Since we pretty much considered our girl-cousins on both sides dead to us in the late ’80’s when they fell like Bear Stearns stock for the New Kids on the Block, there was no way in hell we’d go anywhere near midtown on this Day of the Historic NKOTB Reunion. Liz Daniel felt differently as of 5 a.m. today, so for your high-pitched squealing pleasure, we offer her on-the-ground breakdown of the Kids’ reunion appearance live on the TODAY show, featuring Joey McIntyre, Jordan Knight, Donnie Wahlberg and those other two no one ever remembers.
5:45 a.m.: I’m surprised not to see hordes of 30-year-old women on their way to the train — then again, I wouldn’t have known that the Kids would be on The Today Show if I wasn’t on their mailing list. I’m hoping the rain will keep some people away, thus increasing my chances to hug Joey.
6:30 a.m.: I arrive to find that the line into the courtyard goes down the block. As I walk down to the end, I hear numerous women uttering some variation of, “I didn’t think anyone else would be here!” Fortunately, the line moves quickly and after a quick bag-check I’m in the plaza. I find myself at the end of Today‘s courtyard, my line of sight to the “stage” (an area set up for an interview) nearly obscured by some branches with silk cherry blossoms all over them — Today is doing a fashion show later, we’re told, so we can’t shift the blossoms at all. Even so, everyone in my area asks every single production person who walks by if they could please do something about the damn branches. We want to see the Kids, and we don’t care about the fashion show. I wonder out loud if they’re even going to do the fashion show in the rain — and am irked but not surprised an hour later when they wind up doing the fashion show in the studio.
Most of the people around me are female, and most are in the 25-35 range. A few brave men are there to support their wives/girlfriends/friends, holding their bags and trying to look excited. It’s raining and we’re all cold, and at first there’s some animosity as people’s umbrellas bump into each other (I got cold rainwater poured down the back of my neck more than once, ugh) and people jostle to see. Several of us start taking test pictures, to make sure we can get shots of the guys when they come out. We wait impatiently. Some women clutch photos of the Kids — photos wrapped in plastic to protect them from the rain. Lesli, the woman next to me, has a folder containing the August 1990 issue of People featuring NKOTB and Jane Pauley on the cover. When someone asks, “Remember when they made New Kids day? What day was that?” she is the only one who knows the answer (April 24).
6:55 a.m.: The show is going to start any minute. We know that the probably won’t bring the Kids out until at least 8 a.m., and the rain is dampening our mood, but there’s still an air of excitement. A woman to my right laughs about how she might just have to tell her boss she’s sick today — she got up at 4 a.m. to take the train in from New Jersey, and will have a long return trip. She jokes that she wasn’t even this excited on her wedding day, and then fills us in on all the changes at NKOTB.com (there was a clock counting down to the reunion, but now there are links to bios, tour info, etc.).
Two little girls walk by in sparkly New Kids hats — they could not possibly have been born before the last NKOTB cd came out in 1994. Another woman nearby is frustrated that it is raining. “Why rain? We’ve waited forever!” Her boyfriend corrects, “You’ve waited forever.”
7:00 a.m.: The Today Show starts, and we all scream for a second… but then we get quiet when we see the intro and remember that today is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
7:15 a.m.: The woman from N.J. loudly curses the cherry blossom branches — calling them “foilage,” which cracks me up because the cherry blossoms are, in fact, foiling our efforts to see. Several girls debate pulling the branches down. I remind them that they definitely won’t see anything if security escorts them out before the Kids even come out.
7:30 a.m.: A guy who takes photos of Today Show crowds comes around to schmooze. He asks us, “Hey, did you know we’re reuniting New Kids on the Block today?” He’s actually serious.
7:40 a.m.: I realize that the woman accompanying the lady from New Jersey isn’t really a fan — she keeps calling them “NKTOB.” She wonders aloud why she got up at 4 a.m. to stand in the rain, but says she’s happy to support her friend. She’s a great sport and even runs to Duane Reade when Jersey’s camera batteries die, sprinting so that she’ll be back in time.
8:00 a.m.: A group of people closer to the interview area give up and leave. We all surge forward, thrilled to be that much closer to our destiny. Jersey’s friend starts getting cold, and calls a friend to come pick her up in his car. We’re all soaked from the rain by now, but we’re not giving up.
