What can you say about a boy band that died out after five years? That it was beautiful and brilliant? That it ushered a whole generation of tweens into premature puberty? That one of the members got stabbed in the butt?
In the case of BSD (Blane Shane Duane), no simple summary can fully convey the impact of this band — nay, phenomenon — on our national consciousness. For those unfamiliar with BSD (those deaf to culture, perhaps), I shall engage in a feeble attempt to recount BSD's meteoric rise to fame, and their subsequent fall from grace, which was also in the fashion of a meteor.
Blane, Shane, and Paul Fleming were discovered by record producer Buzzy Silverbaum at the 2005 Orange Julius Talent Show in one of central Maine's larger shopping malls. Then known as The Flemingoes, the teenage trio quickly won over the hearts of passing shoppers and were crowned the “Orange Julius Caesars” of the event. Mr. Silverbaum signed the brothers on the spot, and a week later, they were living in the houseboat behind his Jacksonville, Florida recording studio.
After forcing Paul, the eldest and least comely of the brothers, to officially change his name to Duane, Mr. Silverbaum rebranded the band as Blane, Shane, Duane. Their first single, “BSD 123,” debuted at a solid #40 on the Billboard Charts. It drew immediate comparisons to the Jackson Five and a less immediate lawsuit from the Jackson estate for the unauthorized sampling of “ABC.” Controversy bred popularity. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Now is the winter of our disc content, made glorious summer by these sons of York [Maine].”
It wasn't until the viral video success of “Love Suds,” filmed in one take entirely inside an operating car wash, that BSD hit the coveted #1 on Swedish iTunes, and later, American iTunes. In the video, Blane and Shane tore off each other's shirts and engaged in a soap fight while singing the chorus “Soap me up, baby / With your foamy love suds / Soap me up, baby / We ain't no Elmer Fudds.” Duane remained clothed during this scene, playing the tambourine inside a 2004 Pontiac Aztek.
Immediately recognizing BSD's appeal to teenage girls and gay men of all ages, Buzzy Silverbaum exploited Blane and Shane's sexuality into a cavalcade of hits: “Dimples, Dimples (We Got ”˜Em),” “Let Them Eat Beefcake,” and “69 Times A Lady.” BSD was offered their own animated series, B.S.D. (Brothers Sharing Disguises), in which they played high schoolers moonlighting as undercover government agents who were often forced to go undercover as a boy band. Midway through season one, Duane was downgraded to “recurring guest star.”
In the summer of 2010, BSD embarked on a record-breaking world tour. On tour, the band hired medical personnel to tend to the legions of girls who fainted each night when Blane and Shane performed the duet “I'm Taking Off My Shirt Now.” On a dark night in Alice Springs, Australia, they were lucky to have hired those medical professionals. During his solo verse of “Knife to the Heart,” Duane was stabbed in the butt by an overeager fan. The band swore that they would never again visit “the stabbing capital of the world.” Little did they know, they would never again visit the stabbing capital of anywhere; it was to be their final tour.
While Duane underwent exhaustive gluteal reconstruction surgery, BSD went on hiatus. During this brief respite from shrieking fans, Shane (“the innocent one”) became embroiled in a tabloid scandal after being photographed smoking a marijuana cigarette. BSD immediately issued a joint statement condemning drug use. But by that time, Blane was already balls-deep in Lady Heroin. To be clear: Lady Heroin was the name of a high priced Chinese prostitute that, coincidentally got him hooked on sweet black tar heroin. The same day Duane was released from the hospital, Blane checked into the Continual Commencements Rehab Center in Quinoa, Arizona.
Blane, Shane, and Duane would never perform together again. One single was cobbled together from unused houseboat-cam footage, but it's not considered “canon” by BlaneShaneDuaniacs.
* * *
After a brief seventeen-hour flight, courtesy of the fine folks at Atlas Airlines, I arrived in Buenos Aires to meet with Blane. At the airport, I was greeted by a man known only as Skeleton, who ushered me onto a rickshaw and pulled me seventeen miles to Blane's compound on the outskirts of the city.
I asked Skeleton if the rickshaw was a traditional form of Argentinean transportation. “Mr. Blane no cult leader,” he said, “Skeleton no need be rescued.” I chuckled a bit at his poor English, but then I thought, “Well, how many languages do I speak?… Four.”
Blane has never spoken to the public about the demise of BSD. A recluse on his sustainable farm and commune, Blane has become known as the J.D. Salinger of Buenos Aires. He is the catcher on the commune's softball team and has cornered the market on rye.
