I almost married Joey McIntyre. Okay maybe MARRIED is a strong word. I almost was in the RUNNING to marry him – and for a short, tiny moment in history (like legit only 24 hours), he knew who I was separate from all of his millions of fans. He also thought I was 19 when really I was only 15, but I digress.
Lets start at the beginning. Celebrity Crushes. Lots of us have them when we are young. It’s a strange phenomenon as a tween/teen. From writing their last names as our on the front of our school folders, all the way to traveling miles to see shows, collecting bins of movies, photos and magazines, entering ridiculous contests in the hopes to catch a moment with these people. It shapes our likes and dislikes in our real life relationships and crushes. Every person I have ever dated, whether I want to admit it or not, was similar in either personality or looks, to my 3 main teen crushes. I truly think the process is important. It’s a way to feel connected to something bigger than yourself. A type of fantasy land where you think anything is possible, and you just MAY BE good enough – because said celebrity isn’t able to see you in real life and tell you that you aren’t. It’s what all of our self-esteems needed at that point in our lives. When I was coyly kissing a magazine page, I was a queen in my mind.
In the 80s and 90s we had young teen celebrities that we were exposed to either via TV sitcoms or movies. No internet to speak of to connect us to their lives, TMZ didn’t exist. Our version of the Internet was the TEEN MAGAZINE: Bop, Tiger Beat, 16, Bopper, etc. If I had to calculate the amount of money I spent on those magazines, I would say it would be comparable to a college education. They started simple but then got UBER fancy, with pull out posters, bifolds and holograms. Some were ALL pin ups and no articles, and by articles I mean “See what Johnny Depp does on the weekends” or “Are you the right girl for Christian Slater?” And my favorites were the “Win a date with_____”! As someone that now works for a company with tons of photographers, I have yet to figure out how those magazine photographers managed to capture what they did – the way each heartthrob looked into your soul and made you feel like they were looking ONLY at you and wanted to be with you in real life.
In 1984 – I stumbled across a TV show called Silver Spoons. Looking back, the premise of the show was SCARY white rich stuff. Rich kid comes from boarding school to find his rich real dad being an adult child, he quickly befriends local obnoxious kid (played by a little Jason Bateman) and then enter the one black character, his dads manager named Dexter Stuffins (WHO even DECIDED that?!) and his hip, breakdancing kid Alfonso (played by Alfonso Ribiero). I totally didn’t care what it was about. I was 10 years old and had my first crush. I actually don’t remember the entirety of any episode. I was too busy gazing into the eyes of the main character, Ricky Schroder. Baby faced, blue eyes and a smile that could knock me out – I was smitten. I started taking down the art in my room, and taping up photos from magazines of Ricky.
Two years later came my first real MOVIE crush. A little movie called Stand By Me came out. I was 12 and totally becoming a horror fan. I knew that this was an adaptation of a Stephen King book, and that’s what got me to see it. At 12 I wasn’t allowed to watch a rated R movie, so of course I saw it at a friends house. There was a DEAD BODY. There were people SMOKING and talking about BOOBS. There was lots of cursing. But most importantly, there was a little known newbie actor named River Phoenix. He was a bad boy who ended up stealing the hearts of the entire audience by the end, including mine. Ricky was very quickly replaced by River. I watched every movie as he grew through his career. I listened to his music and followed his life through the magazines as best as I could. I STILL feel a twinge of jealousy of actress Martha Plimpton (now in the show The Real O’Neils) because she was his longtime girlfriend.
I said hello to him once. It was a moment I will never forget. It was 1989 and my aunt Bridget called me and said “Mariangela, did you hear? River Phoenix is filming a movie in TACOMA! I will drive you out there if you want to go!” It was the summer before my freshman year in high school – so I played it cool but inside I was screaming. “Sure I will go, maybe I can say hey” which was code for “You are my most favorite aunt ever, I will try to not pee myself.” I carefully planned my outfit based on every single thing I had read about him in magazines. I got matching faux round eye glasses, no makeup, wore all black and my Doc Martens. He was filming I Love You To Death at a local pizza place. I stood patiently with a small group of people waiting to say hi. I was calm. I tried SUPER hard to act like I didn’t care. I kept telling myself “River wouldn’t WANT you to care, so you don’t care” but really I cared so much. He walked over, and shyly made eye contact with each of us, and said hello. He looked at me and said “Hey…” and I said “Hey…” and then he smiled like halfway and walked away. And just like that, my heart exploded and I was sure he wanted to date me, but alas, he kept walking. Three years later that same aunt called me, asking me if I had heard the news of his sudden death. And while I was sad, I had already moved onto my 3rd and final major crush. I had already begun the quest to become Mrs. Joey Mcintyre.
