April 16, 1994
The drive to Kansas City from Des Moines felt like it took only a few minutes, but in reality, we left town at 3am, only to arrive at Memorial Hall around 7. We circled the arena and were hell bent on being able to meet our favorite band, New Kids on the Block. Having not been to a show in almost 3 years, we went off what we knew: the location and our determination.
When we arrived, there wasn't a soul to be found near this tiny venue. Having sold out stadiums & huge arenas, we were shocked at the size of this tiny auditorium, but encouraged that maybe it would just be more intimate....like an MTV-Unplugged show. We were a bit perplexed at the lack of equipment trucks and the absence of tour buses, but it was still early, afterall.
We decided to kill some time shopping and eventually made our way back to the arena around 4. Finally the trucks had arrived and had been setting up for some time it seemed. A few handfuls of girls waited around by the doors & on the front steps of the arena. There were a few girls talking to someone who I later found out was the choreographer for the tour. We talked to him for a few minutes ourselves. We wandered around a bit, hoping for a glimpse...some scrap of evidence that our boys were there, but other than seeing a women someone said was Danny's girlfriend, we didn't see much.
Hours went by and we finally filed into the auditorium. If you could even call it that. It was more like a converted high school gymnasium. There *may* have been 1,500 people there. We'd gotten the last seats for the show, which were in the VERY back row. We could literally sit on the back of our chairs and rest against the outer walls of the auditorium.
But we were THERE, dammit! We were seeing our boys in just a few minutes! I don't honestly remember who opened the show, or if anyone opened the show. We were too anxious to see the guys. Finally, the lights went down...and the curtain went up...
....oh my GOD!!!
We squealed and screamed and shouted and hollered with everyone else in the auditorium. We scrambled to find who was standing where so we could zero in on our favorite (at the time, we were both Jon girls). Mic stand! Mic stand! Mic stand! Mic stand! Mic st...wait. No...1, 2, 3, 4.....
What. The. F*ck?
We scanned again and again, finally looking at each other with tears in our eyes. Where the hell is Jon? We went from ecstatic to stoic in a split second. We slid from the backs of our chairs into them and sat there with our heads in our hands. What happened??
This isn't New Kids on the Block! There's only FOUR mic stands. There's FIVE members!
I couldn't tell you what was sung that night or what was said. I only remember what the guys looked like because it was what everybody wore those days: flannel. All I remember was the heartache of knowing that our boy band was missing a member. OUR member. Jordan finally explained later that Jon had fallen off his horse, Shakespeare, and was recovering. He was fine, but wasn't able to perform at that time. We were crushed. I wish I could tell you that the show went on and it was wonderful, but I can't. It was horrible. The sound was bad, the songs were iffy, at best. But I can't tell you if that had more to do with the group or its missing member.
By 1994, Bop & Teen Beat weren't covering stories on New Kids anymore, so we hadn't heard a thing. Internet was still a thing of the future so we had no way of knowing what had happened or what was to come. We were totally in the dark, but we knew one thing. It would never be the same as what it was. We were twenty now and not only did this whole thing signify the end of our favorite group, we knew it closed the door on our youth. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
We drove home that night, depressed and heartbroken. For years, we blocked this out of our heads and tried to only remember when the group was at its best. I couldn't even listen to "Face the Music" because it was such a raw memory for me. To this day, I still refer to this as "The Dark Place."
It's been over sixteen years since that door was closed. It's since been reopened, but as we head into the last concert of the "CasiNO TOUR" and words like "End" and "Finale" are repeated by more than one NK, we have no choice but to look at the future with fear. Are they done? Is this just a break? There's a cruise next year, but is that it?
My friends have laughed at me whenever a tour ends and I sit in a corner rocking back and forth repeating "No Dark Place!" like a mantra. They don't understand...I've been through this before. I know what the end feels like and I never want to be there again.
It's a bittersweet battle, though. As a friend pointed out, don't Barrett and the McIntyre boys deserve to have Joe at home with them full-time? Does Evelyn need to spend another six months as a single mom? Don't Danny's kids deserve to have their father at all their recitals and special events? Donnie's got the show coming up - is it fair to tear him in ten different directions? What about Jon & his real estate stuff? Don't they deserve to have their own lives? Of course they do. Are we being selfish? Yeah. Sadly, we are. But it doesn't make it hurt any less.
Bottom line is, I think we all know that at some point this will end. However, the hope is that we matter enough to them this time to be given some closure. I don't think a final "This journey has been amazing and we never thought it would go as well as it has, but we want to end things on top. Thank you for everything. we love you" is too much to ask for.
Closure. That's all I'm asking for.
That being said, if anybody needs me, I'll be in the corner rocking back and forth.