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Date: Nov 05, 2099
Fans by the thousands scream and wait for kings of teen pop By Nick Carter
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: Nov. 5, 1999
"Omigod, omigod, omigod!" screamed one.
"Nick, Nick, Niiicckk!" pleaded another.
"Yes, yes, yessssss!" shrieked a third.
A visit from America's reigning teen-pop kings, the Backstreet Boys.
The group's tour bus had just crept up to the gates of the Bradley Center, worked its way through the teeming, screaming teen masses in the forecourt, and stopped near the back entrance so that Nick, A.J., Howie, Kevin and Brian could disembark.
"Did you see it? Did you?" screamed Marcia Tubbs, 17. She was among the first to rush up against the metal gates for a glimpse of the 8-foot path the boys traversed between the bus and the building. "I swear Kevin waved to me and made eye contact, I'm sure of it."
Tubbs and her two sisters, Evie and Jan, had traveled from South Bend, Ind., to see the band whose "Millennium" tour sold out all 39 dates in about an hour. The band whose latest album, also dubbed "Millennium," has sold more than 8 million copies and is certain to be the year's top seller.
Teen and preteen girls had waited hours for this moment. By about 5 p.m. - 21/2 hours before the concert's start - the number holding a vigil had grown to about 1,500. Some were seeing the band for the first time. Some had already attended several of the tour's dates. Most were displaying their devotion with chaperoning moms or dads respectfully keeping their distance a few hundred feet away.
Taking in this grand moment was a ho-hum Al Navarro, an "official Millennium-tour memorabilia vendor."
"This is my break time, when the bus rolls in and all the girls chase after it," Navarro said while making a seat for himself on the concrete edge of a Bradley Center garden pot. Navarro's been with the tour since it began in September, hawking the band's posters, pictures, binoculars and glow lights. "It's about the only break I get during the evening until after the show."
For the fans, the only breaks involved hearts.
"The Milwaukee show was the only date we could get tickets for," said Fort Wayne, Ind., resident Joann Diehm, 47, who drove up for the show with her husband, Bill, and daughter Taryn, 13.
"We tried first for tickets in Auburn Hills (Mich.), Cleveland, Chicago and Cincinnati," added Joann, "but the Milwaukee date was the only one we could get tickets to."
But the $30 to $40 face-value price "was never a consideration," she said. "Once we heard about the tour, the only question was whether we'd be able to buy regular tickets or have to go through a broker." She snared three fairly good seats during that one-hour window of opportunity back in August.
"Bill and I decided that this would be an early Christmas present for Taryn."
So, early Thursday, the Diehm clan set out from Fort Wayne, hitting Milwaukee by early Thursday afternoon. They plan to head back to Fort Wayne immediately after the show - stops for gas only.
Not all of the devout were teenagers. Shannon Fuestig, 27, came up for the show from Zion, Ill., with her 17-year-old sister and her two friends.
In the last month, the four have attended three Backstreet Boys dates in Chicago and scored front-row seats at Wednesday night's show in Madison. For some, they went through brokers and paid roughly double the face value, Fuestig said. "Yeah, we're a little bit fanatical."
Holding down the Milwaukee contingent of Backstreet Boys faithful were Waukesha teenagers Nicole Balistreri and Jessie Hancock, both 14, with Jessie's mom, Teresa, tagging along. The three spent the last week constructing life-size "superhero-style" cardboard cutouts of each Backstreet Boy, which they hoped to pass along - ideally in person - to the band.
"They were just obsessed," said Teresa Hancock. "They worked away on them every night for the last five days."
"Nicole and I wanted to make sure we had all the details done and get here a little bit early - so we both caught colds this morning so we couldn't go to school," said Jessie.
Though the two constructed detailed images of all the boys, each has a favorite.
Nicole: "Nick Carter. Definitely - but not only for his looks; it's based purely on musical talent. If he was a bum on the street, I'd still like him."
Jesse: "Brian (Littrell) - just because he's such an angel."
Providing headquarters to the frenzied scene around the Bradley Center was the broadcast van for local radio station WXSS-FM (Kiss FM, 103.7). "I've seen Hanson, I've seen 'N Sync - but neither could whip up this type of hype," said on-air personality Greg Tanner. "These fans are much more devoted, or you might say obsessed."
Carmen Sandoval, another Kiss employee, said: "There are some very young girls out there with very intense feelings about the band. The winner of our 'Backstreet on Your Street' contest had plastered the entire four sides of her house with stuff from the station and posters of the band."
Navarro estimated that the Backstreet Boys entourage included about 150 members. "After a while, it's like one big traveling family; there are 12 people alone who do nothing but sell souvenirs, like me. Down the line, I'm hoping to move up to the T-shirt division."
Nick Carter of the Journal Sentinel staff is no relation to Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. Sorry, girls.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Nov. 5, 1999.
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