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Ed Berthiaume column: New Kids fans still chasing boys around the Block
There is one certainty when it comes to boy bands in the pop music world. They grow up.
Less certain is whether any of their once-swooning fans will continue to care as they, too, navigate the roller coaster known as adulthood.
We pondered that very question in this space a few weeks ago as the reunited New Kids on the Block released their first album in nearly two decades and set out on an arena tour that makes its way to Milwaukee's Bradley Center Wednesday. We asked readers who fell for the boys 20 years ago to tell us, do you still care?
Today we share the responses from three readers — then teens, now adults — whose answers are yes, yes and well, duh, of course.
Today's New Kids fans are in their early 30s, still refer to themselves as Blockheads and have learned to ignore the frequent pop culture ridicule that traditionally lands at the doorstep of boy bands that once dominated the pages of Tiger Beat magazine.
Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Danny Wood, Joey McIntyre and Donnie Wahlberg may not get the respect of pop culture critics — it should be noted, however, that the new album, "The Block," has been getting some surprisingly stellar reviews — but their fans still have their back.
Snicker if you will, but 32-year-old Angie Stevens of Waupaca says NKOTB was among her best memories from her early teen years.
"When I was 14 years old, the New Kids on the Block were my substitute boyfriends," she said. "I was the classic awkward teenager — braces, acne, glasses and a perm gone wrong. Worshipping the New Kids was my great escape from teenage angst."
Teri Peterson, also 32 and from Waupaca, said she already bought two versions of the new CD, downloaded all of the music from iTunes, bought five VIP tickets to the Milwaukee show and waited in line for 16 hours when the New Kids appeared recently at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.
"We New Kids fans have taken a lot of criticism over the years — and, sadly, it continues still — for standing by our group," Peterson said. "When the group announced the reunion tour they made it clear that this reunion is for us, to show that we weren't crazy all those years ago."
Trisha Montalbano of Greenville is 30, married and the mother of four. But the mere mention of Donnie Wahlberg and company melts her as if she were 13 years old and jammin' to that "Hangin' Tough" album all over again.
She and best friend Kim Thompson road tripped to Minneapolis for the Mall of America appearance and spent much of the night eluding security in a successful attempt to be first in line. That got them a coveted spot in the meet-and-greet, and for Montalbano a hug from Wahlberg that she's been waiting for since her teen years.
"I was a mess of emotions the whole day — two days actually — just knowing I was going to be able to meet Donnie," she said. "Then I was forward enough to ask for a hug, and he stood up and welcomed me. Then I couldn't let go. My brain said 'let go' but my body said 'hold on, you have waited 15 years for this hug.' I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that the sight of them would completely make me lose myself."
The security guard, Montalbano notes, was very polite when he peeled her off of Wahlberg.
"You know, when people ask, 'What famous person would you like to meet someday?' Donnie was always it."
There's still a little teenager left in all of us, and those Blockheads are proud of it.
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