The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story

Lou gave us all the ability
to have lives today. Who knows where
I would have ended up, man, in — in Tampa, you know? What, in jail? I hope that Lou felt bad. Because if Lou didn't feel bad,
then he's a monster, and he doesn't deserve
anybody's sympathies. I have a hard time saying,
through and through, I think Lou Pearlman
was a bad person. Um, I have a hard time
saying that, for whatever reason. There's no words
to express how bad he was. I wonder how he could sleep
at night. If you look at him,
he was a nice person. I mean, he had a lot
of different faces, but… He genuinely had a heart. I just think he was blinded
by greed. It's not for me
to decide, man. I have such deep sadness
about all of this that I don't even feel — I don't — It's just deep,
deep, deep sadness. ♪♪ DeLoach:
He had everything. Everything. So there within lies
the question. Why did he do it? I just can't for the life of me
figure out, when you have it all,
why do you — why do you go left when
you could just keep going right? [ Cheers and applause ] [ 'NSYNC's "Dirty Pop" plays ] The boy-band craze, to me, was just this amazing time
in history that changed everything.

♪♪ Ladies and gentlemen, please
welcome the Backstreet Boys. One of the hottest bands
out there. I think they're called 'NSYNC. ♪♪ Throughout pop-culture history, there's always got to be
something for 12-year-old girls to, like, scream
their puberty out to. ♪♪ You see a girl pass out
in front of you, and you're supposed
to just keep performing. ♪♪ When you're in that moment, and that light is shining
in your eyes, you're on top of the world. ♪♪ We had overtaken U2 for the largest production
in the history of touring. We have the biggest show, the biggest stage,
the biggest video wall. ♪♪ ♪♪ People were selling
a million records a week. Nobody had ever seen sales
like this before.

♪♪ This was one of the biggest
times in music history. And what a lot of people
don't understand, the man responsible for this
was Lou Pearlman. -Lou Pearlman. -Louis Jay Pearlman.
Lou Pearlman. ♪♪ ♪♪ Angel: The first time
I ever saw Lou Pearlman was when I was auditioning
for "Making the Band" in Vegas. He comes walking out
of the auditioning room, and everybody's like —
you can tell Everybody's like,
"That's Lou Pearlman," like, as we walks by. And I remember he went
into the bathroom. And if I remember right,
I was like, "This is a chance
to have, like, some airtime
with Lou Pearlman." And I believe I went
into the bathroom to casually be like — yes, I admit I was stalking
Lou Pearlman into the bathroom.

But I was casually like,
"This is a good time to use the bathroom, too. Maybe I'll get a chance to" — This guy is the guy pioneering music
on the radio right now, you know what I mean? He was the Berry Gordy
of my generation. And here I am,
talking to the creator, in the bathroom of all places. Always just struck me as odd. There's this dichotomy between what you think of
as a successful music mogul and Lou.

Didn't look like Lou. Didn't act like Lou. When I first heard
of Lou Pearlman, the idea that there was this,
you know, kind of fleshy, jovial, cherubic little guy who was the impresario behind Backstreet Boys
and 'NSYNC was — was very intriguing. Lou was always bragging
about his business, and his airplanes, and who he would fly
on his airplanes, and his blimps,
and lived this very lavish life.

If Lou wasn't the entrepreneur
that he was, he would have been the best
car salesman you've ever seen. He would have convinced you that there was features
on the car that didn't even exist yet. His house was like
a giant theme park. All-white house. White and baby blue everywhere. It was like Disneyland. I mean, he had, like, this boat,
and WaveRunners, and, like, you know,
this crazy pool, and this, like,
private movie theater. And he would have you over
and have these, like, boy-band parties
at his house, you know. And, like, "Hell, yeah! Like, this sounds like
an awesome time." Christofore: He had, like, an old-fashioned
Coca-Cola machine that would open up,
with, like, a door, with them
all like sitting there, and it was always stocked
with Yoo-hoo and apple juice. That was right next to, like,
the Darth Vader helmet.

Like, he'd buy you
an expensive watch. You just got, like, you know,
a $10,000 watch. You're like, "Awesome." He also had a stretch
limousine that had a driver. I mean, it's not like
some service that he called. That's his guy, sitting outside,
waiting for Lou to say, "I want to go here, here, here." There was a baby-blue
Corniche Rolls-Royce parked in the front. He would let me drive
the Corniche even though
I didn't have a license yet. He would let me kind of
just be a kid. I could invite friends over. I remember, Nick and I
had a double birthday party at Lou's house. It was a pool party. We invited all of our friends. Like, "We're gonna go
to this big mansion. It's gonna be my birthday party.
It's gonna be awesome." He was that inviting
to all of us. He was always laughing. He was a big kid. He made himself
more relatable to us, to me, personally, by being this kind of
grown-up kid.

Lou was just a charming,
charming guy. It's the way he spoke to you. You know, he was very good
with his words. He made you feel like you were
the only person in the room. He was so into
what's happening in your life. He asked the questions. And so that made you feel great,
like someone cared. ♪♪ Diane: The first day
that we met Lou… Lance: Mm-hmm. I remember he came over to me,
and he said, "And you teach school?" And I said, "Yes, I do." And he said, "Well," he said, "in a very short period
of time, you won't have
to teach anymore." There's a part of you
that knows that's not true…

Mm-hmm. …in all this
that he's saying. There's no assurance that
any of this is gonna happen. But there's a part of you
that's thinking, "Wow, that would be great." Well, not at 16. I believed 100% of it. Yeah. He would sit at, you know,
the head of the table and just be laughing,
and just saying, "Oh, boys,
you're gonna be so big." Yeah, I mean,
it was the best support you could get. He'd say, "He's great.
It's gonna be great." "It's gonna be great.
You're gonna be huge." Yeah, "Huge." "Gonna be huge, kid. Gonna be huge." [ Laughs ] Uh-huh. Right. [ Laughs ] "Lance, know what I wish
the Easter Bunny would leave
in my Easter basket? You." Who's that? A fan. I don't know. Why are you keeping
all this fan stuff? I kept everything.
I got boxes of stuff. If it was something real cute,
I'd throw it out. My God. How many albums
do you have? You want to know? Mm-hmm.

Um…I have 85. 85? I never thought, though,
that you'd end up doing something
like this. No. What, you didn't think
I was talented enough to be in a boy band? Um… [ Laughs ] Never thought about it. Did you ever think about it? No. Are you kidding me? I didn't think
it would be possible to do anything in music. ♪♪ Reyes:
So, Orlando is known as the tourist capital
of the world. You have all this great talent working at Disney,
working at Universal. Orlando was every place
and no place at the same time. It's odd that Orlando
was the breeding ground, but it actually
kind of makes sense. There are a lot of theme parks, there are a lot
of young entertainers who go down there to be
Aladdin or whatever. It's like Hollywood,
but you can afford it. Reyes:
So you have this amazing cadre
of artists and singers, and then here comes this guy,
Lou Pearlman, auditioning
and looking for a boy band.

I mean, I was used
to going to the Sony Club, like, on the top floor
of a skyscraper on Madison Avenue
in New York City. And, like, now I'm
at Trans Continental Records. What is that, anyway?
What does that mean? Does that mean you have offices
on all the continents? Like, what does that mean? And it was, like, in Orlando. It wasn't in New York City.
It wasn't in Los Angeles. It wasn't in London. It was in Orlando. Woman:
Pearlman made his fortune in the aviation business. His path crossed
with the music industry when he started
outfitting luxury jets and leasing them
to rock stars. One of the bands that chartered
his airplane was… [ New Kids on The Block's
"Step By Step" plays ] Pearlman:
And I just questioned, how could these kids
afford an airplane? And I was told, these kids did $200 million
in record sales and $800 million in touring
and merchandising. I was like,
"I'm in the wrong business." ♪♪ Seabrook: And so Lou
took all of that in, and realized that this business
was an even bigger business than, you know,
the airline-charter business.

"I think I can do that. I think I can put a group
like that together." A boy band is usually five,
sometimes three. Never four, for some reason,
unless somebody leaves. Usually no instruments. Sort of club tracks
that would have been huge in Europe
a few years before. Some involved choreography. All five members have five
distinct personalities. They just had incredible
charisma, you know? And a 13-year-old girl
will lose her mind. [ Backstreet Boys'
"The Call" plays ] We would get this thing in
the mail called the Blue Sheet. Classifieds for anyone that's
in the entertainment field. Open auditions for
vocal-harmony doo-wop group. Louis Jay Pearlman,
entrepreneur." My mom and I were like,
"Well, why not?" And Lou signed me on the spot. Howie met Lou, as well, in '92. Nick auditioned.
Got the part. Lou's limo driver knew
somebody who knew Kevin, who was working at Disney
at the time. ♪♪ McLean: Kevin kept talking
about this cousin, Brian. Next thing you know,
he shows up at our band house, and we sang a song together. [ Singing Shai's
"If I Ever Fall in Love" ] Yeah,
that definitely sounds — That was the moment
that we knew "This is Backstreet Boys." [ Backstreet Boys'
"The Call" plays ] I'd found Justin.

