thought you were gonna salsa straight into the pit. I swear your eyes were closed, too."
Brian leaned in and let his head fall against Nick's shoulder. "Thanks," he said in a near-whisper.
Nick matched his soft voice. "For what?"
Brian raised his head and gave Nick a warm glance. "You know. For coming to my rescue back there," he answered quietly, as their eyes locked for several moments. Brian was smiling and his eyes were smiling and Nick could feel his heart beginning to pound very hard in his chest.
Then Brian sighed and put his head down again on Nick's shoulder. Nick could feel himself breathing hard. He was almost--but not quite--blushing. He sucked in a long slow breath and briefly shut his eyes.
"Hey, you'd do it for me," Nick finally managed to say when his breathing had slowed a bit. "Besides, that guy was a challenge. You know how I love a challenge."
"Christ, I'm starved," A.J. said to no one and everyone.
"Well," Kevin drawled, "I could eat."
For some reason this struck them all as funny and they began to laugh.
And Nick was always ready to eat. He hoped the shoot wouldn't take long. Damn it! Why hadn't anyone mentioned it before? He looked like hell today...
He glanced up and saw that Kevin was watching him. "You look fine, Nick," his friend said, as if he'd read his mind.
Nick grinned. Somehow hearing that made things seem better. "Well," he said, "I've looked worse."
Howie jumped in, "We've all looked worse, dude."
And this made them all laugh again. It was good to be able to laugh at themselves. All in all, life was pretty good. And it was, after all, just another Thursday.
-end part two--back to top of page-