The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story

The Boy Band Con opening banner

A few days ago, I got a notification on my YouTube account about this YouTube Originals documentary called The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story. YouTube is currently offering its users to try YouTube Premium for free.

YouTube now has a paid streaming subscription service providing ad-free streaming of all videos hosted and exclusive contents just like Netflix.

The Boy Band Con is a US documentary film produced by *NSYNC’s Lance Bass. The film shows the career and legacy of Lou Pearlman, the man behind the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Take 5, Innosense, and O-Town. It also featured the frauds he committed until his death in prison.

Early Life

Born Louis Jay Pearlman on 19 June 1954 in Flushing, New York. He was the only child of Jewish parents who ran a dry cleaning business. They lived at Mitchell Gardens Apartments near Flushing Airport.

He only had one best friend, Alan Gross. They both have a common liking to blimps and anything aviation. No wonder, when they got older, they started a blimp business until they fell apart due to Lou’s own doing.

Friends say that because he was fat, he was always poked fun of. This made Lou create stories and fantasies for himself so he could get attention. He once told everybody that Art Garfunkel of the Simon & Garfunkel fame was his relative and will come to attend to his bar mitzvah. Everyone did not believe him until Art Garfunkel.

Blimps and Aviation Business

Lou continued to dream big. He and Alan started Airship Enterprises Ltd. leasing blimps for advertisements. Once, Lou sold a blimp to Jordache, a fashion jeans brand, for $10,000.00 but the blimp crashed and found out that it was not new and painted with gold. This lead to the falling out between the two friends.

Then Lou moved to Orlando and started Airship International Ltd. This time, he made it big because he was able to sign up McDonald’s and MetLife among other companies for the blimps.

Later on, he formed Trans Continental Airlines where he leased chartered planes. It was in this business where he found a greater opportunity.

The Boy Band Craze

One of his clients in the chartered plane business was The New Kids on the Block. Lou was fascinated by their success that he thought of starting one. So he announced an audition and looked for teenage boys who could sing and dance. After a few months of searching, he formed the Backstreet Boys in 1993.

Under Lou’s Trans Continental Records, Backstreet Boys became phenomenal. Their songs and albums topped the charts and their concerts were well-attended.

However, unknown to the Backstreet Boys, Lou formed another boy band, *NSYNC, but using the code name B5. And when the Backstreet Boys declined a show on the Disney Channel, *NSYNC took that opportunity and became as successful.

Lou’s Crooked Management

Although the boys called Lou as Big Papa and considered him family, Lou tried his best not to let the two successful bands meet or mingle. The members claimed that when Lou was with the Backstreet Boys, he would say something negative about *NSYNC and vice-versa. The rivalry was too strong that even the fans had to choose which one to side with.

Because of the two boy bands’ success, the boys’ parents started counting the math. However, on a lavish dinner in Los Angeles, the boys received only $10,000.00 in cheque. The boys and their parents thought that something’s wrong. And upon consultation with lawyers, they found out that their recording contract was in Lou’s favor, being the 6th member of each group, getting most of their profit, and charging the boys of their hotel, limousine, and other luxurious services.

Lou started receiving lawsuits one after another. Some were not successful, others were settled out of court.

Other Frauds Revealed

Slowly, another fraudulent act of Lou was emerging: his Ponzi scheme. He had been offering people to invest on Trans Continental Airlines Travel Services Inc. and Trans Continental Airlines Inc. (both of which existed only on paper). He was able to convince people by showing off falsified Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), AIG, and Lloyd’s of London documents. In fact, one of the boys said that Lou can convince any person that a green pen he held was purple.

Also, Lou bought a web-based company called Options Talent Group owned by Ayman “Alec” Difrawi, who was also convicted con artist. Unknown to Lou, the authorities were already investigating this company.

But when more than 2,000 investors started complaining, Lou fled the country in 2006. He was arrested in Bali, Indonesia on 14 June 2007.

Lou Pearlman was charged with three counts of bank fraud, one count of mail fraud, and one count of wire fraud and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, he died of heart attack in prison on 19 August 2016.

My Thoughts

While I watched the documentary, I felt sorry for the boys who were used to scam other people. As a parent, I emphatized with the mothers who became angry when they learned that they only received $10,000.00 despite their boys’ success worldwide. I also felt sorry for those elderly who were victims of Lou’s Ponzi scheme.

Not only that, it was reported that at age 14, Aaron Carter filed a lawsuit against Lou Pearlman but it was settled out of court. But in this documentary, it was Aaron who was too supportive and pro-Lou Pearlman. I now wonder what the settlement was all about.

Also, some accusations of sexual misconduct emerged which, of course, Lou Pearlman denied during his lifetime. Now that he’s dead, I hope he’s paying for the consequences in the afterlife.

Like any other documentary, it shows the life, works, rise and downfall of a man who was driven by greed. I’m going to give this 4 out of 5 stars. But that doesn’t mean I’ll subscribe to YouTube Premium.

Published by Issa Bacsa

Isang Manunulat

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