Nostalgia, aka The Edumacation of Maxine, Part II

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A New York Times article from November 9, 1997 that I saved because
a classmate was quoted in it. Months later, I'd cherish it because it contains
a breakdown of the teen pop phenomenon that was beginning to unravel.
Note the photo of the Backstreet Boys on the lower right.

[I'm considering this, though not 100% relevant, Part II to my first blog entry on my awakening to pop culture, which I wrote back in March and have meant to follow up on ever since. The period I am most nostalgic about begins not long after the cutoff year of that entry, which was about 1995.]

I've been seeing a lot of articles about nostalgia around lately, mostly prompted by the return to '90s programming on Nickelodeon after hours. Until recently, I felt that those (without sounding like Sarah Palin) "elite" and "liberal" publications were always a step or two behind the times on pop culture and trends, but since the "advent" of Justin Bieber, a lot of them have been really on the ball. Sometimes a little too much, to the point of basically throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks.

In any case, the author of the New York Times piece on Nick's programming is 25 years old but has the voice of a 50-something. Is it really that shocking that 18-to-34 year-olds are nostalgic? The second I left high school I was nostalgic for high school. And as I grew out of pop music and whatever was on the Top 40 Countdown, I grew nostalgic for "when music was good." I was maybe 20 years old. Plus, what do you call the whole NKOTBSB tour? One huge nostalgia trip, come on.

I've always sort of lived in the past, and my friends will tell you that I wasted a good amount of my time in college wishing I were still a high school student and it was still the '90s. (But that's a story for another day.) I can't say all of this nostalgia is 100% organic. I was in my late teens when September 11th happened. I think after that sort of trauma, everyone reaches for something comforting. I don't know if the generation before mine was as quick to be nostalgic as mine was, but hell, I remember a 2006 Gilmore Girls episode when someone threw a 2002-themed party. At the time, I shrieked with amusement and wanted to throw one of my own, featuring Nelly's "Hot in Herre" (2002's greatest achievement, of course). As far as I was concerned, music and pop culture took an odd and unwelcome turn in 2003 when the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton came on the scene.

So ... I'm one of maybe 50 people in the U.S. who still owns a TV with a built-in VCR that works. I love this thing. It's been with me since before I went to college and has remained extremely faithful to me. Not to mention, all the good stuff is on VHS. It just so happens that I accidentally pressed eject on this TV's remote the other day and had to push the tape back in. In doing so, I thought, "let's check out what's on this tape." I'd used it in the past year to tape some music specials, but after that program ended on the tape, I found myself in a time warp. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century! Total Request (before it went Live)! And other goodies, like MTV's 1999-2000 New Year's Eve party, a 1999 Top 100 Songs countdown, etc.

This prompted me to break out The Stash. Between 1997 and 2003, I tried to tape every Backstreet Boys television appearance. I have Backstreet Boys Tapes 1-11 and I think I stopped numbering them after that, but the number probably comes in at about 13. (This does not include any official VHS tapes I purchased.) Aside from BSB appearances, I sort of got distracted by other sparkly things, like MTV Diary and Britney Spears, so I have a lot of that junk on tape too. You might know where this is going ... I've been looking for indications of Joey McIntyre and Jordan Knight's solo careers. Because I remember them but have no physical documentation. So far, it seems like any time I've come close to an NKOTB mention or Joey/Jordan mention, I stopped recording or taped over it with something else. I do, however, have plenty of Leif Garrett material. Go figure.

The sacred, but poorly kept, Backstreet Boys binder.

I also broke out my old Backstreet Boys print stash. I guess I might as well tell you my BSB story right now, maybe in photos. I first heard of them sometime in 1995 or 1996, in Girl's Life magazine. The photo creeped me out a little bit, so I turned the page ...

[Click on any of the photos to enlarge.]
Then I remember seeing them on ABC's TGIF. I guess they hosted it in the fall of 1997. I remember them fooling around on the beach, and I was sort of turned off by Nick at that point ... and changed the channel. (Oh my goodness. It's on YouTube. I'm seeing it for the first time since I saw it in 1997.)

Christmas Day 1997 was when I officially became a Backstreet Boys fan. They performed on ABC's Very Merry Christmas parade special. I'd heard their songs and had denied to myself that I liked them. But then I saw Nick singing, and I was sold. My Dream Boy. This is a photo from that performance.