Justin brought in JC, so it was the three of us. And I knew Joey from Universal. Chasez:
Joey was trying to sing low, and then he wasn't really
a true low voice. That was the first time
that we actually kind of started auditioning. Justin and I pooled
all our resources. I don't even know if my mom
was gonna even tell me about it unless I brought it up. But I asked her about it,
and she was like, "Yeah, you know,
this guy Lou Pearlman called, with Justin Timberlake
and his mother, and wants to start a group
in Orlando." And I knew of Justin
at that point because he was on
"The Mickey Mouse Club." I was very excited. I was like, "Well, we have
to see what this is." ♪♪ Lance:
Right when I land in Orlando, Lou Pearlman meets me
at baggage claim in Rolls-Royce, which was insane to me, because I'd never seen
a Rolls-Royce in person. I felt like they were rolling
out the red carpet immediately.

So I arrive at the house
where the guys lived. All five of us sang
"The Star Spangled Banner." And I remember looking
at everyone's faces after we had stopped singing, and everyone's, like,
jaw was dropped, and everyone had
goose bumps on them. And I remember thinking,
"Oh, my gosh. I think I might have made
the group." It just sounded right. And we just started
high-fiving each other like, "This is the guy. Like,
this is our next member." We were 'NSYNC. ♪♪ ♪♪ "Oh, man.
We're in trouble," you know? ♪♪ Blender: I was late
for a job interview once, and I called Lou in a panic, and I said,
"I don't know what to do.

I'm gonna be late."
And he goes, "Don't worry. I'll have a helicopter
come get you." So they picked me up. I get there, and they said, "So, how will you be
coming to work?" And I said, "Um, I don't know." They said, "Well, how did you
get here today?" I said, "Helicopter." And they're like,
"Yeah, ha, ha. How did you get here today?" I said, "By helicopter." Lou loved always helping me, and doing things
that he could do. Kirkpatrick: Lou said, "I want
to get a house for you guys, because I want you guys
to be together a lot, and I want you guys to really
get to know each other and not worry about — You can quit your jobs,"
and all this stuff. And that, to me, I mean,
was, like, you know, amazing. One of the things that
we created was a boot camp. So, even though
'NSYNC and Backstreet Boys were a couple years apart, they went through
the same process. We were working our asses off
day in and day out.

Lou had these gondola hangars
for his airships. No air-conditioning in there.
It was hot as balls. We would learn how to dance,
we would do choreography, and we would learn how to sing
on a microphone without being out of breath. McLean: Probably rehearse six
to eight hours a day in there. Kirkpatrick:
I'm surprised none of us
ever got heat stroke. You're talking Orlando, Florida,
in August. When we'd play anywhere, it seemed more inviting
than that warehouse did.

And since then,
they've torn it down. And I think
I've broughten flowers to that place a few times,
and wished it well on its death. But, boy, I'll tell you,
they were troopers. They wanted it.
They wanted it bad. I think that was the beginning
of us really bonding. We were inseparable. We definitely started
feeling like a family. As repetitive and as annoying
as it gets, it was fun.

You know, I'm with four guys
that are like my brothers, and doing music, so… You are getting sleepy. [ Laughter ] Kirkpatrick: Ah, look
who decided to show up.
This is my friend Louie. He took me to a really
cool concert the other day.
Donna: In the beginning,
he was there a lot. They all were kind of,
like, without dads, so Lou
kind of filled that void. Kevin lost his father to cancer. So when we first formed
the group, Kevin really looked up to Lou
as a father figure. We called him Big Papa. You would go into the office
at Trans Con, and Lou would be like,
"Come in! What do you need?
What do you need?" Whatever we needed.
Whatever we wanted. Kirkpatrick:
There was a calming about him that you never had
to worry about anything. Here I am working three jobs
so I can pay rent, and when you're around Lou, it was just like you didn't
have to worry about money.

You didn't have to worry
about anything. Lou was head of our family. We would have dinners. We would tell him everything. It was Lou's. I stole it from him.
-Good for you.
Lou loved food. We'd go to New York,
and it'd be Peter Luger. You know, "Oh, you can't
get into Peter Luger, but I know people,
and I can get you in." Los Angeles,
you'd always go to Lawry's. So food was a big part
of his life, and it was the way that he, I don't know,
brought the family together. He wanted to show you
what life could be. "If you work it right,
you can have all what I have." Like, he was
he walking poster child of what success could be.

It's just like Peter Pan
and the Lost Boys, you know what I mean? It was just, like, this
awesome thing to be a part of. I think
it's because, you know, he didn't have
a lot of family. And so he looked
at all the bands, he put all of his love into us. But Lou so desperately wanted
to belong to those groups, and he wanted
your friendship. He just really wanted
to be loved, I really think. I can't believe that I would
feel sorry for a multimillionaire,
but I did. As Backstreet Boys,
we signed with Jive, and Lou and Donna and Johnny
were our management team. You know, Lou was generous. I mean, I just remember a time when we had an opportunity
to do a TV show in Tampa. We were recording in L.A., but we had to get there
by a certain time, and all the regular airlines
were shut down. We couldn't make a plane. Lou found a medical-evac plane, and he got in it with the pilot
and flew to L.A., picked the guys up to get back
to make that show.

But because the plane was too
small, they had to make stops. So by the time they actually
got to Tampa, they missed the taping
by an hour. But that's
how dedicated Lou was to trying to make sure
that these guys got to a place where an audience could see them to help take them
to the next level. I think Lou's passion
at that point, at the beginning,
was so endearing, and his drive. Man: Mr. Lou Pearlman,
the man who started it all.
Where do we go from here?
-Onward and upward.
McLean:
The way that he handled business is the way that he handled us
in the beginning. Like, gave us that extra push. [ Backstreet Boys'
"We've Got It Goin' On" plays ] Lou was an unusual promoter in that he was willing
to put up his own money.

They were spending millions —
Lou's millions. His work ethic was something
that I know I took away from him. We would go door-to-door to every single
solitary radio station and do every interview, we would sing a capella
on the radio stations. When we released
our first U.S. album, things started to pick up, and in doing so,
it wouldn't go away. Fans were calling.
Fans wanted to see the video. And in turn, MTV created
what we all remember as "TRL." ♪♪ Holmes:
The boy bands made people
watch MTV all day long. They made them call "TRL." The boy-band thing made girls just stand in the middle
of a busy street in New York City
and just yell at a window.

[ Girls screaming ] This is insane. And, like,
maybe there was somebody on the other side
of that window, maybe there wasn't. Maybe it was the guy
mopping the floor. But they would just go
and scream because Nick Carter
had been there. ♪♪ ♪♪ Johnny: They were hot. Their records were top 10,
top 20 at that point. Singles all over the charts. You know, they were selling out
shows all over the place. ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Crowd cheering loudly ] Lance: The success
of the Backstreet Boys, as 'NSYNC, we always felt like
the red-headed stepchild.

We couldn't even go into
the record label because the employees there
didn't know we existed. And Lou did not want them
to know about us just yet, because he didn't want
to upset the Boys, the Backstreet Boys. So, in all the accounting that you watch
at Trans Continental, everything that they spent on us was under "B-5,"
is what they called us.

Um, it was — yeah. It was just — It was weird. They were struggling. Their album was down at 66, and people really thought that it wasn't gonna gain
any more momentum. Chasez:
We were just trying to do
everything we could to do what we could do best. And, honestly, it was slow. 'NSYNC comes out. Their outfits are ridiculous. I mean, ridiculous. And they had on these, like,
overalls, these jean-looking outfits. They sort of matched. I was like,
"Who are these clowns?" You know? And then they started
to perform. 'NSYNC blew me away. Backstreet Boys' harmonies
were the thing that they focused
on the most. Also, Backstreet Boys' image
was a little bit more darker, with blacks and darker clothing, whereas 'NSYNC
were the guys next door. They wore basketball jerseys
and shorts and Jordan shoes
and stuff like that.

'NSYNC had great harmonies,
also, but they were really focused on
the performance in the shows. I'll never forget,
it was this Disney show, this Disney performance,
and we were burnt out. And we were just like,
"We don't want to do it." And the minute we said no,
'NSYNC said yes. All: Hi, we're 'NSYNC! [ 'NSYNC's "Here We Go" plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ 'NSYNC were all too happy to take Backstreet's
sloppy seconds. They showed that concert daily on the Disney Channel
for months. Chasez: Essentially, as soon as
the Disney special aired, everything changed. ♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] The charts would come out.
Were like, "Oh, there we go.

There we go. There we go.
Oh, it's happening now." And that's when the snowball
kind of started rolling. We had gone from selling
5,000 units a week to 50,000 to 60,000
in the first week. Fortunately. I remember the days
when we had small crowds, but now they're getting
bigger and bigger. And I guess that means that
we're doing something right. The guys
are just fantastic. Try telling
the Backstreet Boys, who've been working for years
to become successful, and they turn down
one Disney special and now their competition
is breathing over their neck. And their competition
is managed by their manager. Backstreet Boys were not happy
with 'NSYNC, and they weren't
happy with him because he would put
another band together to compete with them.

It was the biggest
conflict of interest. Like, it was the biggest,
literally, "don't shit where you eat"
scenario. And it really started
to bother us. Lance: What Lou told us
worked like a charm. You know, he pitted us
against each other, and we stayed against each other
our whole entire careers. If I saw them in a room, I wouldn't even want
to talk to them. I was scared of them. I didn't know if they were gonna
yell at me or not. Lou would come to us
and be like, "Oh, can you be believe
the Backstreet Boys? Can you believe
what they're doing now? This is ridiculous.
Whatever." And then he'd go to them
and be like, "Oh, can you believe
what the 'NSYNC boys are doing? They're not listening
to me at all.

