S-Boys: Episode 9 – Rainbow Apollo

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When I went to scout out locations for photo shoots, I took Vee-Jay with me down to the wharf.

“Vaneer! You look great out here! The ocean breeze looks so sexy blowing through your hair!”

He looked adorable. He didn’t look hot, but he looked so cute, and cute has incredible appeal.

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“Let’s take some pics so I can check out the light. Show me the inner Vee-Jay! Confident!”

I about died from cuteness.

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I snapped so many pics, and he looked lovable in each. He really had something. It wasn’t the stereotypical idol look, not by a long shot. It was… It was this inside quality. This inner Vivaan Ramesh essence–and he knew how to project it. The boy simply shone.

“This!” he called. “This is how I feel about life!”

He looked up, doing a Yugyeom imitation, with his arms out to the side, his head tilted back, and a darling serene smile on his face. He was no Yugyeom. But he was 200% Vee-Jay. I could hardly wait to get back and post these to our S-Boy Instagram page.

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“I like it here,” he said. “It’s interesting. It’s like… the crossroads of life and work and inspiration all rolled up in one.”

“Don’t you need four to have crossroads?”

“What?”

“Never mind.” We both liked the smell of seaweed and the sound of fishing boat horns and the warmth of the sun, and we had a little extra time before afternoon rehearsals, so we strolled along the docks.

I’d forgotten how many stray cats roamed the wharf.

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“Look at this sweetheart,” Vee-Jay said as he stood before a chunky long-haired cat. The Tom’s ears looked like they’d suffered through a fight or two.

“He looks tough,” I said.

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“What? This precious snowflake?” Vivaan said, picking up the gruff old cat.

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I could hear the cat purr all the way from where I stood.

“He’s a pussy-cat,” said Vee-Jay. “He told me his name is Rainbow. Can I keep him?”

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It looked like the matter had already been decided. That cat was not getting out of Vee-Jay’s arms. We carried him all the way home, stopping at the corner store on the way, so I could pick up a bag of Science Diet.

We sat at the kitchen table, after I’d filled a bowl with cat food and made sure Rainbow was settling in.

“We have Cat!” pronounced Vee-Jay.

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“I can see that,” said Rylan.

“We have a cat,” said Tony.  “Did you say we have a cat? We actually have a cat! Does that mean we’re like a real family? Mom, the boys, and the cat?”

“Yeah, no,” I said. “Didn’t I say you can’t call me Ma? Call me Auntie or something if you must, but Ma? Yeah, no. But we can still be a family, if you want. Or,” I added, quickly, thinking of my ships, “how about a band that’s just really, really close?”

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When I checked in on Rainbow before bed that night, I found him perched atop Hammy’s home.

“You okay in there, Little Guy?” I asked Hammy. But he was doing the backstroke in his water dish, happy as… well, happy as a hamster frolicking in a water dish, I guess. “Yeah, you look pretty okay. You be nice, Rainbow.”

Rainbow purred so loudly, I could hear him halfway down the hall.

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The next morning, Joey and I walked along the boardwalk by our beach. Dang if he also didn’t look good in the sun, too!

There was something about these guys. They were all a little weird, and we hadn’t yet gelled as a team, but darned if I didn’t find something appealing in each! I only hoped the fans would agree.

“Look,” said Joey. “It’s a doggo!”

And his eyes went soft.

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“You like dogs, Joey?” I asked.

“I think they’re the greatest,” he said. “They’re just so cute.”

I didn’t know Joey knew baby talk.

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“Who’s the little chow-Bernese mountain dog mix? Huh? Who’s the big guy with the wrinkly forehead and the curly little whirly tail?”

“I suppose you’d like to keep him,” I said.

“Well, yeah. He hasn’t got a collar. Have you, Apollo?”

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When we got home, all three of us, we found Akira and Vee-Jay laying on the porch, tracing shapes in the watermarks in the planks overhead.

“That one looks like a bunny,” Akira was saying.

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“I’m really happy here,” Vee-Jay said. “Now we’ve got a cat. And we’ve got each other. I really feel like we can all be friends, you know? In addition to being a good band, that is.”

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“Look there,” said Akira. “That looks like a unicorn. That kinda reminds me of you.”

Vee-Jay chuckled. “How so?”

“Well, it’s looking up, like it sees something marvelous! Like it’s standing on its rear legs, shouting, ‘Ah! Life!’ Can unicorns shout, do you think?”

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“When they’re really happy,” Vee-Jay was saying.

Ah, these guys. If 25% is talent, and 10% is looks, and 65% is adorableness, I realized that we might just have a 100% shot at making it.

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That night, I came up with a great name forour first album: Rainbow Apollo. If that’s not us, I’m not sure what is.

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S-Boys: Episode 7 – Vee-Jay’s Vlog, Outtakes

One thing I loved about the cameras in every room was that we got to keep footage that might otherwise be edited out. This was especially the case in the computer room where the guys shot their vlogs.

If you’re a fan, you’ve probably watched Vee-Jay’s first video journal dozens of times. I mean, how can you not, right? He’s just so cute in it. But there was a lot that he cut out.

