Have New Kids Become New Brats? : Music: Offstage fights have begun to undermine the group's image.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The New Kids on the Block are fast shedding their squeaky-clean image as an All-American pop band as they make headlines over an increasing number of fights and other altercations.

The New Kids' lawyer, Len Lewin, planned a trip to the West Coast today to talk to the group about its offstage behavior.

"Some program is going to be established to change things around as to how they conduct themselves. I think something has to be done," Lewin said. "We're going to sit down with parents, kids, management, the whole team."

The Boston Globe published an editorial suggesting that the New Kids on the Block, while "craftily marketed as clean-cut, churchgoing inner-city youths," are actually "success-spoiled youths who badly need disciplining."

In the last month, the quintet of teen-agers from a working-class background in Boston's Dorchester section and their retinue have been involved in at least six violent incidents.

In the most recent one, New Kid Donnie Wahlberg, 20, allegedly scuffled with a 20-year-old Harvard student over an airline seat Sept. 2 on a flight from Salt Lake City to Atlanta. Wahlberg allegedly punched Benjamin Dattner as members of the band's entourage held him down.

The two exchanged blows after Wahlberg poked Dattner in the eye, witnesses said. Dattner was treated for a scratched cornea and bruises.

The band's tarnished image has left some of the group's legions of young fans, or "Blockheads," a little disillusioned.

"I'm not sure I'm liking them any more because they don't act like they used to," Kristin Bothwell, 10, of Boston's Roxbury section, said last week. "People are getting into fights, and they might start a big, bad fight."

Wahlberg has been the band member most involved in the incidents. Last month, he and his bodyguard allegedly tussled with Georgia Tech students in Atlanta. The same night, band member Jordan Knight was accused of hitting a 21-year-old woman in a bar, and his bodyguard was accused of beating up two men.

In Massachusetts, two of Wahlberg's brothers were arrested in front of his home in suburban Braintree during a fight. A man from Foxboro said last month that he was beaten up by relatives of band members at a Quincy nightclub.

Lewin said he was still trying to gather facts about the latest incident. He said some of the Kids' trouble "may just come with the territory."

"Is there anything you can do about it? I'm not so sure," he said.

The group has been enormously popular, mainly with teen-agers and preteens. Its tours have been marked by sellouts and pressing throngs. Two April concerts in England led to the hospitalization of several frenetic fans, and first aid had to be administered to hundreds of youngsters.

At this year's American Music Awards, the New Kids were named favorite pop-rock group and their "Hangin' Tough" LP was named favorite pop-rock album.

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