After the show was over, I ran downstairs to the computer and immediately set out to find out which Backstreet Boy was My Dream Boy. I finally found, on my dial-up connection, a heavily neon-colored fansite and discovered, after thinking Nick was A.J., Howie and Kevin, that he was actually Nickolas Gene Carter, the youngest Backstreet Boy.

In the new year (a week or two later, really), I bought YM with Prince William on the cover because I knew it contained a short spread on the Backstreet Boys. These are the two photos I learned the rest of the Boys' names off of.

Later that month, on Nick Carter's 18th birthday, the Backstreet Boys were in town for a show. They stopped by MTV's Times Square studio to make an appearance on Total Request. I missed much of this show because I was too busy baking a cake for both Nick and another childhood idol of mine, Haylie Johnson (who, coincidentally, also appears in this photo spread below, with her future husband Jonny Lang).

Ever the rational child, not only did I keep all my posters in a binder, but I decided that the teenybopper magazines were a terrible marketing ploy and stopped buying them about 5 or 6 months into my obsession with the Backstreet Boys. As a result, almost all the pin-ups and posters I have of the guys are from when Nick is, like, prepubescent.

I think this was my first Nick Carter poster/pin-up.

Nick looks kind of frightening here.

After that, I stuck to (regular) teen magazines and music magazines when they made the cover. And there were still a lot.

Teen People, first cover, summer 1998

Teen People, summer 1999.
I found Joey and Jordan in this one.

Joe kind of looks like a predecessor to Edward Cullen there.


This is from J-14.

Check out the trends back then, and how young everyone looks!

The guys were on the cover of Teen 3 times, if I recall correctly. This is the first cover. My favorite was the second, but my copy mysteriously disappeared after a friend slept over one weekend.

I think the guys were also on the cover of YM 2 or 3 times.

This is from the period I like to call "when Howie was prettier than the fans."

I never really did like this photo of Nick.

I always preferred the Rolling Stone articles that got down to the nitty gritty, though I found some of the BSBs put on a tougher image for these writers. Still, it outweighed reading about Nick's "blond locks" and "baby blues." I'd much rather read about the claustrophobia and paranoia his fame had caused him, and how his ex-girlfriend thought he lacked the ability to feel. Sorry, Nick. Psych major speaking.

This was the Backstreet Boys' first Rolling Stone cover. I actually didn't get around to buying it, but as a Nickelodeon intern some years later, I was put to task cleaning out the "library." We were allowed to take whatever we wanted and I found this diamond in the rough. It'd been treated rather poorly in the interim but has found a relatively safe home with me.

In the summer of 2000, they released an official photo book. It cost $14.95 and was the best $15 I spent for quite some time. Some highlights:

I actually think this photo is from the shoot for the issue of Teen that inexplicably vanished.

Once upon a time, before wives and kids and rehab visits and being pared down to 4,
Brian Littrell was the jokester of the group.

But A.J. McLean's always been the fashionista.

These two were best buddies before Brian got married. They
called themselves "Frick 'n Frack." Then Nick and A.J. became tight.

This was from the 2001-2002 period, and when Nick decided to launch a solo career. There is an extremely good photo of Nick on the inside of Cosmogirl! I'm not sure why I didn't photograph.

Never mind, I found it online.

From after their "hiatus," which ended in 2005. I must've received this as a "gift."

For many years, I was given BSB-related freebies by random acquaintances. I was one of maybe 2 out and proud "Backstreet Boys Girls" in my middle/high school. This later segued to a more nuanced "Nick Carter girl" among guy friends.

And I can't remember now exactly when it was I received this. I think it was in early 1999, before "Millennium" was released. But one of my best guy friends in school was family friends with Lou Pearlman (gross?) and procured this autographed photo for my birthday. This sat on my nightstand for many years before it was finally retired.

(Articles to check out:
The New York Times
The Atlantic
The New York Times on MTV's 30th Birthday)

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  1. I've totally read that YM issue with the BSB! Too bad YM no longer prints -- I loved that mag as a teen.

    I also peeked your 43 Things list and I love that you put "White Teeth" on there! I hope the rest of the read is enjoyable for you (I love that book). I also hope you enjoy the rest of Harry Potter :)



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