When I first heard the news, from this brief Miami Herald story, I nearly raised my arms and cheered. Not because a man who defrauded about 1,000 investors out of some $300 million would face jail time, but because this corpulent pile of man-flesh gave us the Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, and O-Town. For that alone, the man deserves to be flogged and then have his name forcibly changed to Our Nation's Shame.
The whole story has been slowly unraveling over the last few months. Even Beloved Governor Charlie Crist may catch heat from it, as dark allegations have surfaced that, as attorney-general, he inhibited investigations into the despicable Pearlman's fraudulent activities.
Sure, at first, Pearlman may look like Philip Seymour Hoffman's morbidly obese brother:
But don't let the jolly exterior fool you. If the allegations are to be believed, while Pearlman was unleashing the boy-band crime against humanity upon the world, he was also losing millions, and his start-up company that sold a savings account scheme was essentially a money funnel, from which he would take money from investors and use it to pay off his debts.
For months, Pearlman had been underground, ignoring subpoenas and debt collectors. Most of his possessions were sold off last Tuesday. But that ignores the fact that, in a just world, Pearlman would've been dealt with before any of this happened.
Fittingly enough, Pearlman got his start in business in the blimp industry, and it was on an airship ride that he met the New Kids on the Block and realized he could create completely carbon copies of this cookie-cutter band, then make a mint exploiting them and the tin ears of millions of tween pop-culture aficionadoes who valued looks and buzz far more than talent.
The moment that realization dawned on him, the moment his quivering loins began to sweat at the thoughts of boy bands, he should have been cast from his own zeppelin.
Pearlman was a phony in every sense of the word. He created phony bands, ripped off his friends with a phony savings plan, held a phony doctorate from an online diploma mill, even maintained phony relationships with movie stars in an effort to glom onto limelight. He was crooked in the deepest possible way. Nothing about him had even the most remote whiff of truth. At least, that's what I remember from the one time I met him.
It was at the 50th Birthday party for K.C. of KC and the Sunshine Band fame, back in Jan. 2001. As a music journalist, I had been invited to the soiree, which was held at the old Hialeah racetrack. Ice sculptures, open bars, scantily clad men and women swinging on trapezes attached to the roof of the large tent the party was held in. The whole 99 yards.
I was drinking White Russians, as I recall, and talking with some fellow who claimed to be an R&B saxophonist from Chicago, when I caught a faint whiff of something that can only be described as brimstone. I turned, only to be nearly run over by a shockingly gigantic form — made even more monstrously grotesque by comparison to the rest of the crowd, the obsessively trim and fit of the Miami top tier. Faint drips of moist spittle jellied in the corners of his mouth. He looked at me as if he knew me for a moment, but then, realizing I was no one famous, at least not famous enough to be on the Pearlman radar, he waddled on. But not before I caught his eyes one final time. The friendliness had faded into a sort of baleful malevolence that I took to be his usual gaze.
I looked down at a shattered glass and a milky brown puddle, only then realizing that I had dropped my cocktail. I loosened my tie nervously — it was a formal affair, and I wore a black suit with a splashy Jerry Garcia tie — and said hoarsely, "What the hell was that?"
"Man, that was Lou Pearlman," the saxophonist informed me.
I nodded uncertainly, expecting to see the Backstreet Boys in tow. But while pulchritudinous young men galivanted everywhere, none of them appeared to be in a boy band. Even Pearlman's form was soon lost in the large crowd, and I thought no more about him except to say to the sax player, "It smells like bullshit."
The musician took that to mean I thought he was lying to me about the man's identity, though I was actually trying to explain that my brush with Pearlman, however brief, had given me the impression that he was a colossal con artist. This led to a heated disagreement, as I had had too many White Russians and had a difficult time explaining myself. I left the party and headed to the parking lot, where I was jumped by a trio of Hispanic fellows, who tried to pummel and rob me, and except for my animalistic howling, which drew the attention of security, they would surely have succeeded.
I'm sure that last part is Pearlman's fault as well, I just can't figure out how. Thugs in his employ? But why? And was the saxophonist in on the whole thing? Anyway, the bastards slashed at me with something sharp, cutting one of my pants legs open but narrowly missing flesh. They destroyed a perfectly good $400 suit, though, and if there's some sort of class-action suit against Pearlman, I want in. That fat bastard owes me.