They're doing this,
they're doing this. You guys are so much better." I mean, if I were
the Backstreet Boys, I would have hated us,
too, you know? This is my assumption of what I'm assuming what
went on in that head of his, but a light switch
must have went off and said, "Okay, this works.

I'm gonna keep doing this.
Why not? Why not build
an empire of groups?" One of the most memorable things
that Lou said to me was explaining
the origins of 'NSYNC. And the way he framed it
to me was, "Well, where there's Coke,
there's Pepsi, and somebody's gonna come along and do the Backstreet Boys
knock-off, so why shouldn't it be us?" That chair move,
it looks like you stole that from
the Backstreet Boys. Wrong! No, they took it overboard,
and we… That's right. I'm sorry.
We didn't take it from them. There became this, like,
horse race. Both bands wanted
to outdo each other.

♪♪ The girls felt like they had
to pick a side. Like, the girls in Times Square were either all about Backstreet
or they were all about 'NSYNC, and you could not like both. [ 'NSYNC's "Tearin' Up My Heart"
plays ] ♪♪ It was "cha-ching!" I mean, the amount of money
that was being made, you can't even imagine because we don't sell
records like that today. You know, most people today, they buy one or two records
in a year. Back during the teen-pop period,
they were buying five a week. ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Crowd cheering ] Lance: We were making $35 a day,
which was our per diem. And I remember thinking
that was such a lot of money, because this was all free. Everything — my life was free. "Everywhere you'll ever stay
is free, and we're gonna give you
a per diem on top of that." I'm thinking I'm king of
the castle at this point.

No one worked harder
than 'NSYNC and Backstreet Boys. No one. These guys didn't get a day off.
Never. And if they got a day off,
I got them for a photo shoot. We'd been touring
for almost two years. Number-one albums. Countless,
countless radio promotions. Things were going great for us. This is as good as it gets
right here. I remember this one trip
to Los Angeles I was so excited about, because Lou
was hyping up the fact that this was gonna be
our first check presentation.

And at this point, we've worked
so hard and we've got zero. It's all kind of accumulated, and they're just gonna give it all to us in one batch
in a check. And he takes us to Lawry's. Very lavish dinner. You know, Lou loved
those big family dinners. We had all our family there. He had all the parents to come. At this time, they had sold
over 10 million records. I was just kind of doing
the math in my head. But I kept thinking,
"If it's just $1 million, divide it up by five, and Lance is gonna get
$200,000." Lance:
You start thinking in your head,
like, "What could it be? Is it six figures?
Is it $1 million? Like, what am I about
to fall into right now? My life is about to change." And I'm thinking to myself,
"Oh, this is gonna get crazy. A lot of money now?
This is gonna be nuts." Yeah, I was on cloud nine. I was on top of the world
at that point. I mean, we thought that was as
big as we could possibly get.

I open up the envelope,
see the check, and, oh, my gosh. Like, my heart sunk, and I-I could believe
the number I was looking at. The reaction from everybody
when they saw their checks was just astonishment. The check was $10,000. And not to sound ungrateful, 'cause $10,000
is a lot of money, but when you compare it
to how many hours that we had put
into this group for years, it didn't even touch
minimum wage at all. We started selling out stadiums,
started selling out arenas, started doing all this stuff. And we started looking
at our bank accounts, and it's just like,
"Something isn't adding up. Lou's getting paid. The promoters are getting paid." ♪♪ Some of the guys couldn't pay
for their car payment, or couldn't pay
for their apartment. Basically, we thought it was,
like, a normal thing, you know, to get food money. And then we thought, essentially
at the end of the road, there would be some magical,
big check. Kirkpatrick: When you're working
18 hours a day, you know, just to get
to sleep at night, you don't have time
to look over contracts and make sense of things.

It was so insulting, I felt like someone
had punched me in the face. I knew at that moment —
it was the first time that I thought to myself,
"Oh, my gosh. Something's wrong. Like, there's something
wrong with Lou. He's lying to us." And, you know,
went back to the hotel, and I immediately
ripped up the check. I was like, "This is not right." How successful does a group
have to be in order to make money? ♪♪ Lance: We didn't know
where it was going. We were like,
"Who is making this?" My uncle's a lawyer. At the time, I didn't have money
to hire a lawyer.

So, okay. I call up family. Kirkpatrick:
Started out, like, with this, you know, small little,
"Okay, this is bad. This — this is really bad." The deeper they dug,
the worse it got, and it was just this
webs upon webs of robbery. He said, "This is one of
the worst contracts I've ever seen
in music history, and y'all need to try
to get out of this." Lou made himself the 1/6
member of Backstreet Boys. So anything we made,
Lou made exactly.

He was the sixth member
of 'NSYNC, and he was proud of that fact,
because it was going to help us. Because we wouldn't have
to pay a manager. We wouldn't have to pay
the record label. You know, his would come out
of the sixth member. I mean, he really sold us
a whole amount of goods of "The sixth member
is the way to go." ♪♪ Lou was making it seem like
we were in so much debt that it would be a long time
before we saw some real money. And what's when we learned
the world "recoupable." That's a word that's never been
in our vocabulary until this moment. And the lawyers were explaining
to us, "Well, the reason
you're in debt is because they spend this money
on your record pressing. Then you had this concert. The rent for the house. Oh, all those dinners,
those lavish dinners that Lou was taking you to that
you were thanking him for, that's your dinners.

You were paying for it." And I said, "Lance, this guy
is really ripping you off. He's stealing from you. He's stealing from Backstreet. You've got to do something
about this." Johnny: We decided to have
a basketball game for charity. There was a little after party
that took place at the hotel. Nick Carter, Brian,
Justin Timberlake, and JC wanted to go
to McDonald's to eat. And on the way to McDonald's,
I kept hearing, "Lou!" And "Lou said this"
and "Lou said that." The next day, I get on a bus
with the Backstreet Boys, and Brian gets on the bus, and he goes,
"Guess what, everybody? Lou's been lying to us." And Brian was livid over this. He basically said,
"Guys, this is what's up. I want to file a lawsuit." With 'NSYNC,
we needed to figure out how to either fix it
so it's a more fair deal or get rid of Lou altogether. ♪♪ I felt so insufficient that I let somebody
take advantage of my son. But yet I was so angry with him
when I found out what he did, that he would —
that he could do that.

Of course, every parent
is protective of their child, and I —
I just wanted to kill him. [ Chuckles ] Like everybody else,
I just wanted to kill him. ♪♪ Lance:
So, you have this guy who is
a family member to you. I mean, he is Papa Lou. Someone I told
so many things to. When, all of a sudden,
that is ripped away from you, and you see the true face
of someone, and they've been duping you
this whole time, it scars you. It scars you for life. "Why would you do this to us,"
you know? "You — You broke our hearts. You know,
You — you stole from us. You took advantage of us." Kirkpatrick:
It was this person that I had
all this complete trust in.

Suddenly the carpet just got
ripped out from underneath us. So, he felt entitled. I mean, this whole time,
Lou really thought he was just entitled
to all of this. If it was his idea to do this, and he introduced you
to this person to get you
that record deal, then, yeah, he was entitled
to 90% of your business, because if it wasn't for him,
you would be nothing. So do you want 10% or nothing? It went from jolly Lou to, like, "I don't give a fuck
about you right now." And it was just, like, no smile the rest of the time
I ever saw him. ♪♪ It was just really
frightening to me, because I knew it could go
one way or the other. It was either gonna be
the end of the group… Mm-hmm. …or you guys
were gonna be free. Yeah. And I just hated to see it
all go away, you know. So I was really scared
for you guys.

Yeah. And we really thought
that it was gonna be the end of the group. Oh, yeah. Because not only
was Lou Pearlman saying it was gonna be
the end of the group, but we had management
telling us that, we had the record label
telling us that. Everyone around us
was saying, "Mnh-mnh. Lou's — Lou's gonna win." Like, "Y'all have nothing." And even, I remember,
we sat down, I think it was in New York,
at that table, our first mediation, Lou on one side,
we're on the other, and we had Strauss Zelnick
right in the middle — you know, our boss.

And he just looked at us
and said, "You might have
one more album in you. I'm siding with Lou." And, I mean,
my heart was broken. And I remember leaving then,
and we were deciding, "Well, do we just
go ahead with the contract and just take it? Or do we leave?" That's what was going
through my head. I'm like,
"Our career's over." I always felt like he was
just kind of mealy-mouthed. Mm-hmm. You know, all those years,
I felt like he was. But that side of him,
the coldness that I saw… Mm-hmm. …that optimism
that we had seen, I mean, there was nothing
jolly going on there. He was just
a different person. Yeah. So that was a shock to me.
I don't know. I mean, Lou was always
so positive, you know? We believed
everything he said. He was fun to be around.

But then,
on this other side, you didn't know
who he was. I mean,
who was Lou Pearlman? We didn't know. [ Barrett Strong's
"Money (That's What I Want)"
plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ I have very fond memories
of growing up in Queens at Mitchell Gardens. Just walking down the street, everybody said
hello to each other. Everybody knew each other.

♪♪ It was a good place to grow up. The schools were pretty good. For American schools. [ Laughs ] Mitchell Gardens produced
some great people. A lot of professionals, a lot of people
in public service. [ Sighs ] Louie didn't represent us. He was different. And he didn't fit into
any of our crowds. He didn't play ball. He wasn't political. He wasn't a hippie. He got picked on a lot. He wore a pencil protector and polyester pants
up to here. And I think he probably,
for the most part, only had one friend.

