Caller, are you there?
"Mark. Mark. What'd you tell me?" muffles pop tyke Aaron Carter, handing over the phone and scurrying to find out what to do.
"You have an interview with Orlando ... " chin scratches manager Mark in the background.
"Aaron, it's me, Billy, from Orlando Weekly!" I scream into the phone. This shouldn't be confusing, but then again, Carter has been burying his head in big-brother Nick's shadow since he first hit the double digits. It's worse than home-schooling, really. This is pop schooling, where spawn of stage moms follow the now familiar E! path from whimsy to reaction, stopping for detox somewhere along the middle.
Aaron sells millions of records -- none of which, mysteriously, anybody has ever heard -- and yet you get the feeling that, given a shoelace, li'l Carter would probably try to push it through his ears rather than the eyes of his shoes.
"Where are you, Aaron?
"Um, I ... um ..." he stammers, overcome by the brilliance of my query, no doubt. "Actually, I'm in South Dakota. Where you from, exactly?"
"Orlando. I met you last year."
"I remember you!" he surprises. Of course he does.
Last I met with Aaron, he was surrounded by his promotion machine, hyping his "Aaron's Party" record in a small conference room at Disney's BoardWalk. While I remember his hair, my main recollection is the blankness of his media stare as he fielded nonpenetrating inquiries into his surprise stardom, and the one-two-buckle-your-shoe hopscotch that 30-year-old interviewers employ when dealing with those without any body hair, yet. He didn't seem happy. He didn't seem sad. He didn't seem like much at all, really. Except maybe a little dim. Poor dear.
Significantly more thuggish (in that Tampa, white, middle-class way), he's now hyping his current musical endeavor, not cleverly titled Oh, Aaron, and its requisite tour (Saturday, March 16, The Lakeland Center). He's riding the rails of his Wal-Mart machine all the way into his mid teens ... blindly.
You see, I finally figured out Aaron's appeal when I saw a recent video, "Not Too Young, Not Too Old," blaring over The Parliament House happy-hour frenzy, as old men reached past their distended bellies for their NAMBLA credentials.
Oh, no! Oh, Aaron.
Anyway, what's new?
"Of course, y'know, I had a voice change. That was pretty tough, but I made it through," he chuffs with assumed b-boy pride. "I gotta take care of my voice. You gotta make sure that you use it well, cuz this is all that I got!"
"What can people expect from this Aaron Carter extravaganza," I autopilot.
"Oh my god, you have no idea! It's a lot bigger. Last time we had a one-piece set. Now we have a pole, like a fireman's pole, that everyone slides down," he grosses me out. "We have a conveyer belt on stage, a couple of elevators, a catwalk. There's not a time that I'm not moving."
What about moving on? After all, like your Backstreet brother, you're bound to get pudgy and bitter someday. Do you think you'll outlive teen idoldom?
"Everybody goes past that point," he connects dots. "For some people, like Madonna, it's different for her. She went from older to younger!"
Don't talk about Madonna or people will think that you're gay. Let's look at Britney.
"I'm not gonna change really dramatically, like from 'Oops! ... I Did It Again' to 'I'm a Slave 4 U,'" he slaves ... for me.
"No Aaron Carter sex album, then?" I yuk.
"Nope." He giggles nervously.
The Carter family has certainly had its share of legal run-ins lately, meaning that there surely is some tasty Aaron news to come. (Just no sex album.) For now, we'll have to settle for Brother Nick's girlfight and bar blither, and sister B.J. (a model, no less) wrapping her car around a pole (a fireman's pole?) and sporting herb in the console.
"My brother's not sweating it, and nothing happened to him," defends Aaron, toe-stubbing on the family line. "If it was that big of a crime, then he would still be handling it. But it's over with."
And your sister?
"That's common in people's life. It was a little accident, you know," he lies. "A little scratch on her car. Who cares?"
So how does your mom handle all of this?
"My mom is very professional. She takes care of everything."
Somebody pass the manual over to Mrs. Carter. Her delusion's wearing off.
Anyway, Aaron, do you miss having a real childhood? ("Have you seen my childhoooooooood?" to fade.)
"This is my regular childhood. This is my life," he scoffs.
And, um, (cough, cough), are you dating anyone? ... Like Nickelodeon hottie Lizzie Maguire?" I Enquire.
"I was seeing her for awhile, but I'm not anymore," he fidgets.
"What haven't you done, yet?" I Barbara Wa-Wa.
"Skydive?" I huff. "Lance from 'N Sync is going to space! You can do better than that!"
"Is he actually going? What is he gonna do, is he gonna walk on the moon or something?" quizzes Carter, a little jealously. "Well, I guess that shows you how rich he is."
Or bored. Look forward to it, baby. The sky's the limit!