An employee at a Seattle Banana Republic told me he used to press his penis into his sister's New Kids on the Block bedsheets and pretend Donnie Wahlberg was giving him a blowjob. He refused to continue his story when he found out I was a journalist--which simultaneously disappointed and relieved me.Did producer Maurice Starr know exactly what he was doing when he created New Kids on the Block in 1984? Or did he, like Victor Frankenstein, have a moment of innocent inspiration that turned into an uncontrollable monster? Thanks to the success of Starr's NKOTB, what emerged during the '90s was a crop of prefabricated bands featuring moderate- to good-looking men who could deliver moderate- to good-sounding songs. Groups like Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync wooedhearts and wallets with a contradictory combination of saccharine lyrics and choreographed pelvic gyrations.The members of NKOTB are now in their late 30s, the Hanson brothers all have children of their own, and Backstreet Boyshave been reduced to a quartet (Kevin Richardson left the band to start a family in 2006). But they still haven't gone away, reuniting for massive nostalgia tours and releasing new, albeit less popular, records. As ex-BSB and 'N Sync manager Lou Pearlman once astutely noted, "I know exactly when boy bands will be over. When God stops making little girls." (Not to mention little boys who might grow up and work at Banana Republic.)Those little girls grow up to become adult women, and more important, they get jobs—meaning they earn more than a $10 allowance to spend on entertainment. The continued success of bands like NKOTB depends most heavily on their original fans. Fortunately for them, nostalgia sells. Three of the '90s' most popular boy bands, NKOTB, Hanson, and BSB, will perform at the Tacoma Dome, The Moore, and Marymoor Park respectively this fall. The following is a random sampling of Seattleites who were willing to go on record regarding their love—or hate—for the returning boys.New Kids on the BlockFan Name:Kim DreherAge: 32Occupation: Barista at Cherry Street Coffee House."One of the stipulations to being a popular girl in middle school was that you had to like New Kids. I remember going to Jennifer Alexander's house for a sleepover in sixth grade. She was the popular girl and had everything—the tapes, the posters, and even the bedsheets. I would still have a NKOTB cassette tape, except that it broke from being played too often. I used to love Marky Mark. He was the designated bad boy of the band. My son's father was also a bad boy, though...now I try to stay away from those."Reporter's note: Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg) was part of the Funky Bunch, not NKOTB. The only Wahlberg in NKOTB was Donnie. But the confusion is understandable, given that Donnie too could technically be considered a bad boy, since he shot ultimate badass Bruce Willis in 1999's The Sixth Sense.HansonHaters: Robby Marx and Adam Eddington.Ages: 23 and 34Occupations: Produce manager and salesperson at Stilnovich Corner Produce.Robby: "In seventh grade I had long hair because I was really into grunge. My girlfriend at the time loved Hanson and wanted me to get my hair layered so that I'd look like one of them. I refused. Aren't all the Hanson brothers dead now, anyway? I think I saw that on MTV..."Adam: "The first time I saw the music video I totally thought they were little blonde girls who weren't very cute. What I remember most about them, though, is that song 'MMMBop.' It drove me crazy. Not like cool crazy, but rip-my-ears-off crazy. I'm pretty sure that a few years later, the drummer from Hanson got hit by a car. It stunted his growth for life. He's been the same height since like, 1995."Reporter's note: The Hansons have not been in a car accident, nor have any of them died. A couple of months ago, several newspapers ran a story with the headline "Hanson teen seriously injured," but the victim bears no relation to anyone from the band Hanson. He is, however, from Hanson, Massachusetts. If it's any consolation to the guys at Corner Produce, the eldest Hanson brother, Isaac, had one of his ribs removed last year because it was obstructing blood flow to his arm.Backstreet BoysFan Name: Anna ChanAge: 23Occupation: Unemployed—but she just returned stateside from a teaching stint in China, so give her a break."I've seen BSB in concert three times. My cousin and I went to the BSB concert in seventh grade. We made our own shirts and I printed out the lyrics to all their songs and studied them during class so that I'd be ready. I saw them again in Madrid when I was studying abroad, and a couple months ago I went to their concert in Shanghai. Howie looked right at me. I swear. Even my friend says so."Reporter's note: Chan is the only person on the planet that I'm aware of who bought the BSB's sixth album Unbreakable last year. She is single and her favorite Backstreet Boy is Nick Carter. Sorry, Howie.As for me, I wish I could say I spent junior high rocking out to Nirvana. But nothing could be further from the truth. BSB were in their prime in 1999, when they came out with their most successful single "I Want It That Way." The song hit #1 in 25 countries, and, I shit you not, was even nominated for a Grammy. I remember being a breathless 13-year-old listening to the track on repeat and wondering which of the boys I'd end up marrying—with the exception of Howie. No girl in her right mind wanted Howie.Fast forward to 2008, and I've outgrown my obsession...or so I thought. The second I heard the Boys were coming to town, I squealed like a pig who'd just gotten its trough filled with donuts. I immediately texted my girlfriend: "OMG. BSB r coming 2 Marymoor!!!" Her response? "EEEEK!" We not only have tickets, but neon-pink "I heart Nick" and "I heart Brian" signs for this Saturday's concert. And though there are bound to be a couple thousand people in the crowd, I'm getting my highlights retouched so that I look extra good—you know, so I can catch Nick's eye and get invited to dinner after the show. I tried to fight it, but I can't deny true love: I still swoon over BSB's schmaltzy pop ballads. And I'm torn between feeling smug and ashamed, because it's suckers like me who prevent these over-the-hill boy bands from fading away firstname.lastname@example.org*****Backstreet Boys Marymoor Park, 6046 W. Lake Sammamish Pkwy. N.E., 628-0888, www.concertsatmarymoor.com. $39.50–$59.50. 7 p.m. Sat., Sept. 6.Hanson The Moore, 1932 Second Ave., 467-5510, www.themoore.com. $23–$33. 7 p.m. Mon., Sept. 8.New Kids on the Block With Natasha Bedingfield. Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma, www.tacomadome.com. 8 p.m. Sat., Nov. 22.
Backstreet Boys Marymoor Park, 6046 W. Lake Sammamish Pkwy. N.E., 628-0888, www.concertsatmarymoor.com. $39.50–$59.50. 7 p.m. Sat., Sept. 6.Hanson The Moore, 1932 Second Ave., 467-5510, www.themoore.com. $23–$33. 7 p.m. Mon., Sept. 8.New Kids on the Block With Natasha Bedingfield. Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma, www.tacomadome.com. 8 p.m. Sat., Nov. 22.