Backstreet Boy A.J. in rehab, band says
Sentinel Pop Music Writer
July 10, 2001
It wasn't exactly the day the music died, but years from now devoted teen-pop fans might remember where they were when they heard the news:
A.J. McLean, 23, has entered rehabilitation for depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse, forcing the Backstreet Boys to postpone the three dozen remaining dates on their North American and Canadian tour.
Tears flowed Monday on MTV's video countdown show Total Request Live when McLean's band mates -- Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter and Brian Littrell -- made the announcement.
"When you're trying to help someone who has a serious illness, they have to help themselves before they can really receive help," said Littrell, 26. "They've gotta really want it.
"He came to us yesterday for the first time. I heard him say, 'Guys, I have a problem and I need to get help.' We figured this was the best for him. It's all about him being healthy."
Carter told MTV that the news doesn't mean the band is breaking up. "I don't think there is an end to this group until one of us dies," he said.
In Orlando, fans rushed to support McLean and the band, calling Top 40 station 106.7 FM to praise the singers for having the courage to face adversity.
"I was listening to the radio and found out that way," said Backstreet fan Narissa Rahaman, 18, a recent graduate of Orlando's Lake Highland Prep. "I think it shows that as individuals, we all need to take responsibility for our own actions. It shows that even if you're famous or a celebrity or blessed with talent that things can go wrong. We need to realize that our own life is on our own hands."
McLean has a reputation among fans for being the most energetic and ambitious of the Backstreet Boys. A West Palm Beach native who moved to Central Florida as a child, McLean is the one who has trouble sitting still for interviews. He frequently invests time and talent for charity causes.
Benefit concerts performed under the guise of his outspoken alter ego, Johnny No-Name, have become annual media events. Underneath the enthusiasm, however, band mates told MTV, the singer had been battling depression compounded by the recent death of his grandmother.
"He's been burning the candle at both ends and partying quite a bit to escape it," Richardson told MTV. "His alcoholism is -- it's pretty bad. And we're worried about him."
McLean's mother, who lives in Kissimmee, couldn't be reached Monday night. A friend told the Sentinel that she was resting and preparing to visit her son.
There was no word on where McLean was being treated, but band members said the rehabilitation was to last 30 days and that they plan to resume touring Aug. 7.
Although their new Black & Blue album has sold 8 million copies since November, the Boys aren't playing to exclusively sold-out crowds.
"The numbers at the beginning of the year were stronger, but the more recent shows haven't sold out," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of the concert trade magazine Pollstar. "In part, that's because the popularity of teen pop generally has ebbed from a year ago. That's not only the Backstreet Boys."
On average, the band has sold 85 percent of available seats for shows on its North American tour, according to Pollstar. Still, it's the third-highest-grossing tour of the year, generating a total of $51.6 million to trail U2 and a package tour by Elton John and Billy Joel.
In Orlando, the Backstreet Boys sold only 79 percent of available seats for the June 8 concert at the TD Waterhouse Centre that opened the group's North American tour. That compares with 60 percent in Atlanta and 65 percent in Raleigh, N.C.
"The band is touring in cities where they have already been several times," Bongiovanni said. "Plus, the average ticket prices are substantially higher than last year" -- up from $42 to $53.
Jim Abbott can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-6213.
Copyright (c) 2001, Orlando Sentinel