Ticket seekers for Backstreet come up empty

Frenzy: Despite hours in line or on hold, many parents fail in their mission to secure seats for the sold-out concerts.

August 21, 1999|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

If the masses of swooning young girls who cry hysterically at the dreamy ballads and hip dance moves of the the Backstreet Boys scare you, you certainly don't want to see them deprived of tickets to see the slick, super-successful popsters on their upcoming tour.

"I wanted them [tickets] so bad I cried when my mom told me she didn't get them," says Danielle Singleton, 9.

"I shouldn't have opened my mouth," says Cynthia Mowbray, 32. The Baltimore resident devoted all of last Saturday, when tickets for the Boys' fall tour went on sale, to satiating her daughter's bubblegum pop cravings. First she called TicketMaster, dialing constantly for nearly half an hour. Then she drove to a nearby outlet. They were sold out. Then to another. Still no dice.

Backstreet's back all right, and for parents across the country, getting tickets for the fall tour has become as complicated as the band's bouncy choreography.

All 765,000 tickets to shows on the fall tour, including a stop at the MCI Center in Washington, sold out all across the country in less than a day at prices of $28.50 and $39.50.

The huge demand makes sense, according to Brian O'Connell of Cellar Door productions, which is promoting the MCI show.

"Every single human being that has a child under the age of 15" covets Backstreet tickets, O'Connell says. "Anything that [sells out] on the first day is huge."

The quintet of pretty-boy teen dreams -- Nick, Brian, Alexander, Kevin and Howie D. -- have pranced their way into adolescent hearts and onto the top of the charts. Their latest album, "Millennium," is No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

The nearly 20,000 tickets for the Sept. 19 show at the MCI Center sold out in a little over a half-hour, O'Connell says. Almost immediately, a second show was added for Sept. 18; those tickets sold out within the next 45 minutes.

"They're the Beatles. They're the Jackson 5," says Denise Hairston, 40, of Northeast Baltimore, who failed to procure tickets for her daughter, Deanna, 7. "I had no idea they were this huge."

On Saturday, Hairston drove to Hecht's at the Golden Ring Mall when her calls to TicketMaster came up empty.

"When I pulled up, there was a mile of people lined up. There were teens all over the place, and they were screaming," says Hairston. "I said, `Are the Backstreet Boys down there?' "

Rob Hess, 43, was willing to spend the night outside a Hecht's store to make sure his daughter Brittany, who turned 14 last Saturday, got her Backstreet tickets.

While that plan failed -- Hecht's didn't allow anyone into the parking lot until 7 a.m. -- Hess did earn points with his daughter for trying.

"We were going to sleep over," says Brittany, 14. "My parents are so cool."

Brittany did end up with Backstreet tickets, but it wasn't easy.

After waiting in line at the mall only to hear the first show was sold out, the Hesses started driving back home. On the way, they heard the announcement for the second show on the radio.

"It was this mad dash back to the mall," says Hess, a Perry Hall resident. "It was bizarre."

Tickets are so hot that not even the most connected of media types are guaranteed a pass to Backstreet heaven.

"If I had tickets, I'd be king," says Jojo Girard of Kenny and Jojo, the morning show DJs on WWMX Mix 106.5.

Girard, father of Emily, 8, and Gabrielle, 6, says he normally gets 50 to 75 e-mails a week from inquisitive fans when a concert comes to town. Last week, he got 275. And friends and acquaintances aren't being subtle about pressing him for tickets.

"They hit you right over the head with it," says Girard, who has even been harassed while sitting on his porch. "People who walk by daily and never say `hi' say, `I hear you work at a radio station. You wouldn't happen to have Backstreet Boy tickets for my kids?' "

For those who must get their Backstreet fix, there still are options. Expensive options.

Ticket brokers have snatched up many of the tickets. Karl Roes, president of Stagefront Tickets, a brokerage in Laurel, wouldn't disclose prices but says interest has been intense.

"The phone calls have been very brisk," Roes says. "The Backstreet Boys are up there. They may even be more up there than Bruce Springsteen."

Internet message boards are another possibility, if you're willing to pay the $300 per ticket some people are asking.

Cynthia Mowbray isn't. But her disappointed daughter says she won't let this reality dampen her passion for the Backstreet Boys. She says the very mention of their name makes some of her friends faint. She and her friends regularly stage faux Backstreet Boys concerts at home.

"We'll stand up on the steps and just sing our little hearts away," says Danielle. "I'm Nick all the time."

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