“I honestly didn’t think people would care about my sexual orientation, but obviously I was mistaken,” Lance Bass observed wryly during a recent phone interview.
Over a fateful 2006 Fourth of July weekend, Bass and his then-boyfriend, former “Amazing Race” winner Reichen Lehmkuhl, went club hopping in Provincetown, Mass. When they wound up at the A-House, some patrons recognized the former ’N SYNCer, and the next morning their visit was plastered across the “Page Six” column of the New York Post.
“It would’ve come out anyway,” Bass sighs ruefully. “There was a lot of talk around already before I even went to P-town. I’d heard all the rumors, and by that point I just didn’t care.”
The firestorm of publicity surrounding his coming out and the pressure of being a closeted superstar are discussed in Bass’ new memoir, “Out of Sync,” which he wrote with the assistance of Marc Eliot.
“Writing’s not my forte — I’m definitely a math and science guy,” Bass explains. “I have great ideas and can dictate exactly what I want to say, but I can’t put sentences together on paper. I’m terrible at that.”
Starting on Oct. 23, Bass took a break from his gig as Corny Collins in the Broadway production of “Hairspray” and embarked on a media blitz, meeting fans and signing copies of his book. On Nov. 12, he spoke at the University of South Carolina’s Koger Center for the Arts.
Although clearly written for the “OMG!” crowd, “Out of Sync” showcases the private side of Bass. He details the rigorous training regimen he underwent in Russia for his ultimately abortive attempt to go into space.
“People thought it was a joke or a stunt — that if you want to go into space, you just pay $20 million, hop in a rocket and off you go. In reality, it’s a very, very hard process and I wanted to show people what astronauts and cosmonauts go through,” he explains.
Readers hoping for dirt on the other ’N SYNC boys will be disappointed; Bass remains a near-perfect Southern gentleman throughout. However, he does vent frustration and disappointment regarding Justin Timberlake, whose ambitions led to ’N SYNC’s dissolution in 2003.
Although Bass later refers to himself as “Justin’s number one fan,” that doesn’t stop him from commenting on Timberlake’s ill-fated relationship with Britney Spears: “She showed no signs of the turmoil she would eventually encounter, maybe because she thought it was going to last forever. I knew it wouldn’t. Justin already had a great love in his life — his career.”
In “Out of Sync,” Bass doesn’t shy away from discussing ’N SYNC creator Lou Pearlman’s financial predations. In 1999, the band managed to escape “the worst contract in music history” through a loophole.
Bass says he’s read “Mad About the Boys” — Bryan Burrough’s recent Vanity Fair exposé on Pearlman — which details allegations of pedophilia and the embezzlement of $300 million.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all. I never saw anything bad like that as long as we were in TransContinental,” Bass remembers. “We were just so busy doing our thing. But after we left, I’m pretty sure Lou had some good bragging rights [which he probably used] to bring in other bands and probably promised them the world like he did to us…”
Bass already has projects lined up once his “Hairspray” stint ends in early January 2008. “It’s weird — I really wasn’t focused on music at all until this year, and now that I’m back in it, I’d forgotten how much I love it!”
Does that mean we should expect a solo career?
“I don’t know,” he says. “I never thought of myself as a solo singer, because I was always the bass singer. But now that I’ve done Broadway, I’d love to get back in the studio.”
Many once-closeted celebrities say they feared that coming out would destroy their careers. Bass says coming out was a relief.
“I expected it to be really nasty for a while — I didn’t even know what my friends and family would think,” he says. “But the media had fun with it instead of tearing me down. I was very impressed with how everyone handled it. This is the happiest I’ve ever been, mainly because I get to be myself.”
info: “Out of Sync,” Lance Bass with Marc Eliot
Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $23.95.