Everybody's talkin' about Backstreet, N*Sync, 98 Degrees and how they made it. But what about the people who didn't make it? Who tells their stories? Do their mothers and grandmothers swap tales of their offsprings' failure to hit it big? Where is VH1's Before They ARE Stars, or The Stars that NEVER WERE?
As a recovering un-star I will share a tale. Of truth, justice, and popular music.
While doing research on Sabrina the Teenage Witch for a class at NYU, I stumbled across a national contest that was looking for guys between the ages of 18 and 30 to audition for a multi-cultural boy band. I emailed a friend about it as a joke and she dared me to try out. The next thing I knew I was making an audition video. I sang a Top 40's hit and danced, accompanied by a hip-swiveling nun as a back-up. Being a film student, I didn't mind making a fool of myself, because I saw this as an opportunity for my quirky video to appear on TV.
The show I made the tape for turned out to be Making the Band. Making the Band is a reality-based show on ABC that centers on the formation of a male pop group. It's set in Orlando, a virtual breeding ground for boy band superstars.
A month later, I got an email telling me I was called back for an audition. I went to the audition at the Hard Rock Café in Manhattan and found myself surrounded by the latest collection of freshly scrubbed Banana Republicans. Most of them were carbon copies of their boy band predecessors, with a few ugly castaways hiding in the shadows. (I hid in the shadows.) Some were show offs and some were just off. I remember thinking, "I'm missing work for this?" At least I knew I was doing it more for the experience than to fulfill my "ultimate dream." But that didn't mean I hadn't practiced a lot. (Well, at least the day before...)
After about 45 minutes of waiting, I went into my audition and shook hands with Lou Perlman, creative manufacturer of the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync. I handed him a folder that had wacky pictures of me inside, and said, "Here's an activity pack in case you get bored later." He laughed, and then his entourage laughed too, not wanting to seem indifferent.
I was surrounded by lenses. At least seven cameras were focused on my face. I remember looking up and seeing a monitor with a giant picture of my head. I wanted to scream, "Whoa, zoom out! ZOOM OUT!!!"
Somehow I finished singing C-Note's Spanish Fly, and they thanked me, and I left. It was all over. I wanted to linger but I knew that I wasn't what they were looking for. Perhaps it was my vintage shirt or bellbottom pants. Maybe I wasn't current enough. Maybe I wasn't Orlando-enough.
Moments later, I walked through the park contemplating the fact that this time around, I was not going to be a pop star. Now that I've seen the show Making the Band, I'm glad though. While I wish those kids a lot of luck, I doubt they'll be pop stars any time soon either.
It's a hard business. And I'm glad that I didn't make the cut. I would have been infringing on the dreams of all the boys who want to have hit singles, plastic pants and cutting edge choreography. I'm happy to have just experienced it briefly, knowing that something else will come along for me. Whatever it is, I'll know it when I see it and hear it. It'll be perfect, like a pop song. --Fred Flores