Here’s some of what you missed…

***

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Vivaan:  Hey, everybody! It’s me. Vivaan. That’s right! It’s not Vaneer. Viram. Vivoom. Viroom. Vizam. Not even Vee-Jay. Vivaan Ramesh.

Yeah, I said, ‘Ramesh,’ not Rameesh.

Vivaan Ramesh.

It’s a good name.

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Vivaan: My mother’s father was named Vivaan. And my father’s father’s name was Ramesh, so it was my father’s name, too.

But I do have a lot of other names, too. Popcorn, Bhalu, Bhai, Bahadur (mostly for fun), Chickna (also for fun), Motu, and Tapori. And Scout.

So, okay. Maybe not such a big deal to be called Vee-Jay and Varoom. But Vaneer?

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Vivaan: Give me a break!

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Vivaan: You want to know which is my favorite of all my names? Well, after my real name. It is Bahadur, but not because I am actually brave, like the name would suggest.

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Vivaan: No, it’s because I am not brave, not at all.

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Vivaan: When I signed the contract to become a trainee, part of me was terrified. Okay, all of me was terrified, except my left pinky. My little finger was excited. That’s where all my inspiration is!

But the rest of me? What if I can’t come up to speed by three months? What if I’m the first one cut? What if, even no matter how hard I work, I can’t do it? What if I fail?

But what if I don’t fail… what if I succeed. That’s scary, too, but it’s a different kind of scary.

Focus on the music.

You make me feel
Like a unicorn, baby.

What if I make it, and we become a hit, and I’m the next maknae and we have adoring fans? That is positively terrifying (though my right little toe feels kinda happy).

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S-Boys: Episode 3 – Honeypop

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The boys were lining up to audition at Planet Honeypop. I passed on the first two, but the third guy stopped me in my tracks. Akira Kibo.

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Of course I knew who he was. You can’t follow the YouTube pop scene and not know Akira Kibo. He traveled with his own fanbase, namely Miko Ojo, his roomie at the time.

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His voice slides smoother than the cream on top whole-fat yogurt. His style goes easy.

I was a little surprised, frankly, that he’d try out for our group. But this was a real chance, with real contracts, and a real producer–me. And the exposure couldn’t hurt the numbers of subscribers for his regular Youtube channel. We didn’t have an exclusive clause, so he could do both.

I started to get excited, daydreaming about him being the center of the group. I mean, the other potentials had personality and quirky charm, but Akira, he had talent and skill and experience. He was the real bomb.

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He winked at me when he finished.

“Your turn,” he said.

No one else was waiting to sing at the moment, so I indulged him. He’d punched in one of my numbers on the karaoke machine–never mind how old it made me feel to have a hit song listed in the Golden Oldies section. I rocked it, and that made me feel like a teenager.

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When I finished, I heard somebody calling out, “Hey! Hey! That was really awesome!”

It was Vaneer! I was tickled that he showed up. His spot was waiting for him, and all he had to do was agree to the terms, but here he was, at the evening auditions, lending support.

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“The guy down there was asking about you,” he said.

I looked down the bar to see a bronzed god of a man. Oh, that facial structure! It looked familiar, somehow, but I couldn’t place him.

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He approached me when he noticed I was looking his way.

“Well, you left your card,” he said. “Here I am.”

“Statue guy?”

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“None other!” he replied. “Tony McCarthy, at your service!”

He had a great speaking voice. A little high, but rich. I bet he had a killer falsetto.

“Tell me about yourself!” I suggested.

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“I’ve always wanted to perform,” he said. “That’s why the statue thing. I can hold one pose for an hour. Maybe more. It’s OK. Takes discipline, which I got in abundance. But I’d kinda like to move. I wanna dance!”

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“And sing?”

“I’m more the quiet type,” he said. “Statues aren’t a speaking role.”

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Meh. We’d work on it. And even if he, primarily, danced, that could work out, too. We could always use handsome.

Akira sauntered past.

“Am I in?” he asked.

“Of course,” I replied. I gave him the info. He sauntered off.

“Later, then.”

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We had a few more auditions. Nobody really reached me. They were mostly too typical, too timid, cookie-cutter knock-offs. I’d had my heart set on a quintet. There’s just something balanced about five–lead in the center, flanked by two duos. But I guess we could settle for a quartet. Four wasn’t the loneliest number.

My throat was parched. Maybe I could get a cup of tea and ask the bartender to spike it for me.

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Or maybe I didn’t need it spiked.

You make me feel…
Like I’m already tipsy.

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Oh, he was something else. Sweet on the eyes! Very good with his hands. Every boy band needs somebody who can do tricks, right?

“How’re the auditions going?” he asked.

“OK, then not-so-OK, until now.”

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We talked a bit. He was interested. The bartender was interested.

I sat down, humming the new song.

You make me feel…

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And then Vaneer finished the verse for me:

Like a unicorn, baby.”

“Vaneer! That’s it!”

“Vivaan.”

“What?”

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