The only person that would
be his friend, Alan Gross. [ Phone line beeping ] [ Phone line beeping ] Oh. [ Beeping continues ] [ Beeping stops ] I was an only child, and Louis was an only child. So we kind of gravitated
toward each other. But also we had a lot
of common interests. We liked music,
we liked entertainment, we liked blimps
and aviation. So, when I was much younger, I was sitting on the right side
of the bus, by the window, and as we're approaching
New York City, I looked up and I saw this big,
silver, floating blimp in the sky, and I just couldn't
take my eyes off of it, and it kind of made
my heart race.

♪♪ You ask me if I want to go up
in an airship, I'll never say no. ♪♪ I always included Lou
with my airship activities. We were just solidly enamored
by the Goodyear blimps, and having them stay for
two whole summers out at — in our backyard
at Flushing Airport. ♪♪ I always wanted a sibling. Having Lou in my life was like
having a younger brother. We played games,
and we'd go out. He definitely was shy. Lou's parents were very doting. Lou's mom, Reenie,
put him on a pedestal. Lou being a dreamer
that he was, he did spend a lot of time
by himself in his room, drawing up business plans, and thinking about
how he can make money. You always felt like he was more grown up
than the rest of us from an entrepreneurial
point of view, that he was someone
who was gonna figure out how to make a lot of money.

And that was important to him. Lou always talked
about himself as this, like, child prodigy
of business, you know. And he would always
tell this story as an example of his, like, entrepreneurial
genius at a young age. That he had this paper route, that started with this kid,
David, who he went to work for. [ 'NSYNC's "I Want You Back"
plays ] Lebenstein:
I had a great paper route. It was the New York Post. Probably 100 papers a day. And if you were lucky,
you got some tips, so maybe you made $15 a week. The story continues on that David wants to get out
of the paper route. ♪♪ ♪♪ Angel: And so he offers
to sell to Lou for $500. So that's a lot of money
for little Lou Pearlman to come up with. Brilliant Lou Pearlman
decides that, instead of buying
just one paper route, he's gonna get
multiple paper routes.

From there,
he hires a whole team of newspaper-delivery boys to set out delivering
all these papers for him. He decides to take it
another step and create this
fully customized experience for each one of the customers. Finds out exactly how do they
want the newspaper delivered — in the door,
do they want it under the door, do they want it under the mat? And he starts making these
index cards, cataloguing exactly
how each customer wants the newspaper delivered. He then decides to do something
that's never been done before — to do a deal with Dunkin' Donuts so that customers can have
their Sunday brunch delivered along
with the Sunday paper. So now he's got this full-scale
business of all these newsies in this conglomerate
newspaper-delivery service. Not only was he able to pay back
the initial $500, with interest, but he also made
this huge profit. ♪♪ It's total bullshit. I didn't sell him
the paper route.

He had nothing to do
with the paper route. We didn't have the ability
to just sell paper routes. [ Laughs ] I don't know. I mean, I think — Louie lied to himself a lot, and I think he started
to believe his own lies. My dad would say,
"God, that guy!" He goes,
"I asked him a question, and he never answered it." He dodged questions by making you think
that he answered it, and talking about so many things that were, like, on the subject
but off the subject, and diverting everything
to something else.

He bragged a lot,
and you never knew what was fact or what was fiction. One of the things he said was
that he was a cousin of Garfunkel
from Simon & Garfunkel. But he used to say that, and, you know,
we didn't really believe him. When Lou had turned 13,
and he was telling people that they should come
to his bar mitzvah because his cousin,
Art Garfunkel, would be there — at this point,
Simon & Garfunkel is one of the biggest
musical acts in the country.

[ Applause ] There are times when I'm singing
one of Paul's songs that I feel the song
is really very personal, and probably
shouldn't be sung by anyone
other than the writer. But because of
Lou's penchant for fibbing, a lot of kids
didn't believe him. But they decided to show up. And sure enough,
halfway through the bar mitzvah, all of a sudden,
Art Garfunkel appeared. Seabrook:
And I think that is an extremely
important moment in Lou's life, not only because
it was a brush with fame, but perhaps
even more significantly, I think it was Artie's
amazing harmony voice — that's what he was looking for
in that hangar in Orlando. I had heard
that people saw him, that he had come
to the neighborhood, that kind of thing. So, you know,
I absolutely believe that one fact was true. Art Garfunkel
was Lou Pearlman's in. He always would take
a little nugget of something to make everything seem legit. It brought him attention, and made him feel like people
might want to know him.

♪♪ When I met Lou, he did not
have a group of friends. He had Alan. He even told me one time,
which I found so sad, that, when he was little,
or growing up, he was the fat kid in school, you know, with the glasses,
the nerdy kid, and he felt
that nobody liked him. He said to me, "One day,
I'm gonna be rich. And when I'm rich,
people will like me." ♪♪ Louie was a busy guy. He always had something going. You didn't know what he was
gonna wind up doing, but you knew
he was gonna do something. I don't think any of us thought Louie was gonna become
this big entrepreneur, a boy-band executive. I thought he'd take over his
father's dry-cleaning business. Nobody else in the neighborhood was as into blimps as Lou —
and me, of course.

Lou and I realized
that we could be a team and work
with the Goodyear blimps — run and grab a rope and help it land,
and help it park. That was really
the golden age for us. Seabrook: Seeing a blimp, like,
slowly lift off and then hover up there
in the sky awakened in Lou some kind
of larger-than-life dream. I think the blimp is, like,
the essence of that spectacle that Lou was trying to create
with his boy bands.

♪♪ Lou attended Queens College
and studied business, and came up with a plan. He was able to see
the commercial opportunities. I used to work
for Goodyear, and that's what gave me
some of the ideas to go ahead and get into
the blimp business. I saw
all the great potential. Never tire of it.
It's amazing. Lou and I decided to try
to start a blimp company. Lou named the company
Airship Enterprises Ltd. Seabrook:
He got in touch with a company. They used balloons in logging, and they said
they're nowhere near as big as these giant blimps. And you can buy one.

It's only $10,000. He approached Jordache,
the jean-maker. He bought the logging blimp. Jordache was expecting a really
top-of-the-line airship. He deceived the client, and he deceived everybody,
including me. It was 16 or 17 years old,
past its useful efficiency, and it was showing its age. So on the day that it was
supposed to fly up to New York for the Jordache party
on October 8th, it was gonna crash. Man: Good evening. It was billed as the ultimate
weapon in the great jeans war. A spanking-new blimp
commissioned to flash the name
"Jordache." It ran afoul of gusting winds. Woman:
Laced across the pine trees, the ship's helium bag, painted with $50,000 worth
of real gold.

I think Lou's intent was
to commit insurance fraud right from the get-go. Lou had had the blimp
insured for $3 million. And, you know, as I said,
he bought it for $10,000, maybe added some stuff to it. And it had to crash
so that he could actually put in an insurance claim. I didn't understand
what was going on. I felt totally betrayed by Lou,
and I let him know it. Gross: I felt terrible, because I was really counting on trying to get into
the airship industry in a good way, and so I kind of retreated. I think after that, Lou decided that I could
no longer be trusted, that I wasn't part
of his inner circle anymore. There was no reason for me to
ever trust him completely again.

When I left the blimp company, he didn't fight to keep me
or anything like that. He actually had the attitude
more of "Good riddance" than of "Goodbye." And that hurt.
That hurt a lot. ♪♪ Seabrook:
When the blimp crashed,
Lou gets $3 million. The next phase
of Lou's life begins. ♪♪ He moved to Orlando
not long afterwards, where he secured
a large blimp hangar. He bought a house. Gross: The company became
Airship International Ltd. The subsequent clients
that Lou got — SeaWorld, MetLife blimp,
McDonald's… The largest certified airship
in the world for day-and-night
advertising. Three of the biggest
brands in America were doing business
with Lou, and recognized Lou's
original, genius idea. The fact that Lou was the first to get McDonald's and MetLife to advertise on blimps is actually
a pretty significant thing in terms of marketing. Now, like, a very everyday
kind of experience, but in those days,
it was not. After Lou was involved with the airship
and Airship Enterprises, he got involved
with this airline that he was very excited
about called Trans Continental Airlines. He just was so happy to have
this new venture that he was going into with these airplanes.

You know, he loved
airplanes so much. He had models of them
everywhere. And this was like his baby, and he went off
full steam ahead. While all these other things
were going on, Lou was also selling
these stock options and retirement accounts in Trans Continental Airlines. Hines: I first found out about
the investments from a friend of mine. He said, "If you got some money
to invest, I've got a program ran by a gentleman
through Trans Con called Lou Pearlman." When I first met Lou,
he was very jovial, easy to talk to.

Very impressed
by everything I see. Letters of accommodation,
appreciation, and, of course,
the key of the city. And he says, "I'm gonna show you
why your money's safe." So he pulls out
the FDIC documents. He pulls out AIG. He pulls out Lloyd's of London
reinsurance. But the way his company's
booming, I'm pretty sure
it's gonna be going up. Macik: This is a picture of
my husband, Andy Macik. World War II veteran. Was a prisoner of war in Germany
for nine months. He's my hero. My friend Luther and his wife
also invested with Lou. And they're the ones
that told us about it, and told us
what a good deal it was. My parents didn't spend
an extra penny on anything. They were excellent cooks. They would rather cook at home. And here they were retired,
not spending a penny. They never went on vacation. And if they went on vacation, it was to see my sister
somewhere.

