By Georgia Cluff and Charlotte Cluff
It was Friday 2nd June 2017, at 2.46pm. Arguably, one of, if not the most important moment in the history of Loreto Normanhurst (sorry Mary). It was at that very precise minute, that the curtains to the gym stage burst open, and there, standing before 1000 of their students, were 5 of Normo’s most renowned male staff members- air guitar in hand, 80% of them with not the slightest clue of how to dance.
They had instant fame. The crowd going wild as they clapped (out of time) to the beat of ‘Everybody (Backstreets Back)’ and attempted not to run into one another as they took small solos across the front of the stage. They were named a ‘sensation’, ‘an act to be remembered’, ‘iconic’. But… as the little year 7’s who sat giggling in the audience prepare to run Loreto Day in 2021, those of us who remember this momentous performance continue to contemplate the burning question- where are our favourite Normo Backstreet Boys now?
Exclusive - Reflections on the days since the Backstreet Boys
“ To be completely honest, it’s been a difficult re-adjustment. I’ve tried to concentrate on my teaching career but there is this kind of on-going void in my life that I just carry with me. Sometimes I practise my dance moves alone at home but it’s just not the same. I tried to start up a new band with some other teachers but it fizzled out pretty quickly due to creative differences. The chemistry wasn’t there. We just weren’t synchronised like my buddies from the Backstreet Boys. At the height of our fame, one of us would turn up to rehearsals (usually held after school in one of the Maths classrooms) with some choreography and we’d learn it in about 10 minutes. That’s how connected we were. Sometimes we could choreograph even without speaking. We knew each other so well. The last time we performed “informally” was at the 2019 Year 12 graduation as part of Francis’ farewell tour. In those fleeting moments on the dancefloor of the Gym the frisson of who we once were came flooding back, if only momentarily. I’m currently working on a solo rap album called I Rap It That Way which will hopefully get some traction. I’d love to get some of the boys on the album.. I’ve also finished a book about the years since we’ve broken up called, I Know the Meaning of Being Lonely which The New York Times have referred to as “a searing and poignant portrait of a teacher’s life after descending from the heights of worldwide fame.” Small things by comparison to what I did with my best mates during our golden years. ”
“ At first I loved it, the freedom - being outside the limelight. Able to walk in the daylight again without my groupies and fans harassing me. But it got lonely quickly. I had looks across the playground with that familiar look: somebody that they used to know. People forgot about me as the pop-star Idol and started seeing me as that ‘History’ guy that dresses up as a Roman Legionary soldier every year for Living History Days. I missed the screams of excitement during my Backstreet days where I knew ‘We’ve Got It Goin’ On’. However, these were replaced with the sympathetic gestures and awkward smiles as I passed them in the corridors - which sent daggers ‘Straight Through My Heart’. I was ‘Drowning’, I felt like I needed to fill that emptiness with something else. I tried a variety of different ways to stay busy and get ‘The Call’; those same endorphin rushes as I had during my Backstreet days. Things like MMA fighting, interpretive liturgical dance, Brazillian Samba, Bungee Jumping, Sky-Diving, Queen of the Track… you name it, I’ve tried it. The five of us have reconnected throughout the years, to ‘Get Down’ for one-off reunion tours: the 2019 Staff Day, the 2020 Year 12 Graduation Night, and Francis’ farewell tour. When saying goodbye to Francis, I was thinking ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’. But it was ‘More Than That’; he was the only one who actually knew how to dance - he was our choreographer, he was ‘Larger than Life’, we were ‘Incomplete’ without him. When asked: Do you miss being a part of the Backstreet Boys, I want ‘Everybody’ to know: Of Course… I want it back the way it was: ‘I Want It That Way’. ”
“ I’m not someone who likes to dwell on the past, I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself and improve as a human being. For me that was reigniting my football career and settling down with my high school sweetheart and beginning a family. Nowadays my time is taken up by them and filming of the very popular Netflix TV show “Chilling with the Chestermans”, which follows our family’s highs and lows as we balance the challenges of semi-professional sport and parenthood. The fame I have gained from the global exposure has been valuable in the foundation of my charity “Backstreets to the Big-time”, which strives to give disadvantaged youth the opportunity to succeed through sport and dance. My wish is everybody has the opportunity to feel the joy I felt, when 5 uniquely talented individuals came together to create pop music history. ”
“The break up has been weighing down on my mind for years. In the meantime, I have been hitting up the tennis court serving up aces in the local Orlando Division 2 competition. The looks I get from people who say things like “I know you from somewhere”, “you’re from that boy band group” bring a tear to my eye just thinking what a titan I was in one of the best bands to grace God’s green earth. These days, apart from formerly strutting our stuff on the stages of Wembley and Madison Square Garden, I am trying to kick start my pro tennis player with the goal of beating Rafael Nadal one day. My local competition winning record of 37% motivates me daily and I want to make the top 10 and dominate the world, just like our band did. Whilst I can’t get off the satellite tour I did manage to play Nadal in a friendly once and lost 6-0, 6-0 without winning a point but I have not lost heart. When away from the court I often dance in front of the mirror and relive the glory days with the boys, and knowing our tunes tore up so many dance floors, and still does in many clubs to this day. One day, I feel we’ll get back together for another collaboration, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow… but someday. ”
Francis was unavailable for comment but wanted to relay this message through his agent:
Now I can see that we’ve fallen apart
From the way that we used to be, yeah
No matter the distance
I want you to know
That deep down inside of me
You are my fire
My one desire
You are (you are, you are, you are)
Don’t wanna hear you say
Ain’t nothing but a heartache
So, there you have it, The Normo Backstreet Boys have accomplished a lot over the past 4 years. Much like One Direction, we admire what they have achieved individually, whilst reminiscing on their days as a band.
Will they ever perform together once again? I guess we can only hope…