“You’re not hyped enough!” the D.J. admonishes the crowd, though this is clearly bunk.
Justin giggles. “And I said, ‘Happy New Year.’ And it’s not the New Year. It’s … um … it’s … Fourth of July!” The music stops and then starts back up again from the top. He performs the song several times so that the cameras can catch him prancing from different angles. Between each take, a young woman runs up onstage to powder his face, and Justin tries to do some crowd control.
“Guys, people are getting smushed in the front. Can you take one, two steps back? All right, we need everybody to back up—seriously, though. Because obviously that didn’t work. Please just step back.”
“If you love Justin Bieber, you need to take three steps back,” the D.J. joins in. Even this seems to have minimal effect. Down front, the tears of fans glimmer in the stage lights. At one point, Justin swigs from a water bottle and then squirts the remaining liquid over apoplectic girls below—a move he’s only recently made his own. When he finally exits the stage, pulling his shirt off in the process, cops on horseback pace the perimeter of the metal barricades. Engulfing a bare-chested Justin, the crew literally sprints to the van, which is rushed out of the park by a police escort with lights flashing.
“Did you have fun?” he asks his fellow passengers once we’re safely on the road. The consensus is yes, it was a great show. Justin strips off his jeans and changes into a pair of basketball shorts. He takes two more Advil, washing them down with borrowed water. (“Do you have hepatitis?” he jokes, clutching the bottle.) Then he leans back, satisfied with the job he’s done today.
“I love him! He’s amazing! I don’t want to be that creepy fan, but, like, I totally am.”
“Kenny!” he exclaims suddenly. “Is there a place we can get a lane? A bowling lane?”
Looks are exchanged across the van. “You have a lobby call tomorrow at 6 a.m.,” Pattie reminds him.
“Yeah, but I don’t do anything until the nighttime. I can sleep all day.”
“You have school,” Melissa points out.
“No, I don’t! I did school today.”
“Two and a half hours.”
“Can we cool your voice down, please?” asks Jan, cuing up the scales on her computer.
In desperation, Justin begins whispering to Pattie.
“No whispering,” Jan instructs. “You gotta use the vocal column. You just can’t whisper. It’s not good.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” Justin says a bit too loudly.
Pattie sighs. “Tonight’s not a good night. You can go bowling any time.”
“Any time?” Justin asks, with reason. “All right. You name a time.”
“It’s just late.”
“Yes, that’s too late. Justin, you’re 16.”
“Exactly,” he retorts. “I’m not 2.”
Scales rise and fall in the background as the car falls silent. It’s clear that none of the adults will budge, and it’s clear that Justin, burgeoning megastar that he is, is as accustomed as any teenager to not always getting his way. Sensing defeat, he stares out the window, watching the lights of New York flash by.
Sixteen-year-old Juliet had better luck with her mother that night. It took some cajoling, but she had gotten permission to go to Justin’s Queensbridge show, which was fortunate since, as far she was concerned, the Today show concert had been a bit of a bust. She and her friend Emily had fought their way toward the front of the crowd, where the summer heat and the body heat and the crush and collective exhaustion and hysteria had created a veritable inferno. As the music ended, Emily had appeared at my side, panting.
“Juliet fainted! They took her into the building!”
Inside the triage area in a shadowy hallway of Rockefeller Center, Juliet was seated, pale and trembling and wearing an oxygen mask, surrounded by other young fans in similar states of semi-consciousness.
“There’s so many of them,” one EMT said, scanning the supine young bodies. “How many you think? Twenty?”
“Thirty,” his partner answered.
Suddenly, Juliet pulled off her mask. “Please don’t tell my mom,” she pleaded. “Justin has another concert tonight. I have to go!”
And in the end, she was there, watching Justin from afar amid another throng of shrieking, shoving, adoring teens, all enraptured by the very sight of him.
“I love him! He’s amazing! I don’t want to be that creepy fan, but, like, I totally am. Oh, Justin …” Juliet trailed off, her adoration outpacing her words. “My mom is so over Justin Bieber.”