Never thought my father
had this much money, ever. And he wanted to leave
something to us. And then we were introduced
to this opportunity, and it looked good. Passive, ridiculous returns
on the money. "Eisa from Trans Continental
to TCM." It was a special account
that TCA had, Trans Continental Airlines had. And he goes on to explain,
well, you know, he essentially was
a producer of the boy bands 'NSYNC, Backstreet Boys,
and so on.

So that caught my attention.
I was impressed. Johnny:
He's sitting behind the desk,
and he's on the phone talking to, you know,
Berry Gordy or whoever in the music business when you come in, and then he says,
"Oh, I got to let you go. I got an important person here,"
and he puts the phone down, and now all of
his attention's on you. And "This could all be yours." We were in New York,
flying out, and he said, "Oh, we're gonna fly
one of my planes that I'm thinking of buying." Lou gets on the mike, "Everybody put your tray tables
and seats down! Nobody cares!" One of the best bits of advice that we've ever been given
in our entire career was from the original
Temptations. And after our performance,
one of them said to us, you know, "Don't ever forget
that this is show business.

digital marketing

Always remember that
while you're doing your show, your business could be
walking out the back door." ♪♪ Pearlman:
I know, in the industry,
and so do a lot of people who I speak to
in the industry tell me, that they're more than fair,
these contracts. My name is Cheney Mason,
and I'm a lawyer. High-profile cases. Representing a man named
Harlan Blackburn, reputed to be one
of the Mafia bosses of Florida. And then, of course,
representing Casey Anthony. That case will live
in infamy forever.

And the one you came here for, representing various aspects
of Lou Pearlman and Trans Continental
Enterprises. With Backstreet Boys,
Brian was livid over this, and he basically said,
"Guys, this is what's up. I want to file a lawsuit." Lance:
As 'NSYNC, looking through
our contracts with the lawyers, they found one little out. If Trans Con didn't sign us
to an American label within a certain amount of time, then the contract was void. And they signed us
to a German label, not an American label, and that was
our little nugget of hope of being able to leave our deal. When we told them that,
that's when Lou sued us. ♪♪ We needed to figure out
how to either fix it or get rid of Lou altogether.

And it was just, like,
no smile the rest of the time I ever saw him. Reyes:
The hate started at the end, when the boys wanted
to renegotiate contracts, and they wanted more money. Then the lawsuits came in. And it was the craziest thing
you will ever imagine. ♪♪ Lance:
He sued us for our name. He said he was 'NSYNC,
because he owned the name. And it was $150-million lawsuit,
I believe. And again, remember,
we'd only gotten paid $10,000.

We might lose our label deal.
Who knows? Like, this could be
the end of it. It was, like, really starting
to twist your gut. Like, "This really isn't fair." We didn't want this
to be over for them, because they had just worked
too hard to lose it all. Man Fans have even formed
a prayer circle outside of the courthouse. Please be with them today
in the court, and please make them
really come out victorious. Their big dispute was,
they wanted to cut him out. And at that point in time, it seemed
a very unfair thing to do. ♪♪ You know, the bottom line is that Mr. Pearlman had invested
several millions of dollars to recruit these kids, and to provide dance lessons and voice lessons
and music lessons and all this other stuff
to create them.

He puts it in blimp terms. "If I rent a blimp
for $200,000 a month for 12 months, this is what
you're gonna pay me." But that's not how it works
in the music business. So if the band is
starting out at zero, and all of a sudden
makes $1 million in six months, you can't not pay them
for the work that they do.

You have to change
your agreement as it goes along and the band gets successful, because the power
is now with them. That was probably one of the
most stressful days of my life. All five of the guys are on the side of the wall
over there with their little suits
and ties on, and the judge is up there, and Lou's over here
with all his lawyers. And we as parents
are sitting there and just holding
each other's hands. ♪♪ The kids should
take a step back and say, "How'd I get here? Who took the risk? Who put up all the money? Who's my real Big Papa?" We had to break our contract
with Lou. In order to do that,
we went to the court and said, "We have the name 'NSYNC, and he is not
a part of that name." Lance: That judge looked at us,
looked at Lou, and said, "So, you, sir,
are saying that you are 'NSYNC.

And these five guys, who my daughter has their poster
on her wall, is not 'NSYNC." She's like,
"That doesn't make sense." And she sided with us. She let us out of that contract. McLean: As Backstreet Boys,
it went a little differently. We went ahead
and filed the lawsuit. You know,
we basically put money aside that was the 1/6 for Lou, kept that
in a separate escrow, and the minute we were done
with everything, we cut him a check,
and we were free. And Lou was no more. ♪♪ Kirkpatrick: There was just —
we trusted him. There was so much trust
we put into him. And it really sucked to see,
suddenly, that business, almost evil cold
come out on his face. It was the first person
that stabbed me in the back, the first person that I realized
I couldn't trust, the first person
that I could look back and just hear
the lies to my face. And then also say, "Yeah,
I don't want to renegotiate.

You owe me everything," and just be
so mean-spirited about it. McLean: I never
in a million years thought a person that I entrusted
my life with, and owed my career,
my life to, I mean, everything at that point
in my life, could do something like this. I think,
deep down in his heart, that's really
what he wanted to be, was the sixth member
of the group. I think that's how he really
wanted to see himself. And I think he wanted those boys
to see him that way, too, and if he hadn't
taken advantage of them, they would have.

♪♪ Lance: We were in London
in one of the cabs, and we were all talking
about the album. We were so excited
for this new album that we were gonna control, and we were writing on
for the first time. And we couldn't think
of a title. You know, like,
"What could we…? It's got to be about what's
going on in our life, you know?" And I remember, Chris was like,
"Oh, I got no strings on me." You know, that Pinocchio thing. And I'm like,
"No Strings Attached!" And it was just born right there
in a taxicab. [ 'NSYNC's "Bye, Bye, Bye"
plays ] Lance: It was the perfect
timing for us. And the whole theme
of "No Strings Attached" and being away this person
that was holding us back…

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Crowd cheering ] Lance:
…it just catapulted us into, like, that next level. [ Crowd cheering ] Blender: He would call me,
and he was real hurt, and real upset. Uh, was it an act,
because he loved me and didn't want me
to think bad of him? I don't know. But Lou would say to me, "These boys didn't have anything
when I took them under my wing. I made them who they were." Even though all this happened
and Lou was hurt, he still continued —
you know, he had to. He always — I don't even know
how to describe it. Hyper, you know? His mind was always going. ♪♪ Seabrook:
Back when Backstreet Boys
and 'NSYNC were going strong, Lou was also creating
other groups. He created Innosense,
which was his first girl group.

DeLoach:
The feeling of being a girl band in the midst
of all these boy bands was, we felt, like,
super special. They were talking about us
being, like, the next 'NSYNC
and the next Backstreet Boys. He created C-Note,
this Latin-based band. We were the next ones
slated to hit that success that Backstreet and 'NSYNC did. So everywhere we went,
we were the next big thing. And he created Take 5. Christofore: It was like
boy-band boot camp, basically. A big house
that we all lived in. Lou definitely tried to have
the family vibe always going. He was looking for the third
big breakthrough. Before my experience with Lou, my mom already spent many years,
you know, developing my brother. But when he turned 12 years old,
we never saw him anymore. Lou was like,
"Well, there's talent in Aaron." And then I sold
5 million records before I turned 10 years old with my first album with Lou. He created LFO. [ LFO's "Summer Girls" plays ] LFO was big,
but they never — none of those bands
ever got to the success of what Backstreet Boys
or 'NSYNC.

And I just think, not because
they weren't talented enough, just time had moved on. ♪♪ This is the way bubbles burst. It just seems contrived.
It seems put-on. I think he was a little bit
behind the times musically by that point. He needed to still seem
like this mogul. And they believed in him. Perez:
And he had to keep up — not with the Joneses,
'cause he was the Joneses. People were trying
to keep up with him. So I just think he got sucked
into this vicious cycle of "I have to one-up
what I'm doing. I have to get more money.
I have to be bigger." What he needed was bigger
than just C-Note. He needed a distribution deal
for all his artists to get that big chunk of money
to keep his thing going. And, so, because of that,
we suffered from it, and he basically ruined,
what, six record deals for us.

The currents of musical tastes were starting to flow
against him. Lou's idea was that,
"Let's make a television show. We'll show people
how these band are created." Holmes: "Making the Band"
was the perfect combination of reality TV, which was
kind of just starting up, and the boy-band thing that was
just kind of petering out. It put those two things
together, and it made
these people characters that young girls
could care about. Like, you'd be crushed
if the one that you liked didn't make the final cut.

Even though we had known that 'NSYNC
had been screwed over, even though we had known Backstreet
had been screwed over, those boys are like,
"Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Lou Pearlman's involved?" I'll never forget,
there was a break in the day when Lou Pearlman came walking
out of the auditioning room, and he was like,
"We'll see you inside," or something like that.
I was like, "Oh, my God. Lou Pearlman —
He talked to me." ♪♪ When you come back
after this little break, you got to have them
signed. Every band he's created so far
says he's crooked, and they're leaving,
and they're suing him. He's the guy giving you
the paperwork to sign with his company, and you're like,
"What do we do?" You're not really
in a position of power as the young performer
who hasn't had any success yet.