As I exited middle school and was ushered into high school, the MTV era had begun. MTV VIDEO channel to be clear. All videos, all the time. I was hip to boy bands, but basically a LITTLE too young to appreciate New Edition and too old to have patience for NSYNC or Backstreet Boys. Enter New Kids on the Block, stage left. 5 guys from Boston, MA. with thick accents and matchy clothing. I bought all of their albums. I quickly became obsessed with the youngest member, Joey, for many reasons that, at the time, seemed like they were easily clinchers for marriage.
He was a Capricorn like me, he loved old school hiphop and also the Rat Pack including Frank Sinatra and all the crooners that had played in my house since I was a baby. He wore gaudy jewelry and large prints and drove a Mazda Miata. I was an Italian in the 80s so all of those things were part of my life’s natural progression. See what I mean? It was clear.
In 1989 they announced their Coke-sponsored “Magic Summer Tour” that took them around the world for 2 years. The first Seattle date I wasn’t able to score a ticket for – they sold out the King Dome. So I was focused on studying their set via the Disney tour they televised, and saved all my money to get the very best seats possible.
Tacoma Dome, February 13, 1991. I spent $250 on a 2nd row center seat. I had my friends help me make a sign. A huge, six-foot sign to be clear. I knew the exact time to put up the sign because I had watched their Disney special 617 times and knew it by heart) — it was when they were sitting on stools for a slow ballad, so they could read it. I told all the girls in my row the plan, to help me hold it up, and then vigorously point at me as they read, so they knew who it was from. What did the sign say, you ask? It was a “doctored” verse of one of their early songs and said “Hey Joe, I’m a Capricorn, and if you can get with that then check Me Out!” So my faithful minions did just as I ordered, and held up the sign. The guys all read it, teased Joey and he laughed, smiled and waved. As they did the next song, he kept making eye contact, and smiling, and I SWEAR he was blushing. Now just barely 16 years old, I LOOKED like I was 19 – as I matured very young. Fully developed and tall, wearing light makeup, dark red lipstick, a short mini skirt and a black and white polkadot shirt, similar to one I had seen him wear in a magazine shoot one time. I looked perfect. So as he made eye contact he mouthed “How old are you!?” to which I shot back with fingers, all ten and then nine. I figured he was 2 years older, he didn’t want a baby that was freshly 16. He wanted an older woman, so I told him I was as old as I looked. He smiled and kept dancing. Then they had a set and wardrobe change. The lights came up partially and mood music played as we waited.
At this point what happened next is still unreal. As I am giggling with my friends about the fact that he actually SAW the sign and read it – I feel a tap on my shoulder. I whipped around and saw a GIGANTIC body guard. I immediately thought I was getting in trouble for my sign. I began to say “I’m sorry…” and he said “Joey McIntyre would like to invite you to his hotel after the show. Do you know where the Sorrento Hotel is?”
**WE HAVE JUST LOST CABIN PRESSURE**
Now I need to pause here to say that I am not the FAN GIRL type. I am prepared, calm and collected and always try to stay cool in the face of cool people. Mainly because I watch fan girls freak out, cry, pass out, and it’s so crazy to me. If anything I say nothing and don’t want to bother them. I vowed from a young age I would never be that girl, so I nicely asked the 10-foot man to repeat himself. He smiled, nodded, and repeated himself, and it was clear he had done this dance before. I am pretty sure it was the closest I have had to a fan girl freak out ever. I said OH MY GOD about 200 times. Every girl around me was either immediately my best friend or worst enemy. The next series of events made me have deep regret for several years.
My parents had driven myself and a few friends to the Tacoma Dome. The deal was, one of my friends parents would bring us home. I HAD to see the end of the show and the encore, I had paid $250 for that seat. I sat through the entire rest of the show, almost unable to focus. They had a sparkly encore and jetted off stage. At that moment I realized what I had to do. I was CRAFTY I could figure this out. I had $100 in my pocket for merchandise. That Hangin’ Tough hoodie was gonna have to wait. Now remember, the Tacoma Dome was SOLD OUT and I was in row 2, which means 20,000 people getting out before me. It took me almost an HOUR to get out of that stadium. Once outside, I found my friends, and they basically told me I should come home and not lie to my parents. Girl. Stop. I told them to tell their dad that I had found another ride home with another friend and made them swear to me that they would not tattle.
