FLASHBACK FRIDAY: *NSYNC Rides Again (Teen People, November 2001)
The *NSYNC guys think it’s funny to say really gross things in front of me because they know TEEN PEOPLE cant print them. I’ve got pages of notes, all great stuff, and I’ve got to throw them away. There’s sex jokes and bathroom humor and cracks about each other’s penis sizes, and they wont knock it off because they know the dirtier they get the less chance I can use it. Chris is wearing a shirt with a message that I can’t even hint at, other than to say it details a physical desire for obese woman. They can be as bad as they want to be and I am helpless to stop them.
This is the tougher *NSYNC, the one that writes most of its own songs and uses the first two cuts of its new album, Celebrity, to bitch about music critics and being famous. They drive motorcycles (at least Chris, 30, and Justin Timberlake, 20, do) and talk like they are all grown up. Do they ever.
But even if they have acquired a tiny bit of an edge, they are not out to give anyone anything worse than a paper cut. That album cover picture and title track complaining about fame-that’s supposed to be a joke. “We would never be so egotistical to say the we are upset because we are celebrities,” Chris says.
“If a girl likes us because we are in a group, cool,” agrees Justin. “I never got dates before I was in a group,” adds Chris.
Sure, they knew some people wouldn’t get their irony, but they figured people were going to pick on them no matter what. They are, after all, *NSYNC. “Some people want to tear us down,” says Lance. “So we gave them something to find”
Other than their funny foul-mouthed outbursts, I can’t really find much stuff to tear them down with. Despite their many cars and record-breaking album sales and pride of teenage girls who follow them everywhere (at this very moment, dozens of them are holding vigil outside the bands Manhattan hotel this Sunday night getting soaked in the rain), they are still pretty much the same unpretentious guys who shifted around in their seats at the stuffy restaurant where I ate dinner with them last year. JC Chasez, 25, is the only one who seems to be maturing a little. He’s acquired an appreciation of good food and wine, plus he seems pretty devoted to his smoking-hot girlfriend. And all of this causes some player hating from the guys.
So when the meal from the hotels five- star restaurant is brought into the conference room, JC is the only one who is into it. Lance got chicken Caesar salad and Joey, 24, ordered the steak and fries, while Justin brought up a sandwich and chips from the deli across the street and Chris has 2 taco supremes delivered from the Bell (“Rich people’s food sucks”, he says). After downing his entire sea bass dinner in an astounding three minutes and waiting for his highly anticipated creme brulee dessert to appear, JC makes the mistake of saying, “Yall don’t know good food.” That’s when the attacks are launched.
“You look at art and drink wine,” Joey accuses.
“If we get a day off in the city, JC will go to an art museum,” Chris adds shaking his head. “Its because of his new girlfriend. He wasn’t like this before”
When I ask Chris what JC’s girlfriend, Bobbie Grund, does, Chris says, “I think she is a professional girlfriend.”
I think this is how the trouble with the Beatles began.
But it only gets worse for JC. He’s knee deep into an admittedly endless story about how the government created both the Slinky and Silly Putty, when the rest of the guys, who’ve been ignoring him, relaunch a conversation about who makes the best French fries (Checkers gets the most props).
“Do you want to hear this or not?” yells JC.
“No!” they all yell at once.
“Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.” And he does.
Afterward, to give a sense of both the player hating and his love for artsy stuff, JC says, “They were making fun of me this one time–”
“One time?” Justin asks. “We make fun of you all the time.”
“So I looked at my food and I said, I have such a colorful plate…”
Maybe JC deserves it.
*NSYNC, though tight, still divides up into cliques, and JC has no clique. Chris and Justin, not exactly and obvious pair, ride motorcycles and play golf. And Lance, who is still in his church clothes from this morning, somehow bonds over animals with Joey, who is wearing a black t-shirt that says, “Tell your mom I said Hi.” When Justin tells the band that Michael Jackson invited them to Neverland, Chris gets all excited about the dirt bike trails while Joey thinks monkey.