Lou has all the power. Ultimately,
we signed the contract, because that was
the opportunity on the table. [ O-Town's "All or Nothing"
plays ] ♪♪ Angel: When you look
at what you generated, you sell almost
10 million albums, you have these
number-one songs, we were grateful
for the opportunity. But you realize, "I could have made this much
working full time at Starbucks." And that's disheartening. But you're
in this weird position, as a young performer, to either take
an opportunity or not. My attorney had told me, "This is a bad contract,
but it's a record contract." His exact words were, "I don't know how many more
of these you're gonna see." He did obviously have success
with Backstreet, and 'NSYNC was starting
to have success.

I was with them when they signed
their contracts with Lou. When we received our contract, I took it to
my entertainment attorney, and he literally looked at me
and said, "You will be committing
career suicide if you sign this." And I signed it. When you look back
at your life, there were a lot of signs
that said, "Yes, do this," and there were a lot of signs
that said, "No, don't." And I jumped. Angel:
You do want to be successful. You do want to work with one
of the biggest names in music.

And so it's a real dilemma
that you find yourself in. So it's sort of out there that Lou had
this dark quality to him, where he would use
his power and influence to try to manipulate
young performers into these really
questionable scenarios. ♪♪ Mike Cronin, who worked for
Trans Continental Records at the time, pulled us aside and said, "Look, here's the deal. There's rumors about Lou. We don't know.
It's unconfirmed. He might have a thing for boys." You know, Lou would come
into the rehearsal room, and he would be like,
"Guys, let's see your abs. Take off your shirts." This kind of stuff,
where it feels like, "Oh, maybe this is part of
having a mentor of a band who wants to make sure
you're in good shape," 'cause that's what
he would always say.

"You got to be able
to sell teen magazines. You got to be in good shape. Take off your shirt.
Let me see your abs." I don't know too much about
Lou's private life and what he was into. As a closeted person, I always
just thought he was gay, and that was the reason
he would act so weird sometimes. He would give you a massage. Like, so he was
very touchy-feely. He was just a very touchy guy. It always felt a little,
"Okay, I think — I know what you're doing." We kind of had
people around us saying, "Hey, watch out
for this behavior. It's kind of been out there that this may or may not
be happening." And so you kind of knew
what to look for.

And I'll never forget, the one time
I was alone with Lou, we go back,
and he calls me in my room, and he's like, "I want to talk
to you about your performance." And so, like, against the advice
of a lot of these other people, I go up to his room. And, by the way, the whole time, he was very good at playing on
your desire to be successful, and he would say things
to me like, you know, "You're the Justin Timberlake. You're the Nick Carter. But you got to stay
in shape, man." He takes it another step further
and says, "I minored in physical therapy
in college. I can give your muscles a pump
without you even working out. Come here.
Let me rub your muscles." And so then it kind of starts
turning into this weird massage, and then all the red flags
start popping up. Like, "Oh, this is kind of what
everybody's been talking about." And the phone rings,
and it's my manager, and he goes to answer the phone,
and I got the hell out of there.

And that was the only experience
I had with Lou that sort of felt like, "Okay, this definitely
feels like it's crossing
some sort of line." Was that his way of
touching somebody without really touching
that person? I really don't know. I mean,
I knew plenty of gay people, and he knew that I had
no problem with it, so if he had said to me,
you know, "I'm gay," he knew I would have
been fine with that.

As far as the talk about him
being a pedophile, or doing those things to people, it's something
I never saw him do. You had no proof of that. I never saw anything like that. I never witnessed
anything happening with him and young boys. I mean, I heard a lot
of stories. My opinion of Lou being
a sexual predator is that that is not true. That is so foul. He would come up to you, and he'd teach you
how to do push-ups.

He taught me how to do
diamond push-ups so I could build my chest. And he's a pedophile? Shut up about that, guys. ♪♪ I got to be really close
with Rich Cronin because his brother Mike
was our manager, and LFO came out on tour
with us. Rich was one of the members that actually lived
in Lou's house with him at one point. I feel I can tell this story because Rich went
on Howard Stern and told it. He tells me that Lou
basically comes in, and he's all worked up,
and he's like, "You know, I got this big opportunity
for you guys in Europe." "This could be
the make-it-or-break-it moment for LFO.

This guy over in Europe, who has this
big recording company…" "That's how they do business
over there. I don't want you
to get freaked out. We got to do what's right
for the band. And so I'm gonna let you
practice on me so that we don't go over there
and blow this deal." ♪♪ DeLoach: He had his tanning bed
in his house.

I didn't know this at the time, but, you know,
you take your clothes off to get in the tanning bed. He was recording
the whole thing. So he would show all the boys the video of us girls
getting naked and getting
into the tanning bed. That felt pretty darn violating. And he would always say that,
"Oh, yeah. The Innosense girls
come over here and
tan all the time, and you can see
right in there from here." You know, stuff like that. You know, "oh, yeah.
I got every channel that you could
ever imagine here, even the porn channels
if you want." It all comes back to wanting
to impress everybody, and make them feel like,
"Oh, man. You go over to Lou's and
you can do whatever you want." 100% that was a way for him to, like,
be one of the cool kids, and to also, in a way, like,
earn their trust. He had cameras
everywhere in that house. I mean, I've spent
the night there. I've been there
a couple of times. I've seen the setup
that he has. And it's quite frightening.

I mean, it's like something
out of a horror-movie set. The control room
was in his bedroom. [ Scoffs ] So he could see everything
that was going on. That was Lou Pearlman. That was the Lou
that we all got to know. But as long as the guys were 18,
nothing you can do. I mean, they were there
on free will. Oh.
Oh, oh, oh, right. Right.
Where's that footage? Why didn't she sue him? Exactly.
'Cause it's all lies. I went in that tanning bed
all the time. My mom did, too. She searched through it before she would
let me go through it for cameras. So did my dad. Lou would not allow us
to be released from him without signing
the sixth-man agreement. And I also had said to Lou,
face-to-face, "I will not sign
this release agreement." Because in that
release agreement was a confidentiality
agreement.

And I told him to his face,
I put it on his desk, and I said,
"I will never sign this, because for the rest of my life, I will tell people
what you did." After I had refused to sign
the release agreement, Lou had reminded me
that he had taken insurance out. On me. And he's like, "Okay, well,
I just wanted to remind you that, you know,
if you're flying, or you're whatever, just that I have insurance." Would he have ever, you know, gone so far as to something
really bad happening to me? I don't know. I don't know that he was
capable of that. But it sure felt that way. And then it's not
really uncommon to a lot of young actors
and musicians and people who are
pursuing success to be preyed on by those who are in positions of power
and influence above them.

I mean, it's a very old story. Lou and I started talking, and I knew right away
this was not gonna end well. ♪♪ Seabrook:
Lou expanded Trans Continental into a number of
other businesses that extended
beyond the music business. He bought TCBY,
the yogurt company, he bought Chippendales,
NYPD Pizza. He expanded into over
100 different businesses, and grew Trans Continental
into this sort of global entity.

Orlando actually gave him
the key to the city. And he purchased
an Internet-based talent agency called Options Talent. The problem with it was
that he had purchased a company that was already
under investigation for fraudulent activities
in the state of Florida. ♪♪ My name's Jacqueline Dowd. I was an Assistant
Attorney General and Bureau Chief of
the Economic Crimes Unit in Orlando. We, at the Economic Crimes Unit, had an investigation
going into this company that we thought was deceiving
people about modeling. They would approach people
in shopping malls and stadiums. "I'm gonna set you up
with a photographer. You need to have
some good pictures taken." And you spend a lot of money
on the pictures, and nothing else
ever really happens. We started getting
consumer complaints. And we got them in a volume
that really did tell us we needed to take a look
at what was going on. We were in meetings with him.

Literally from day one, he would
have to stop the meeting because he was being
investigated by the FBI. And, no joke, the FBI would
come in to interview him. And somewhere along the line,
here, a new Attorney General
came into the picture. Pearl: When Charlie Crist
was Attorney General of the state of Florida, Lou Pearlman was a supporter of Crist's campaign
for governor. Charlie Crist
was the beneficiary of some of Lou Pearlman's
contributions, either in cash or in services. Why is this guy,
who's the Attorney General, not interested in this huge scam
with thousands of victims? "See that photograph
over there?" And I turn around, and it's a picture of
Charlie Crist and him, shaking hands,
looking like the best of chums. He says, "Well, he's gonna be
our next governor." And I said, "Oh, really?" And he says, "Yeah, and I'm
gonna make sure of that." Dowd: They did invite us
to tour the offices.

We drove out there
and walked through the offices. I was a little suspicious,
though. "Well, look over there. There's where we do
this part of the operation. Over there, that's our website." The whole time we were there,
nobody looked up at us. They were so busy working,
working, working, working. It struck me as odd, because if eight people
walked through my office, everybody would be
looking at them. "Who are you?
Why are you here?" You know, it just seemed staged.

And I later found out that it was, in fact, staged
for our benefit. ♪♪ On Monday morning,
I went into the office, and I was asked if that resolved all of my concerns
with the business. And I said, "No. There's some things
we need to follow up on." It was made clear to me that my services
were no longer needed. ♪♪ I thought it was really sad that you could buy your way
out of an investigation. That's not how
it's supposed to work. Charlie Crist is now
a United States congressman representing
the Tampa-Saint Pete area. ♪♪ [ Sighs ] Seeing — Seeing what happened later
was very frustrating, because, from my perspective,
it could have been prevented had we been allowed
to continue. But that didn't happen. You know, there was a point
where I had it in my hands, and I couldn't make it happen. Laura: Women love a man
that can dance, and doesn't have to have — you know,
drink a million drinks before they get out
on the dance floor. I always had the greatest time
just dancing. And, once in a while, somebody wanted
to follow me home, and that's okay, too.