It took me time, of course, to get out of the ride home situation and figure out that I needed to call a CAB. In 1991, at a boy band concert in Tacoma, there were no taxis just waiting. So I found a guard that called me a taxi. The taxi cost me $85 because of course 20,000 people were trying to drive at the same time. FML. Didn’t everyone know I was trying to go meet my true love and that he would probably propose on the spot and we would live happily ever after!? If I remember correctly, the concert ended around 9:30PM. I didn’t make it to the Sorrento Hotel in downtown Seattle until 11:00pm. This was on a Wednesday which was also a SCHOOL NIGHT. When I pulled up, there are TONS of fans, screaming and waving to curtain-pulled windows, hoping one was the correct room. Two huge tour busses, engines running, parked out front. I make my way through the girls, because I actually have a reason to be there. I search for the guard who spoke to me. FINALLY I find him, in a mad rush I said “I’M HERE! Sorry it took me a long time! But I’m here, it’s me, I’m here!” He was so nice but his face was somber when he said “Where were you? Joey was looking for you! They have been here a few hours already, and now are about to leave for Portland! They have a show tomorrow night so we have to leave tonight!”
I AM JACK’S WAVES OF REGRET.
I was crushed. I didn’t know how to react. I cannot cry. I will not be one of those people. Be cool. I cried with no tears. Sure enough, moments later, the crew started bringing their bags to the bus. The guys appear, the fans go crazy. I am standing at the front of the group, tears welling up in my eyes but swallowing them back to be cool and brave. I see the guard whisper and point to Joey that I was there. He comes over, says “I am sorry I have to leave, hope you enjoyed the show. Oh, and nice shirt” winks, smiles, touches my hand, and disappeared into the bus. I just stood there. Frozen.
The busses start to leave and I feel a TAP on my shoulder. I turn around and IT’S MY DAD. Apparently one of the girls had tattled and he came to find me. The conversation went like this:
Dad: What the HELL do you think you are doing?
Me: He invited ME!
Dad: Oh really, and what exactly were you going to do when you got up to that hotel room??
Me: Um, probably just hang out, watch TV?
Dad: MMhmmmm pretty sure you are grounded for a year.
But it was such a valid question, looking back: What exactly did I think I was going to do, exactly?! I was 16. He was 18. Back then I really THOUGHT we would watch TV and maybe kiss. Sex was the furthest thing from my mind. Ok, not the FURTHEST but certainly the scariest. Marriage, on the other hand, was not. I cried the whole way home. The next week I searched the “I saw you” sections and articles interviewing them after their following few shows – thinking maybe, just maybe he would remember me, and regret not watching TV with me, and he would give me a shout out secretly. But it never happened.
And just like that, that was the end of my teen crush years. Looking back, it was such a FUN time of my life. I felt free to dream and fantasize. I felt pretty and I felt special. It’s so true that those young age crushes help form our loves down the road. Every male and female I have dated over the years and now the man I have been married to for 20 years – all resemble something I loved in each of those movie stars and musicians that was mostly up to that point, unattainable. Every woman I have met that looks like Alyssa Milano I immediately crush on. I think all androgynous women are gorgeous because looking back, Ricky and River were both VERY pretty and gender neutral to me. Even Joey was very PRETTY. I loved GOOD big beautiful teeth and big smiles, a slight over bite, bright blue eyes, a dark side, humor, musicality, kindness. If you have met Ryan, you know I attained my dream man, all wrapped up into one.
Loving what we cannot have is a part of life. It’s a part of growing up. NKOTB still tours and even has cruises. I have never once considered going. I am a different person now. I have grown up. I have seen photos of Joey’s lovely wife, and his gorgeous children – and he has such a beautiful family. I even feel weird saying I have seen those things. It feels so invasive now as I am older. Their music and his voice guided me through my years when I was trying to figure out who I was. All of my crushes, unbeknownst to them, made me feel special and like a queen at times. They gave me courage to talk to real boys, security to sing out loud, and even the ability to say no to people down the road. I got out of them what I needed. I have no desire to continue the saga of what could have been. I have never once wondered. I have always been grateful for that night at the Sorrento – such a fun story to tell – and even more grateful that it went down the way it did. I am pretty firm that my love affair with the band and the man – ended that night at the Sorrento. It almost got TOO close to breaking that fantasy barrier for me. Everything happens the way it is supposed to – I am a firm believer in that. Regardless, when ‘Please Don’t Go Girl’ comes on Sirius FM 90s station, I turn it up and sing for everyone to hear. That’s my jam.