'N Sync, like most groups of well-adjusted college-age boys, has two main modes of communication: singing and quoting movies. In a two-hour dinner the five band members riffle through a selection of songs that includes Sweet Emotion, Material Girl and the Honey Combs cereal commercial; the movies Sixteen Candles, Three Amigos, Boogie Nights, Wayne's World and the MTV boy-band parody movie that made fun of them. It takes so little to set them off that even talking about singing makes them sing. "We only sing in times of trouble," says Chris Kirkpatrick, before belting out a Let It Be that doesn't attract the attention of anyone in the pricey hotel restaurant. That's because the members of 'N Sync--whose first CD sold 7.8 million copies--are anonymous to the adult diners. The adults no doubt assume that the five bald black bodyguards dressed in identical outfits of blue jeans and denim jackets are the platinum-selling pop band and that the 'N Sync kids are from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
"How come everywhere we go to eat looks like a wedding?" asks Lance Bass, 20, looking around the restaurant. All five order the same dish--a steak with Jack Daniels sauce, spicy mashed potatoes and vegetables. And though it may be irresponsible to report, because of the band's nearly complete control over the lives of teens, none of them eats a single one of his vegetables. "Ha! Ha! Ha! Look what Lance ordered!" yells Kirkpatrick, pointing at a small brioche with pate before realizing they are each getting the complimentary amuse-guele. "My dog eats better stuff than that," says Justin Timberlake, 19, the group's heartthrob. JC Chasez, 21, much to everyone's shock, eats his. The table totally freaks.
Their restaurants of choice are McDonald's, Taco Bell, Burger King, Benihana and the Friars Club. "At the Friars Club we saw Ellie Wizzle," says Bass. "Y'all didn't even know who Ellie Wizzle is." Kirkpatrick gets as defensive as these ego-free guys can get. "Was he on that show with Pam Tillis?" he asks.
Kirkpatrick is the most animated of the group, even though he is 28 and has adopted a more mature, braid-free hairstyle. "I knew when Chris from Kid 'N Play said to get rid of the braids that it was time to change," he says. The band is pushing its new album, No Strings Attached, which is due to be released this week after a four-month delay caused by a $150 million lawsuit filed by Louis J. Pearlman--the Svengali who put together 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and LFO--after 'N Sync tried to leave him. They settled out of court, and the band signed with Jive Records, also the new home of the Backstreet Boys.
The Backstreet Boys are not 'N Sync's good friends. They threatened to leave Jive when the label took on 'N Sync. Now the boys claim the marionette theme of 'N Sync's new video was stolen from them. While careful not to say anything bad about their rivals, 'N Sync clearly feels much warmer toward 98 Degrees, with whom they talk regularly. They are also big fans of Britney Spears, whom most of them think to be the most attractive of the blond teenage girl pop stars.
But the girls the band encounters most often are the teens who follow them everywhere. "They know our schedule better than we do," says Chasez. "We've had people hide under the tablecloth of room-service tables," says Joey Fatone, 23. "This family went on a pilgrimage to my house and left me all these pictures of Bass shoes," says Bass. "I think they're psycho." 'N Sync mania is even more intense outside the U.S. "We think Europe has the next Olympic gold medalists, because they will chase our bus for one or two miles," explains Timberlake. And the band isn't even aware that at this moment 30 teenage girls, and nine of the smartest teenage boys in the world, are sitting in the cold on the sidewalk outside 'N Sync's hotel just so they can scream at them as they are shuttled into a car. Elie Wiesel may have a Nobel Peace Prize, but he never had that.