“Would you like some rye?” is the first thing Blane asks me when I emerge from the rickshaw, covered in dust.
“I'd love a whiskey,” I respond.
“We do NOT have alcohol on this commune,” Blane scolds me while putting a feedbag on Skeleton. “But you may partake of the boiled rye berries with my wives.”
“Come feast with us!” sing Blane's three wives in unison. Dancing ’round a totem pole consisting only of Blane's head, his wives seem to care little if I respond. In the flickering firelight, I catch glimpses of his wives' name tags: ELAINE, JANE, and LORRAINE.
“That's a little coincidental isn't it?” I ask Blane, pointing at the wife-dance.
“Elaine, Jane, and Lorraine? Sort of like you and your brothers, don't you think?”
Blane rubs his jade talisman, this thought never having occurred to him before. “I suppose it's a little weird that they're all from Maine. But there's a surprising community of Mainers here in Buenos Aires. I like to call it Maine-os Aires.”
I confirmed with Blane's wives that they have never heard him use the term “Maine-os Aires.” Blane-os Aires, sure. But not the other one.
As Blane took me on a tour of his commune, he seemed to barely resemble the “bad boy” of BSD. Having discovered transcendental meditation in rehab, Blane now begins each morning with three hours of repeating his mantra: “No Pain, No Blane.”
“I really hit rock bottom during our hiatus. Night after night, I was performing for sold-out arenas, impregnating the world's most beautiful women, and mainlining the finest heroin this side of Guangzhou. But when the crowds were gone, what did I have? Just a houseboat sitting low in the water from the weight of all that sweet black tar heroin.”
Blane guides my hand to rub the belly of his Buddha statue, a statue whose face looks a lot like Blane's. “Have you ever tried heroin?”
“No,” I respond.
“Come on, not even once?”
“Not even once.” I chew on a rye berry to break the tension.
“I'm not a cop, man. You can tell me. It's great, right?”
“I've never tried heroin. I promise.”
Blane mouths “loser” at his wives and they giggle. I pretend not to care.
“Fame is a trap. The blind devotion of your fans will really mess with your head,” Blane tells me, while his wives paint the word BLANIAC all over his naked body. “I've moved on to a much healthier lifestyle here in Argentina. You couldn't pay me to go back to the world of pop music.”
He pulls out the sitar and plays me his newest song, “Blane in the Sky with Diamonds.” It's okay. I promise it isn't bad.
As I settle into the rickshaw for Skeleton to take me back to the airport, Blane slips me a demo tape. “Please get this to Buzzy,” he implores, wide-eyed. “I need this.”
Before he can finish, his wives have summoned him back into the dance circle. It looks exhausting.
* * *
I find Shane sitting courtside at a Lady Fire basketball game in upstate New York. He cheers on his wife, Sheryl Strong, a star player on the team and a one-time Olympic bronze medalist (snowboarding).
“It's her real name,” Shane assures me. “I mean, I've never seen her birth certificate. But love means never having to say ”˜Are you a felon living under an assumed name?'”
Known as “the innocent one,” Shane has perhaps suffered the most from BSD's demise, his bubble of naÃ¯vetÃ© shattered like a Christmas ornament at one of the ornament-smashing factories in atheist safe haven Berkeley, California.
While Blane recovered from addiction and Duane recovered from his gluteal stabbing, Shane recovered his identity in the recording studio. After a miraculous eight days in the studio, Shane released a solo album, A Man With Emotions. The lead single from the album, “All I Want For Christmas is A New Butt for My Bro,” failed to chart. “Boy Tears” an auto-tuned bonus track recording of Shane crying, became a viral hit in Bangladesh, but Shane saw no profits, as he had forgotten to monetize his YouTube channel.
“A failure like that could send a man into deep depression,” Shane tells me, hesitating on the word “man” as he retrieves a bag of orange slices from his snack pack. “But I figured, hey, when at first you don't succeed, double down on failure.”
Shane's second solo effort Duck Duck Noose was an oddly mournful attempt to rap the works of Mother Goose. It reached #666 on the Billboard charts.
“Creeeeeepy, right?” says Shane. “But the important thing is, it caught the eye of some animators in Hollywood. Before I knew it, I was voicing Felonious Flatbed in Automobiles 3: Wide Load.”
“Awwww shit honey, you know you got cut from that damn movie picture,” Sheryl Strong chimes in at halftime. Her team holds an insurmountable lead at 10-2. “He didn't need to be in no baby cartoon anyway. That's why I made him release that sex tape.”