8:25 a.m.: Oh. My. God. The Kids come out and head to the interview area. I scream like I’m being attacked. They chat with the hosts, and we can’t hear anything but we can see a few screens showing what the viewers at home are seeing. We scream every time the camera focuses on a Kid, and production people keep asking us to please be quiet, which is futile. When the interview ends, a few of the Kids start walking around the perimeter, shaking hands. Joey comes by first — I get some great pictures of him before he reaches me. When he does come my way, I shake his hand and say “It’s great!” I don’t know why I don’t finish that statement (with, perhaps, “to meet you” or “to see you” or SOMETHING), but my brain isn’t really working. He moves on and I start shaking so hard I can hardly put my camera back in my pocket. One girl near me shakes his hand and promptly bursts into tears. We yell to the other Kids, hoping they’ll come say hi, but none of them make it over before Today wranglers usher them back inside. Once they’re gone, we all freak out, clutching one another and asking if that REALLY just happened. We show each other our pictures (God bless digital cameras) and exchange email addresses so that photos can be shared.
After the guys go back inside, a Today gofer comes and tells us that the guys will be coming back out. However, some people don’t listen, and they leave. The rest of us get even closer to the stage! Yes!
8:50 a.m.: The Kids come back to walk around and shake some more hands. Jordan starts coming our way but gets sidetracked and never makes it. Donnie shakes hands across the courtyard. A woman near me cries out, “Donnie! Come over here!” And… he does! Lesli, next to me, is ballsy — she shakes his hand and says, “Can I take your picture?” and then continues to hold his hand while taking the shot. It’s brilliant, because he’s held captive and has no choice but to look right at the camera and smile. Lesli is in heaven, and the woman who got Donnie’s attention insists that the pictures get emailed to her. While we’re all freaking out about Donnie, we realize that, oops, Danny is right behind him. Everyone always forgets about Danny… We recover quickly and take pictures of him, shaking his hand and grinning. He seems really thrilled to be back in action. Despite our loudest screams, Joey does not return, and Jordan stays at the other end of the courtyard. Jon starts making his way towards us but stops to pose for a picture. People then mob him for pictures in that spot, so he never makes it our way. The guys are ushered back inside, but once again the gofer tells us that they’ll be back.
9:20 a.m.: Lots of people have left, having seen enough. My group — we all really bonded during the process — is now halfway to the interview area. Most of the people in the crowd at this time are the true Blockheads. One group starts singing “Step By Step.” From my new spot I can see that there is a group of people with some sort of canvas poster of the band draped over the railing. Behind me, a mom tells her teenage sons, “See, boys, THAT’S who we’re all screaming for — the boys on that poster.” They simply say, “Oh… ok” and resume making sarcastic comments like, “Oh, I guess we’re supposed to scream now” and “Maybe one of them will touch my hand.”
9:30 a.m.: The Kids come back one last time. They do another quick interview and then another round of handshakes around the perimeter. This time Jordan makes it to us. I get a picture with him, and take one of him with Lesli. He doesn’t seem terribly interested in chatting with people, but does make the crowd laugh by doing little hop-steps and shuffle moves as he goes around the plaza. Once again we cry out for Jon to come shake hands, but before he gets the chance, the Kids are ushered into the building for the last time and gofers begin breaking down the stage.
9:40 a.m.: We all stop shaking and feel like we can walk home/to work/to the train/wherever. We all agree that we should meet up for the May 16 concert they’ll be doing on The Today Show, and promise once again to email each other the best photos we have. I head out of the plaza and realize I can’t feel my feet, my jeans are soaked up to the knees, and my hat is completely soaked. My fingers are so cold that it takes me a while to put my camera and phone back in my purse. I will show up to work an hour late looking like a drowned rat, but it will be worth every minute. On 48th Street, a woman is being interviewed by some New Zealand TV journalist. She clutches an NKOTB doll, still in its box, and a poster professing her love for Jordan. The interviewer asks, “Do you think they will be successful?” The woman looks back at her like she’s crazy and says, “Yeah… they’re the New Kids On the Block. They’re the greatest band ever!” And today? Greatest day ever.
— Liz Daniel