Yo! Kids! What up?

“How do you know Jonathan fell off his horse?”

“The tour manager told me.”

“Did you see him fall off the horse?”


“Did you speak with him?”


“Then you don’t know for sure. I knew it. It’s just a cover-up. He’s left the group. They just don’t want us to know about it.”

These are the NKOTB conspiracy theorists. Combining the imagination of Oliver Stone and the social skills of Star Trek conventioneers, this particular quintet of fans is convinced that Jonathan has quit or been bounced from the group. (They may be right—Jonathan never rejoined the tour.) At tonight’s show, one brace-face girl will wave a “Where the fuck is Jonathan?” sign.

For now, though, the New Kids are not concerned about their fan’s obsessions. Tonight’s gig is the closest the boys will get to a hometown performance—there’s no Boston show—before heading out to Toronto and points beyond. Family and friends who haven’t seen the Kids perform in their new adult incarnation have made the short drive down I-95 to the Strand Theatre.

The guest list runs about a hundred names long and most of them have backstage passes. In less than an hour, NKOTB will be moving and grooving on the same space. Right now though, a four-family reunion rages. Relatives, girlfriends, and hangers-on mingle among the synthesizers, drum kit, and microphones. There’s Donnie’s mom and spitting image and brother Jimbo, talking to five McIntyre sisters. Leonard “Len” Lewin, a longtime lawyer for the band, gives Jordan a hug. Thomas McIntyre, Joey’s father and director of community development for Local 3 of the Massachusetts’ Bricklayers Union, walks in and shakes hands with everyone. He makes small talk with his son until Donnie comes over and tells him how they should all go to the Preakness this year. Cigar in hand, blue suit and loud tie on, McIntyre charmingly brags about his boy, comparing him to Frank Sinatra. He promises to send me a demo tape of Joey’s solo material.

On the other side of the curtain, the theater with a standing capacity of 1,500, is not even two-thirds full; 500 tickets will go unsold. The Providence Phoenix trashed NKOTB’s new album, concluding, “Put a fork in their ass, they’re all done.” Another check of the Billboard Charts shows, despite the tour, “Face the Music” still dead in the water.

But save your pity or scorn for their remaining fans. Those lonely people certainly need it a lot more. The Kids are all right. While any chance of NKOTB recapturing the glory of their not-so-distant-youth seems less likely than Aerosmith ever retiring, the five young men seem at peace. Their future goals run the gamut from the grandiose to the mundane. Wahlberg will remain active in the production end of the business. Wood plans to manage a couple of bands or open a gym. Jordan Knight has developed a serious interest in photography. His brother seems content to fade back into obscurity. Maybe Joey will be the next Frank Sinatra.

Whatever they do, though, they seem to have eluded the curse of the child star. Their money is safe and sound thanks to the sage advice of the late Bob Woolf. Nobody’s fortune was blown on coke or race cars. In fact, their most extravagant purchase was the $400,000 house in Braintree that Donnie bought for his mom. They all still live in the Boston area and remain close to the families and friends who loved them before stardom and will love them long after the clippings have faded.

To the rest of us working stiffs, this might not seem like much of an accomplishment. But think of people you know who became pricks when they got that new promotion. Multiply that by 10,000, factor in that it happened at an age when most of us were lucky to make it through high school alive. Maybe we can cut them some slack.

“I know a lot of people will try to say New Kids on the Block is going to be my legacy,” says Jordan Knight. “They’re so wrong, I have my whole life in front of me. I’ve got a lot of legacies ahead of me.”

Ten minutes before showtime, baby pictures are still being exchanged along with reminiscences of the glorious past. As the lights go down and sisters and brothers are shooed away, the Kids huddle together, say a prayer, and hit the stage.

As the cheers begin, Tommy McIntyre watches from a private box. He smiles, fiddles with his cigar, and says to no one in particular, “Happy days are here again.”