But I was just there to have
a good time dancing. Then got to be pretty good
about it, I guess. That's our story. What, the going home
or the dancing? The dancing. Probably both. [ Laughs ] That was a bit
before you. Yeah. It's okay. I got my stories, too,
that we won't talk about. We first found out about
our investment opportunity here with Pearlman when her mother left her
a sum of money, and we thought to put it
as safe as possible and plan the rest of our lives
around this money. ♪♪ Huntley:
I was a financial writer
and personal-finance editor for the St. Petersburg Times, which is now known as
the Tampa Bay Times. I started getting
a few calls, letters from people asking me about Lou Pearlman
and Trans Continental Airlines. And some people sent me
their paperwork, and I could tell by
looking at it that there was something
very fishy. ♪♪ We didn't get
any bank returns to show that we were
making money, any financial statements
or anything to show what our money
was doing for us.

Nothing. This went on for
three or four — a couple of months. On the phone, "Where's our checks?
They're not here yet." "It'll be coming.
It'll be coming." ♪♪ Macik:
And then when you called, then you couldn't even
get through to anybody. My father and I drove up
to Orlando to check it out. And so we were wanting to see
this insurance policy, and it was in a vault. It was in the safe,
and only Lou could bring it out. "I mean, come on,
it's piece of paper. Are you sure?
We came all the way up here." "Oh, no.
Only Lou can do it." Huntley: People started asking
for their money back, and they couldn't get it. All of a sudden, this man who had been
so attentive to them, and whenever they had
any questions, he was always happy
to answer them, and then all of a sudden
he's so inaccessible. ♪♪ Mason:
The big case that we had was dealing with a contract dispute
with the Backstreet Boys. Well, as it turned out, Mr.

Pearlman then utilized
a different law firm to effectively
collect the money. He decided that
he was gonna cheat us. So I sued him. On the final day of the trial, "The judge has entered
a judgment in your favor for $16.5 million." He arranged
for a bank wire transfer from a bank
in Munich, Germany. And it didn't show up. We can't find a bank
by that name in Munich. I don't think it exists. I'm laughing now. You wouldn't have wanted to be
in my shadow at that time. Suffice it to say, I wanted
to make the scorecard right. I'm sure he knew eventually
there'd be a day of reckoning. I won't reveal all of my
thoughts, because I couldn't have done
what I wanted to do to him. I remember getting a call
from an attorney here in town who had actually represented
Lou Pearlman. And in the course
of that lawsuit, Lou had submitted
a financial statement which basically indicated
he had little or nothing.

At the same time,
he's borrowing money from banks
all over the country, and he's indicating
he's got all kinds of net worth. Mason:
He had income that was traceable from these big bank loans, and he had income from 'NSYNC
or Backstreet Boys. If you're able to convince banks
to lend you money, you're pretty good
at defrauding people. After the first article
appeared, I did hear from
a lot of investors, and they were
really very worried. People started asking
for their money back. I read in the paper that there
was an investigation. I was getting very concerned. People initially
didn't want to believe that they weren't going to get
their money back. This guy's a rich guy. The money is somewhere.
Where is it? We knew there had been
several civil cases where banks had sued him. We basically got those records. Obviously they differed
by quite a bit. Handberg: One of the FBI agents
I did a lot of work with, by the name of Scott Skinner,
came to me and he says he looked like he had a possibly
promising bank-fraud case involving Lou Pearlman.

One of the first things
we had to do was to accelerate
our time table. I think he new right then
it was a criminal matter, so I think he started
looking for an exit strategy at that point. Handberg:
I don't know how you spent your Valentine's Day in 2007, but I spent mine getting
a search warrant for the residence
and at his business. We had the pieces that we needed to be able to bring our case
against Mr. Pearlman. ♪♪ Skinner:
And as we started going around and asking employees, friends, we learned about
the investment program that he was offering
through Trans Continental.

Schaller: One of the days where,
you come into the office, and chains on the doors. The FBI is here, and they're
going through paperwork in everyone's office,
looking for things. Handberg:
His business, by that point, there weren't
many people there. But there were
a lot of documents, and his desk was — it looked like
he had just abandoned it. The safes at his residence
were cleaned out. It clearly had the look of
someone who had left in a hurry. And it was clear that our case was not gonna
just be a bank-fraud case, but that there was gonna be
an investment-fraud case, and we were looking upwards
of over $100 million.

Lou wasn't a dumb guy.
He was a smart fella. And I think he knew that
the writing was on the wall, and the sooner he got
out of town, the better. Everything started crumbling
around him. ♪♪ And, you know, he knew
that he was in trouble, so… ♪♪ …he just, you know, left. ♪♪ ♪♪ The early memories that I have
of Lou and myself, you know, talking to people
outside of the airport office, I really enjoyed those days. Now, although I wasn't really
involved with Trans Continental or any of the fixed-wing
operations, I always loved models.

What Lou did is,
he took my 747 model — it was maybe about six inches
longer than this — and he branded it, and then he took it over
to LaGuardia Airport, and then he very cleverly
held it by the tail and made look like
it was taking off. And so most of the model
was still visible without his fingers showing
that it was a model. So people actually,
when they saw these photos, thought that the model
was an actual 747 that was a Trans Continental
branded airplane. I was very upset when I learned that Lou had used a model
that I had built to deceive people.

On paper, it was a business,
an operating business, with far-flung enterprises, including what we like to call the only airline in the world
without a plane. It was always odd that we were
booking flights with Delta and American, United, Southwest, but never Trans Con Airlines. Never just "Hop on the plane." It's kind of odd. He said he had an airline. All he had was by-the-hour. He would lease a plane. It was amazing. And he would stretch
whatever he was doing and make himself look big, and give people
confidence to invest. Even if there really was nothing
at all to invest in. Huntley:
Now, this was considered
a Ponzi scheme because the money
from the later investors was used to make payments
to the earlier investors.

Handberg: And the problem is,
is if you don't continue to bring the new people in, or if a lot of the old people
want to have their money out, you don't have enough money
to pay all of that. Huntley:
And that's what leads it all
to fall apart — people asking
for their money back, and there is no money
to pay them. Handberg:
Initially, he was selling stock in a company called Trans Continental Airline
Services, Inc. And the representation
always was that this was a company
that provided all sorts of
airline services. Totally fictitious. Lance:
This whole Ponzi scheme, and this criminal activity
that he's done, he's been doing
since the '80s. You know, he's been,
you know, fooling people, you know,
for a long time. All this music and the bands
that he helped was all on the backs
of money that was stolen. And then we become
that validation for him. You know, once he had
a successful group like us or Backstreet, now he can say,
"Ah, look at this. See? This is what I can do. Give me more money,"
and just use that to take advantage
of more people.

I just remember you calling me
and telling me. I was just shocked,
because I did not know all of this
had been going on. In a way, I mean, he used us
to scam other people, and that's horrible. That's horrible. But every once in a while, if we were
in a recording studio, the rehearsal studios
at Trans Con, someone would come up to you
and go, "Oh, I own that group. I own the Backstreet Boys.
I own 'NSYNC." And I'm like, "What do you mean,
you own them?" "Oh, yeah.
I'm an investor with Lou, and we own that." You go back to Lou,
and he would say, "Oh, no. They're invested
in the Eisa account, but they think they own
the Backstreet Boys or 'NSYNC, but they don't. This is a whole
different company." So you just scratch your head.

All of a sudden now,
things start to make sense. The contracts, the 1/6,
the lawsuit. Then to find out how many
other people this whole thing that he did
affected. And there were supposedly about
2,100 people who were investors. He would mislead the investors
into saying that these savings plans
were FDIC-insured. Huntley: The tax returns
and the statements looked like they had been
professionally prepared, so people relied on them. Kapila: We needed to reconstruct
all the cash transactions.

A lot of money flowed
in a circular fashion. You would have a hard time
tracking it. It's like a hornets' nest. And you really
have to untangle that to figure out what money
is going outside the sphere. People tend to ultimately
believe that they're
in on a good thing, and they're not really
engaging in risk. And that's how Ponzi-scheme
operators are successful. Lou was masterful at that. How he developed the skills
to do that will always remain a mystery.

♪♪ The bank fraud was somewhere
around $250 million, and the investor fraud was
somewhere around $250 million. So altogether,
somewhere around $500,000,000. I recovered approximately
$38 million. Unfortunately,
most of the victims lost almost all
of their investment funds. ♪♪ I remember the day
when we found out it's gone. ♪♪ Her money from her mom,
God bless her. Yeah. You know, my husband,
when he was in the service, when they would have to retreat,
he'd have to walk past, back past
the bodies of his buddies that were swollen, maggots coming out
of them and all.

So you see what he went through so that that SOB
could steal from everybody. You want
to protect your country, keep your country well, but these people like that are
just degrading it all the time. Now where do we go?
Now what do we do? Now what's gonna
happen to us? ♪♪ Yeah.
It's not a good feeling. At all. And you read about that,
and you hear about that, and then now, you know,
people say, "It could happen
to anybody." "Well, no, it's not.
It's not gonna happen to us. We're different." Well, guess what?
It just happened to us. So maybe we're not
all that damn different. When you're blaming yourself, you forget about
all the due diligence you did. You just look at the failure. My father didn't —
He was always — there's a sadness about him. It created a lot of stress in
the family between my parents, because my mom put her
little IRA in there, too. And in the end,
it was all smoke and mirrors.

