Yes, that's me in the pic. I'm on the right of Donnie, my sister is on the left. (The 80's were SUCH a bad era for hair.)
the ornate staircase to the front door of the hotel, nothing prepared me for
the feeling I would have when I threw open the hotel doors and came
face-to-face with none other than Donnie Wahlberg.
“Donnie….” I whispered in shock, not quite believing the wild but big-hearted “bad boy” of the group was standing two feet away from me, close enough to touch.
Right behind me from the doors flew my sister, my cousin, and my mom, all crashing into me, one right after the other, like a skit from the Three Stooges. Donnie looked up at all of us and smiled his signature sheepish grin, leaving us all standing there, including my mother, with mouths agape.
“Hi, there,” he said.
My mom found her voice first.
“Will you marry my daughters?” she blurted, causing Donnie to chuckle and us to turn seven shades of red.
“Of course,” he said sweetly. “They’re beautiful.”
To his credit – Donnie told that lie without a hint of insincerity in his voice – as back then, we were all a hot mess of poofy bangs and bad perms and shoulder pads. Not to mention, we were about eight years his junior, and I’m sure he had beautiful women his own age throwing themselves at him, night after night. But he gazed at us like we were beautiful, which made us feel beautiful. And that indirect promise of marriage would one day, many years later, be sealed with a kiss; something that at the time, had someone told me that, my 11-year-old mind would have most certainly not been able to comprehend it.
We happily got our pictures taken with both Donnie and Danny that night, and though my sister and I didn’t get to meet our favorite New Kids, Jordan and Joe, this meeting set the stage for my later secession from Team Joey to Team Donnie.
Flash forward to about a year later, when the New Kids made their final stop in Nashville; an event that would be our swan song as NKOTB fans, at least for many years to come. We were all getting older, as were the New Kids, and soon time and circumstance and life would dismantle both the group and our ragged little band of sisters. But for one night, we basked in the glow of their music, just as we had all the times before, swaying, singing along, weeping…never imagining that we wouldn’t see them perform in concert again for another 20 years.
After this show, we all felt a little more letdown than usual that it was over, as though we almost sensed that change was in the air. Seeing the sadness on all of our faces, my mom perked us all up when she suggested we drive to the amphitheater where the show was held the night before and see if we could find any fun souvenirs.
Off we went – this motley crew of my mom and a gaggle of pre-teen and teenage girls – me, my sister, and four of my cousins. Somewhere along Interstate 24, one of us (I feel certain it was probably me) came up with the bright idea to try and sneak into their dressing rooms once we got there. Imagine the gold mine of keepsakes we could probably unearth in there! We excitedly darted out of the car when we pulled up to Starwood Amphitheater, screeching to an abrupt halt when we discovered the two security guards posted outside what appeared to be the dressing rooms.
We stopped in our tracks…all starting to pace around a bit, wondering what our next move should be.
“What do we do now?” asked my sister, always the logical, pragmatic one. “We should probably just leave.”
“No!” I insisted. “We can’t just turn around and leave after coming all the way here. Maybe we can talk them into letting us in the dressing room.” I was always up for a challenge, even at the age of twelve. A challenge was much more appealing to me than an easy win, as I reveled in achieving what others said was impossible.
“I’m going to go talk to them,” I said boldly, pulling my shoulders back sassily. “What’s the worst that can happen? If they say no, we’ll leave. But if they say yes…”
Without waiting for my mom’s permission, I marched up the walkway to the two large, muscle-bound security guards, my brown eyes flashing in determination, my mind already racing at how the conversation would go. A woman on a mission needs no permission, my young, Single Woman spirit told me, and within a few minutes, I had sweet talked us past the security guards and into the dressing room of the New Kids on the Block. The not-yet-been-cleaned dressing room; a chaotic, messy, glorious mecca of NKOTB stash, left behind the night before by the guys in their rush to hop aboard their buses and move on to the next city.
For several minutes, we gleefully poked through the swag – open fan mail, stuffed animals, half eaten birthday cake (it had been Donnie’s birthday the night before) – while the security guards watched with mild amusement. Finally, one leaned over and whispered to my mom, loud enough for all of us to hear: “There’s underwear in the corner by the bathroom.”
The minute the words left his mouth, a stampede of crazy, giggling girls hurled themselves across the room, pouncing on the mound of abandoned underwear like a winning lottery ticket. “Oh my gosh! Oh my GOSH!” we shrieked, not thinking twice about the fact that we were poking and prodding through a pile of sweaty, dirty underwear that had been worn by five teenage guys who, while they were the loves of our lives, were also human and fully capable of perspiring and passing gas and, yes, even leaving skidmarks. Did any of that occur to us as we cradled the underwear in our arms like we were holding the Holy Grail (which to us, might as well have been)? Nope. We were so overcome by the knowledge that these scraps of cloth had been home to the guys’ bodies, we couldn’t have cared less what types of germs we were swimming around in. We deliriously divvied up the underwear like we would a stash of untapped diamonds and clutched our treasures to our chests the entire way home, satisfied that while we didn’t get next to our guys, we did manage to get next to their tighty whities.
A few years later, long after we had abandoned our New Kids buttons and dolls and t-shirts, my mom came across the underwear, stuffed in one of our drawers (no pun intended) and decided it was finally time to wash them.
She innocently retrieved the undies from the drawer and ran them through the wash, not thinking twice about it when she tossed them into the dryer with the rest of the laundry.
Later that morning, my dad came along in a hurry, scooping the first pair of briefs out of the dryer that he could find. He was in such a rush to get to work, he unknowingly pulled on a pair of the New Kids on the Block’s underwear and wore them to the office. I should also note that by this time, he had graduated from law school and become the Assistant District Attorney of our small town. For an entire day, the Assistant D.A. walked around in the underwear of an 18-year-old, wondering why he was having to stop every five minutes to yank the gargantuan wedgie out of his rear.
Needless to say – he was Hangin’ Tight instead of Hangin’ Tough that day - and came home more than a little irritated at my mom for shrinking his underwear. It was only after my mom discovered his mistake that they both guffawed in laughter at the fact that my dad had donned Donnie Wahlberg’s or Jordan Knight’s hand-me-down underwear.
Only in my family.
My mom rewashed the underwear and tucked them away for safekeeping in a drawer, where they stayed until 2008, when I discovered them while packing up some of my keepsakes from my parent’s house to move to Nashville. I went through the drawer of memories – the scrapbooks, the posters, a few fan letters we wrote but never mailed – and a very nostalgic feeling took over. The feeling stayed with me throughout the next few weeks, until one day a couple of months later, I came upon an announcement in passing as I was flipping through the channels one night looking for something to watch on TV.
“The New Kids on the Block reunite!” the headlines screamed, and though the teeny bopper in me had long been replaced by a mature woman, my heart stopped and my face instantly flushed as my NKOTB radar surged back to life. I grabbed the nearest phone and punched in my sister’s phone number at lightning speed.
“Oh my gosh…did you HEAR?!” she screeched as soon as she picked up the phone, seeing my name on the caller ID.
“YES! We have to go!!!!!”
TO BE CONTINUED...