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Okay, let's begin with a bit of a spoiler: Lance Bass, the deepest voice in the defunct boy band *NSYNC, is gay. If that was a surprise to you, here's another spoiler: RuPaul is a dude. Bass' homosexuality was apparently some sort of big secret for years, even though the rest of us could tell that he was the gay one in the group from the git-go. In *NSYNC, you had the playboy, the one who would weigh 300 pounds if he weren't dancing for hours in *NSYNC, the guy who would never get laid if he weren't in *NSYNC, the one whose hair was hella fucked, and the gay one. It was the classic boy band formula.
By Lance Bass
Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $26.95
If there's one thing you can say about Lance Bass after reading his memoir, Out of Sync, it's that he has been given many opportunities. He has had the opportunity to be a star; he has had the opportunity to go into space; and he has had the opportunity to write a penetrating autobiography about what it is like to come out as a homosexual amid the whir of superstardom after being a marketed heterosexual package aimed at pound-foolish 'tweens. He has, unfortunately, succeeded at only one of these attempts.
Bass begins the book back in Mississippi, where he grew up singing in swing choirs and barbershop quartets and for a vocal group called Five Card Stud. His Southern Baptist family, along, apparently, with everyone else in his life, had no clue that these were, like, supergay things to do. As entertainment writer Marc Eliot puts it in the foreword, "Lance Bass, all-American teenage boy-band idol, the fantasy-prince hero of girls of all ages, was gay. And because of his place in the band, his upbringing, and the times in which he lived, he felt compelled to plant his flag firmly in the closet of his own fame." (One cannot be sure if Eliot's double entendre is intentional.)
So, yep, Bass was gay. And that meant hiding who he was from everyone else ... yadda yadda.
Listen, coming out like Bass did was indeed courageous. Being gay in the biggest group in the world and having to pretend you like chicks is harrowing. But we've heard this story before. Bass could've used the opportunity to delve deeper into homophobia and sexual politics. But I guess he wasn't writing this book for Quentin Crisp. He was writing for people who have probably never met a gay person; the fact that he says he is gay and talks in minimal detail about who he has dated seems to be enough for him. The reader does, however, get a sense of the pain involved with coming out to conservative parents and the risk he took in doing so, but again, it's a story that is all too familiar — how many gay people have had to face the idea of losing their whole family when they come out?
To be fair, Lance Bass cannot be reduced to simply being gay, and he doesn't want to be. His dancing around the subject (pun intended) could be intentional for that reason.
So, in a memoir churned out to sell books, with no rollicking or insightful gay stories, what does that leave us with? Why, dirt, of course. Again, unfortunately, Bass is just too nice a guy to really sling any. He's basically a big, gay, nice guy who wanted to go into space. He mentions how confidence man Lou Pearlman ripped off *NSYNC, but shines little new light on the subject (partly because he signed a confidentiality agreement as part of his settlements with Pearlman). The closest he comes to being a real bitch is when the subject of Justin Timberlake comes up. He makes a point of letting us know that Timberlake was single-minded when it came to fame; that nothing — no girl, no act of God — would ever get in his way. Bass also blames the breakup of *NSYNC on Timberlake's quest for solo stardom.
But again, observers of the *NSYNC phenomenon and readers of this book know that *NSYNC was ending not because of Timberlake, but because it was played out. The boy-band-ometer had lost its juice after the No Strings Attached album. Lance Bass, sorry: We knew you were gay, and we knew that *NSYNC's days were numbered.
The final portion of the book examines Bass' grueling astronaut training in Russia. The trip eventually fell through for financial reasons and he never got to launch into space. If only he could've written that in one sentence like I just did, and not in two chapters.
Ultimately Bass is to be admired, I suppose, because his tale may make a lame book, but it's not his fault that coming out stories are, like, soooo late-20th-century. Lance Bass is a nice Christian man who has done a lot with his life. He's on the up-and-up, a "good homosexual," never soliciting male prostitutes or recruiting for the cause. Maybe that's the most transgressive thing one famous gay guy can do these days.
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