Put a white beard and red suit on Louis J. Pearlman and you might think you're looking at Santa Claus. But Pearlman, the man who launched the Backstreet Boys, sees himself instead, as the next Berry Gordy, the
Pearlman, a cousin to Art Garfunkel fame, had aspired to be a musician himself, but never made the cut. So he turend his attention to business, starting a company that operated advertising blimps. His fleet soon expanded from blimps to luxury jets, which he charted the likes of Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. The remains of a $950 million empire that now includes about a dozen companies.
One day, the 40-something executive noticed that the latest celebs to charter one of his plane for his whopping $250,000 price were a bunch of teenagers-- the New Kids On The Block. He wondered how this teen act could afford his rates. Cousin Art is the one that a group like New Kids On The Block was pulling in millions of dollars a year from album sales, concerts and merchindise. Checking out a New Kids concert himself, Pearlman became a true beliver in the power of teen pop. as he told Fort Worth Star Telegram,"I thought to myself,'I am on the wrong side of the business.'"
Although New Kids and other '80's bubblegum groups fizzeled out in the early '90s, Pearlman remained convinced that teen pop was the way to go. He relocated to Orlando (where he knew he could find a lot of talented young singers thanks to the presence of Disney World, Universal Studios, and Nickelodeon), hired former New Kids road Mangers, Johnny and Donna Wright, and began looking for the "next big thing".
He found them one day when three friends, Aj McLean, Howie Dourgouh, and Nick Carter, came in to audtion. Pearlman was impressed, but he offered some suggestions. First, he advised that they bring in two more members. When that was done, he gave them some songs and ran the quintet through their paces to make sure they worked well togther. Liking what he saw and heard, he signed the new group to an exclusive contract.
Musical Boot Camp
Trans Contential Media's Orlando headquarters--nicknamed "Boy Toy University"--has often been called boot camp for performers. It's an apt discription. Aspiring music artists make the cut at TransCon join a team where singing and dancing is considered seriuous buisenss--after all, millions of dollars are at stake.
"I think it is like a boot camp," Pearlman told The Times Newspapers. "These guys work under strenous condintion so that they are prepared for any eventuality. And that's what sucess in this business is all about."
Pearlman certainly knows about sucess-- though it has come with a price. As he's raised his profile, some of his changes have chafed at what they consider his unseemly credit-grabbing.
'Nysnc's Chris Kirkpatrick recently told entainment weekly," Lou said 'I'll put money behind you'. Now, somehow, this has turned into, 'He started us.' You can take it anyway you want, but I started the group."
Thre was also that nasty little lawsuit that brought The Backstreet Boys against Pearlman, which was settled out of court. Though the two sides have made amends and the Boys still refer to Pearlman as the "Sixth Backstreet Boy", the legal action and war of words have hurt. In the Fort Worth star telegram, Pearlman admitted that at times he missed the early days when the Backstreet Boys used to rehearse in his drafty blimp warehouse. "I paid all the bills," Pearlman said,"and I took all the risk, and they showed gratitude. It would be nice to have them as my five sons..instead, it was like five sons with lawyers in between."
Since Backstreet Boys qualitfy as businss partners instead of off-spring, Pearlman could maybe settle for daughters instead. Trans Contintal's "Big Poppa" is now raising a new gernation of pop bands that includes all-girl groups, and he's detirmend that he's not going to malke the same mistakes twice. So far, it seems to be working.
"He's giving a few lucky kids an opertunity to achive their dreams," Nikki DeCoach, of Pearlman's girl group Innosense, has said. Without Lou, we would be nowhere."
To him, that's music to his ears.