The Austin Chronicle

Rock & Roll Books

Reviewed by Greg Beets, December 5, 2008, Music

The Hit Charade: Lou Pearlman, Boy Bands, and the Biggest Ponzi Scheme in U.S. History

by Tyler Gray
Collins, 287 pp., $24.95

If it weren't for the flimflammery of imprisoned con man Lou Pearlman, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync might never have existed. Music history is littered with managers hustling their acts, but that was just the tip of Pearlman's iceberg. When his Orlando, Fla., empire finally crumbled in 2007, he'd bilked investors out of more than $300 million through fraudulent investment accounts. As such, Gray's book reduces the late-1990s "boy band" explosion to just one of Pearlman's many scams. Aside from unsubstantiated innuendo about Pearlman's sexual proclivities, those looking for inside grease will be disappointed. Gray portrays the rotund star-maker as a profligate deceiver since childhood who parlayed an obsession with blimps into a false-front aviation company that fed even more phony business. The first half of Charade gets bogged down in documenting Pearlman's early chicanery – a necessary slog, perhaps, but Gray's flat narrative style doesn't help. The tone improves as the book climaxes with a trial right out of a John Waters movie. At one point, Pearlman borrows a page from O.J. Simpson by asking the court for permission to promote US5 from jail to help victimized investors recover the money he'd stolen from them.

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