Shane's “sex tape,” if one is to call it that, is a shockingly-well-lit amateur video of the 21 year-old revealing the top of his pubic hair. In the background, the voice of Ms. Strong cheers on, “Show ”˜em those butt cheeks, boy! Take ”˜em out one at a time!”
“The butt thing reminded me of Duane… and how he got stabbed… in the butt,” Shane tells me, his eyes distracted by the personified torch-fire mascot of the Lady Fire. “That's why I started crying.” The Wikipedia page for Shane's “sex tape” was deleted for lacking relevance and proper citations.
As Shane tries to flag down the Jumbotron Kiss Cam, I make an excuse to leave because frankly, I'm bored. “My girlfriend's calling me,” I say, “I gotta leave. It's an emergency.”
“This is an emergency” he protests, but I’m already gone. The YouTube video of Shane accosting an unknown fan on the Jumbotron Kiss Cam later that night still only has 29 views.
* * *
I spoke to Duane on the phone before our scheduled meeting in Omaha. He offered me free tickets to his performance in a regional theatre production of Henry V.
“They only cast me to fill seats,” he says, “I'm new to this whole acting thing, so please don't be too harsh. I'm trying.”
I assured him I'm not a theatre critic.
“I know I look like more of a Richard III than a Henry V, but if you could not mention how my backbrace pokes out of my costume, I'd really appreciate it.” Duane has been trying to mend his scoliotic spine since BSD's demise. Buzzy Silverbaum never allowed him to wear a backbrace during BSD's salad days.
“I'm not going to mention your backbrace, Duane,” I assure him, striking out “Backbrace to the Future?” from my notes.
Duane was hurt the least by the breakup of BSD, perhaps because he had the smallest distance to fall. But studies show that cats that fall from the lower levels of skyscrapers get hurt the most, so why should any of us believe in anything?
Even at BSD's height, Duane never even had a dedicated Twitter account.
“His numbers would have been embarrassing in comparison to Blane's and Shane's,” wrote Buzzy Silverbaum in an e-mail. “Would you be interested in doing a piece on my other act, Rasc@lz?”
Duane has been receiving rave reviews for his regional theatre work. Starting off in a stunt-casting role as Conrad Birdie in “Bye Bye Birdie,” he later achieved critical attention for his role as LBJ in the new musical “Bye Bye Lady Birdie.”
“Everyone loved the song where I ordered the hit on JFK,” he said, “But the lyrics could have used some work. Nothing really rhymes with Oswald unless you force it.”
At the height of his regional theatre success, Duane was approached by a reality television producer to star in a new unscripted series, “Don't Duane on My Parade.”
He turned it down.
“What's the point of having all those people looking at you on TV if they don't care about you as a person? All the viewers in the world can't fill the hole in your heart.”
Duane took a deep breath on the phone. “I just… I don't want to end up like my friend Knut.”
Knut was an orphaned polar bear at the Berlin Zoo who became an international sensation in infancy after appearing in a BSD music video, only to be largely forgotten once he grew to full size. He suffered a stroke at age four and drowned in his exhibit in front of a crowd of onlookers.
* * *
“I watch the video of his drowning every day and I think back to those three days I spent with Knut on set,” Duane says gravely, going silent for two minutes before adding, “see you at the show!”
Duane wasn't spectacular as Henry V. But he was good. Competent enough to slowly wear away my cynicism. By the time, he uttered the climactic monologue of Act IV, goosebumps raised themselves on my arm against my will.
Downstage left, Duane looked me squarely in the eye as he spoke:
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
He couldn't see the crazed fan rushing the stage trying to stab his butt. Fortunately, the assailant was tackled by a surly cast member and never made it to Duane. Unfortunately, Duane died of cardiac arrest after seeing the scuffle. He perished onstage while the audience silently filmed it on their mobile devices.
“All that fame couldn't fill the hole in his heart,” Dr. Quint at Omaha-Presbyterian told me. “Duane had a congenital disorder that left a hole in his aorta. It's amazing he lived this long.”
Duane's funeral will take place onstage at Radio City Music Hall, shortly before a concert by the reunited members of BSD, now known as BS. In lieu of flowers, they ask that you donate to their Kickstarter-funded album/movie/interactive-portal-experience.
Presales for “And Then There Were Two” ensure that BS will chart in the Top 10 next week. Filling this album with entirely original material, Blane and Shane have ensured that this album will be pure BS.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…
That was a quote from Shakespeare. ♦