It was all fake. It was all truly criminal. McLean:
Why was enough not enough? How can you live
with yourself now, like, knowing the damage
that you caused? I mean, people took their lives
over this scenario. Getting into his mind,
it makes no sense at all. How can you take something
that's working and something that's amazing and decide that,
"It's not enough, and I need to do
something wrong to make more"? This guy needs to be caught,
and he needs to be punished for doing this to, essentially,
a bunch of old people who don't have any way
to get any more money. He would disappear
for a week or so, and you would ask,
"Well, where's Lou?" And the running joke was, "Lou's gone to the Bahamas
to make payroll." One day I actually asked Lou,
I said, "What do you do in the Bahamas
to make payroll?" And he's like, "I'm one of the
greatest gamblers in the world.

You need to come to the Bahamas and see how I roll those dice,"
you know. "I'm making $100,000 a roll." And it wasn't until
the whole thing unraveled that I was like, "Hmm,
well, maybe that's where
the treasure is buried." Trust me,
there's one person that knows
where Lou hid the money. There has to be. And that person is being
very smart, 'cause that man hid money
all over the world. ♪♪ Handberg:
Finding him was like
an international game of hide-and-seek. Huntley: There had been
sightings around in Europe. "He's in Panama," or,
"He's here, he's there." Handberg:
We would get some leads, but oftentimes they were more
just predictions of where people
thought he might be.
When Lou fled, Helen Huntley was following
the story quite closely. She was running a blog. She kept the blog alive
and kept everything alive. I got an e-mail from one of
the readers of the Times who was on vacation in Bali
with his wife, and he had seen
Lou Pearlman.

Initially, I thought it was Lou
sending us the e-mail, just trying to feel us out
and find out what's going on. My response was, "Hey, look,
you know, if you see Lou, tell him
he's not in any trouble. We would just like
to talk to him, get his side of the story. Because in all investigations, there are two sides
to the story." And that was true. But we also wanted
to arrest him, too, so… ♪♪ So, FBI's got agents stationed
all across the world. When the agents showed up
in Bali, they thought to themselves,
"Well, it's early. Let's go get breakfast." Well, the place they happened
to pick was the place where Lou Pearlman
was eating breakfast. Meanwhile, the tourist is
getting a little frustrated, and ends up sending Scott a picture of Pearlman
eating breakfast. And in that photo
of Pearlman eating, in the corner
are our two FBI agents who are eating breakfast,
as well. It was really a fortuitous
event for us. Pearlman
didn't raise any issues, and at that point,
we were off and running in terms of our criminal case
moving forward.

♪♪ Pearlman pled guilty
to two different conspiracies — one conspiracy related to
his investment-fraud scheme, a conspiracy to commit
mail fraud and wire fraud, a second conspiracy related
to his bank-fraud scheme. He also pled guilty
to money laundering, and also to committing
bankruptcy fraud while he was on the run. Sharp:
We had to have the sentencing
in the Ceremonial Courtroom, which is our biggest courtroom, because there were about
200 people that showed up who were mostly
his investors. They all had fire in their eyes. Even if he gets the money back,
he should be put in jail, and kept in jail
until he dies. Sharp: I sentenced him
to the maximum of 25 years. Handberg:
Which I believe, at the time, was either the longest
or close to the longest sentence for any fraud case. And then, all of a sudden,
it came to me. I saw all of these angry people
in the courtroom, and I said, "Mr. Pearlman,
I'll tell you what I'll do.

For every $1 million
that you pay back to these people
in the courtroom, I'll give you a month off." And he actually did have
some ideas about some scheme
he could have run from prison. He was gonna — you know, if
they would just allow him access to the Internet and phones, he would be able to get
a new band going, and, you know, all this. But that didn't happen. Much to my amazing surprise, I starting getting collect calls
from Lou from jail. And he was telling me that he
was gonna get out of jail, that this was all a big mistake,
et cetera, et cetera.

He sounded like
a scared little boy. And I guess he was reverting
back to those days where our friendship
was strong. I think he needed somebody
like me to speak to. I don't feel that he knew how much of a criminal
he really was. When I found out
that Lou had passed, at first I didn't believe it. And I went online,
and it was all over the place. Lou Pearlman
died behind bars in Florida while serving
a 25-year sentence for orchestrating
a Ponzi scheme. Woman: Before that, Pearlman was
heralded as a pop genius, bringing the world
pop sensations like 'NSYNC
and the Backstreet Boys. And I felt cheated. You know, I felt that I never
did have closure with Lou. I felt a lot of relief. Because I felt like
he terrorized me for a while. Like, I'm looking at
that slate right now that says
"Lou Pearlman Project," and it's just so sad. It's just —
it just hurts, man. It hurts to see people
attack him, and continuously attack him, because I go through
the same thing.

I'm going through it right now. He was a-a gummy bear. I got to take a break
for a second, guys. All right? Man: Take as long
as you need, man. Yeah.
I-I just need to… I know.
Just give me a second. It was the most, like,
mixed emotions ever. You don't know whether to cry. You don't know whether to laugh.

You don't know whether
to be relieved. You don't know whether
to feel bad for him, feel happy
for everybody else. It's just… There was so much wrong with everything about him
and what happened that you don't know
even how to take death. The story of Lou Pearlman
is a sad one, because here's a man who could have really
legitimately had it all. He could have paid
everybody back. But that never crossed his mind. But on the other hand,
he did change history. He changed the world of music. I think we all do it
because we're human. We reflect back on things
that happen to us, the good and the bad. but especially
the bad sometimes. And we think, why did
this thing happen to us? For years and years and years, I racked my brain about why did this have to happen
to so many people? You know, look, I'm sad.

I never want to see anything bad
happen to anybody. He wasn't the healthiest person
from my point of view. You have to have
a special personality, with not-caring psychosis
of some sort, to be able to pull something
like that off, I think. He's the cautionary tale
of the businessman who let greed spiral
so far out of control that he literally left
behind all the success that he really truly
did created, and now he'll forever
be remembered as a criminal. And in that sense, you have
to learn from that and go — you know, you never want
to become that yourself. Like I said before,
he wanted to be loved and revered by everybody. And I think that whole
famous-by-association thing, he wanted to say, "I did this. I gave you this boy band.
I put this together.

I brought this to you.
I'm the one." He wanted to be part
of the family. A man who had everything, had the world
in the palm of his hand… …but was never settled. In so many ways, I feel like
he almost derived this God-like complex. Like, you know,
"I am untouchable. I can do whatever I want,
say whatever I want. Worst-case scenario,
buy my way out of a situation." I had to let go of needing
to find that answer, because I may not ever know why.

Johnny:
It's like a tabloid. There's 10% of truth
to everything Lou said, and 90% of him
taking it somewhere else. Lance: From the outside,
you can look in and say, "How could you believe that? How could you be so duped?
Did you not see that?" But when you're inside, you don't know that
that's happening. I wanted to believe that
all this was gonna happen. I wanted to believe
the lies. I mean,
that's how I was duped. I think it's so much easier
for someone to believe a lie when it affects you
in a great, positive way. You tell someone something that they truly
want in their life, and they can dream about, you want to believe it. And I sure did. Diane: Yeah. I mean, I really felt
the same way. I wanted to believe
all this was true.

So we all just kind of
held on to that dream. Mm-hmm. Lou could sit there
with a green pen and convince you,
in a matter of minutes, that it's purple. He had a way with words. It was his body language. It was his mannerisms. It was the way
he would look at you, with intent, to convince you. I took a master's degree
in Queens College on teaching social studies. One day I was in
the Strand Book Store, and I picked up a book
from the 18th century. Unedited. Just letters from
George Washington. And I gave it to my professor. He always preached to us to use primary material,
source material. About a week later,
he walked in with that book with a bunch of Post-Its in it, and he wrote on the blackboard
in very big letters "There are no facts." And then he told us about
all the inaccuracies in the letters that George Washington
wrote himself.

He explained to us that
primary material can be wrong. And with Louie,
you could know Louie, you could look at pictures, you could get information
all you want, but you don't really know
what's a fact. Things were colored, things were stretched, and sometimes
completely invented. Pearlman:
You know the old saying — "For those that believe,
no explanation is necessary. For those that don't believe,
no explanation will suffice." [ Kina Grannis'
"Tearin' Up My Heart Cover"
plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ "There certainly
are female performers who work every bit as hard,
and sometimes harder. But generally I've found
that teenage males are more focused
and less emotional." Oi. Well, his behavior surely
represented this quote. That's what I'll say about that. "I saw a much bigger world
from my vantage point above the Goodyear blimp,
flying out of Flushing Airport. My view of life
was changed forever.

There are no boundaries
where you fly. No stop lights. No end of the road. The horizon is unlimited." But he stole my life. I mean, there's no doubt
about the fact that a lot of what he wrote
about his early life was really my experiences. "I go over every contract
repeatedly with our performers and their families
and their lawyers. I have put people to sleep
explaining the details to them. But I want everyone to know
what they are getting into." Ha! [ Laughs ] Oh… Well, that's bullshit.

♪♪.

As found on YouTube

Share this article

Leave a comment