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Hey, Lou, is that you? No, I'm the other Lou

Separated by years, united by a name, Lou Pearlman meets a new generation - and likes the music.


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000

This is the story of two men who share the same name but are worlds apart.

One is 46 years old; the other, 85. One hangs out and eats pizza with teen pop stars; the other enjoys evening walks around his Pasco subdivision with his poodle, Cassie. One loves 'N Sync; the other hums along to Dean Martin tunes.

They are both named Lou Pearlman, and for the Pasco Lou Pearlman, the name is becoming quite the problem.

For readers over the age of 15: Lou Pearlman -- the one who lives in Orlando -- is the rich and successful mastermind behind such teen pop stars as the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync and LFO.

Orlando Lou is also the man who plucked five young, good-looking guys from a pool of 1,800 aspiring stars and made them into a band called O-Town. The rigors of Orlando Lou's band-making schedule has been turned into an ABC TV series, appropriately called Making the Band, which is currently in production for its second season.

And this is where things get complicated for Lou Pearlman, the one from Pasco.

Ever since Making the Band debuted earlier this year, Pasco Lou has been inundated with hundreds of letters, tapes, videos and calls, mistaking him for the other Pearlman. The notes are usually handwritten pleas for a chance at stardom.

Here's an example of one, from a 25-year-old who lives in Brownstone, Pa.:

"I am writing you because I know of your success in creating the well-known groups Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. I am contacting you to offer you the next teen screaming sensation. . . . I have the looks, the charisma, the character and the voice. All I am asking for is one audition."

Others, mostly young teen girls like Vanessa (" 'N Sync's No. 1 fan truly") from Las Vegas, simply want to meet their heartthrobs. "The one thing in my life right now that I can look forward to is meeting them and giving them all hugs," she wrote.

Letters like these left Pasco Lou puzzled. "I didn't know what it was all about," he said. "Out of the blue sky, mail starts coming in."

But through the letters, some newspaper articles and watching TV, Pasco Lou found out about the other Lou -- and discovered a whole new generation.

Pasco Lou, a retired beverage warehouse worker from Cleveland, learned a lot about the other Lou who lives two hours away, and the differences between the two couldn't be bigger.

For instance, Orlando Lou started his career in the music industry in the 1980s, when he rented a plane to the pop group New Kids on the Block.

Pasco Lou used to manage a softball team in Ohio and once bowled a game that was shown on TV, but gave up most activity after a surgery.

Teen pop stars call Orlando Lou "Big Poppa." Pasco Lou's three great-grandchildren call him "Grandpa."

Orlando Lou has also gotten himself in a legal tussle: Last year, the Backstreet Boys filed suit against Pearlman and other former managers, alleging they split $10-million in profits while only giving the group $300,000.

"He was sued for millions," Pasco Lou said, shaking his head. He feels a bit of sympathy for his namesake, and carefully clips newspaper articles about Orlando Lou and the bands he manages.

Pasco Lou says he often watched the first season of Making the Band, and some of 'N Sync's songs have grown on him. "They're all clean and they're good," Pasco Lou said.

He talks to his two daughters, one grandchild and three great-grandchildren about the latest hit songs and the other Lou.

Pasco Lou often reads the letters at his dining room table. He sends the tapes and videos back to their owners, and isn't sure what to do with the letters.

"I didn't want to open the tapes," said Pasco Lou. "It would be taking the things away from the people.

Orlando Lou sympathizes.

"I get the same thing, of course," said Orlando Lou, during a recent phone interview. "On a bad day, I must get about a dozen. On an average day I get about 50. We get e-mails. They contact us via our Web site . . . they write to our office address. Sometimes, they try to get to my house."

Orlando Lou's home address isn't listed anywhere. But Pasco Lou's is listed, as is his phone.

To a star-struck teen surfing the Internet in Middle America, Player Drive in New Port Richey, Florida sounds like an appropriate address for a big-time pop group manager.

"I'm sorry for the confusion and inconvenience," said Orlando Lou, who first heard about his Pasco counterpart when a reporter called him for this story.

Even though the brush with fame and youth has been interesting, Pasco Lou wants the flow of fan mail to stop.

So does his 82-year-old wife, Marion.

"When we got those phone calls, it drove me crazy," she said. "I feel sorry for these poor kids."

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