“I want to pet Bubbles,” he says enthusiastically.
“Could you imagine if we had a monkey around with us at all times?” asked Lance.
“We do,” says Chris, “We call him Joey. We can take him around with us now that he doesn’t poop in his pants.
But Lance and Joey are pretty serious about this primate plan. After all their tour bus has already counted two dogs, a chinchilla and a lemming as passengers. “It’s like Joey and Lance’s Animal Plannet on the back of the tour bus,” complains Chris.
Also, Lance was the first to Joey’s side after *NSYNC’s first truly manly moment: when Joey’s leg went though a trap door in the stage while the band was rehearsing for this tour, puncturing his skin and requiring three staples to seal up. “Lance grabbed my leg to stop the bleeding, and I was like, ‘What are you doing? That hurts,’” recalls Joey. “Fat came out of my leg. I have it in a jar at home. It looks like a shrimp.”
“It will be on eBay soon,” says Chris.
But when they’re not picking on one another, their excess energy – and even while they’re eating there is a lot of excess energy – goes into making noise. When Joey picks up on the sound of the air conditioner buzz, they all hum the same note. Later they bang on the table and stamp on the floor to an increasingly heated syncopation, daring each other to keep up. After dessert (a mini chocolate cake that Joey describes as looking like “a dinosaur turd”), Justin beat boxes while the rest sing a Busta Rhymes song. And, in their best performance of the evening, they chant Jay-Z’s “Can I Get a…” in the style of monks.
During the rapping monks bit, Justin, decked out in custom-made jeans with a leather guitar embroidered on the legs is doing his share for the environment by tearing apart the plastic rings from his six- pack of Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry Soda. “Save the fishes. Save the sea otters,” he chants after Chris catches him. “Actually I was just doing this to pass the time,” he says, trying to be the shaved-headed tough guy. But really, he was all about saving the fishes.
As part of the tough-guy pose, Justin avoids talking about his girlfriend, Britney Spears. Of course, the other guys don’t like it when she takes attention away from them anyway.
“This is about our freaking album. When Britney’s album comes out, they don’t ask *NSYNC questions,” Chris complains.
“Sure they do – that helps sell our albums,” Justin says.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re right,” they say.
Plus when you’re around guys, who wants to talk about girlfriends? They’d rather talk bout cars and motorcycles and video games. In fact, they’re so into video games that they act one out in concert for the song “The Game Is Over.”
Chris is into NBA Street, Joey likes Crash Bash and Justin’s got a dirt bike game, MX 2002, on his Playstation 2. Lance, meanwhile, is addicted to sony.com, where he takes on strangers in hearts and Wheel of Fortune, “There’s two old ladies from Denver I always play, and I kick their ass.” he says gleefully. The odds of the two women from Denver getting an opportunity to play him again are now very, very low.
That’s what Lance, in fact, plans on doing tonight after quickly checking out a DJ at a club called Vinyl. The rest of the guys are going to bed, leaving the rain-soaked girls outside disappointed.
They flew into New York City this morning so they could wake up mega – early the next day and sing three songs on the Today Show. They’re looking forward to seeing Katie Couric, who every one of the guys says is cute. In fact, JC goes as far as to say, “She’s hot, dude.” (No doubt the boys were crushed to discover Katie had the day off).
Before heading out, the guys once again throw me some stuff I can’t use, just torture me. Then Justin looks at the waiter, who is clearing away the dishes and laughing at things I cant print.
“Don’t tell anyone what you hear in this room,” Justin says
“Unless,” adds Chris “it gets me a date. Then you can tell them anything.”
To which Joey adds, “He likes burly men.”
Then Joey elaborates on that, saying things that, once again, I can’t print. Lance, getting up shakes his head and declares, “I have to go back to church now. I used it all up.”