by Danny Cohen
During a recent trip to New Jersey on his “Be My Girl” tour, 15 year-old teen heartthrob, and Warner Bros. Records property, John Franco appeared as if he was going to be swallowed by the crowd of screaming tween girls.
He had just finished the encore as he was being ushered backstage. It was almost ten o’clock and Franco had to be getting back to his tour bus. This was by contractual order of Warner Bros. Records, the boy’s legal guardian.
The story goes that Franco had been left in a 7–11 in Van Nuys, California when he was only weeks born. The security tape shows a person of unknown gender wearing a No Fear baja-style hood putting the infant down to add condiments to three All Beef Big Bites, pay, and leave. Without any birth certificate or any other supporting documentation, he was named after the two 7–11 workers on duty, and placed in an orphanage somewhere.
Four years ago, record producer Buzzy Silverbaum, amidst gambling woes, decided to host a singing competition for the nation’s orphans called “Unwanted Voices.” Along with Franco, four other young boys were picked from the youth dumping grounds and the pre-teen pop group Rasc@lz was created. While they enjoyed moderate success, the real gem was Franco, done up with a black shiner around his right eye. Teen Beat wrote of him that, “Despite his rough exterior, we’re sure once we get one on one with Johnny, his sweet voice will make us fall in love with him all over again.”
Last year, Silverbaum was in financial trouble again and sold the Rasc@lz contract to Warner Bros. Records. Warner quickly dismantled the group and started a media blitz to make Franco the number one concert seller in three months time. The state of California keeps close eyes on Franco’s well being, and Warner Bros. does the same to protect their investment. In the past few years, he’s gone from being one of the most unwanted children to one of the most profitable youths in America.
Franco could not be happier with his current parental situation. In the executive bathroom in Burbank, a drawing by Franco of he and the twelve board members is taped on the wall. On Christmas morning last year, Franco was brought to the Warner Bros. Records boardroom where each board member gave him a present, nearly all purchased from the company store. The young star began to sob, at which point board member Edgar Bronfman Jr. offered him his handkerchief, which Franco now carries with him at all times. “After having no parents for so long, I’m so glad to have my ten daddies and two mommies to love me.”
While on the tour bus the next morning, Franco is polishing his dance moves. Being orphanically jittery, none of the backup dancers are allowed to actually touch him. He also has false teeth to make up for years of unparented dental care. And aside from the hectic tour, Franco has also been trying his hand at penning lyrics. He shows me notes for songs such as “I Don’t Have Parents (Can I Share Yours?),” “Shhhh (I’ll Be Quiet, I Promise)” and “Summer Nights (Dumpster Living)” It’s then, looking at his incoherent, uneducated crayon marks, that I finally see why every young girl in the nation has a crush on him: adorable pity. ✦