Despite Christina Aguilera’s biting comments after Tony Lucca’s performance of Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes Monday on The Voice, he has the support of many former Mouseketeers and fans including Justin Timberlake, who Tweeted saying, “Tony Lucca performs LIVE tonight on The Voice. Tune in and vote for my boy!!! #realtalent.”
“Justin is the consummate professional,” Tony, 36, tells me when he stopped by the OK! offices in NYC. “I think of all the people I’ve had the fortune of meeting in this business, I think he’s the sharpest knife in the door. He’s really on top.”
They go way back to 1993, when young Justin joined the cast of the Mickey Mouse Club already in progress at Disney-MGM Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
“When Justin, Britney [Spears], Christina and that whole crop of Mouseketeers came on the show, it was very cute,” Tony begins. “I’m looking back at the way I saw it at the time. Now I’m like ‘Wow, we were blessed to have them join our cast and give our cast such a legacy.’ At the time, I was a junior in high school, and in came this whole junior high cast. I was like, ‘Ugh.’”
He continues, “They were hilarious. Apparently they had asked producers where we shopped, and they’d come into work the next day dressed up like little mini-mes. Justin and Ryan [Gosling] fashioned themselves after me and JC [Chasez] for awhile, and it was hilarious. Britney and Christina both thought the world of [my then-girlfriend] Keri [Russell], and thought that she was ‘Ahhh.’ They wanted to be like Keri and maybe have Keri’s boyfriend.”
Of course, Christina admitted Britney had a crush on Tony during his first appearance on the show.
“There was one time when her and Britney were talking about me, and Christina didn’t know I was there, and I was right there [laughs]. I looked over, and she’s elbowing her.”
But that’s not all: Tony sang backup for Christina on a cover of Toni Braxton’s Another Sad Love Song.
“I had a ball at that, diving in and supporting Christina, and letting a young girl be in her glory.“
There were also moments of mischief.
“We hazed the young kids,” Tony says. “There were ice trays that weren’t filled with water [laughs]. We’d go out of our way to make life more difficult for those guys. There were golf carts on the set in the backlot, and we’d steal golf carts and head to the backlot. We were basically living in an aquarium. We were a large part of the backlot tour, so there were always tours going by behind the double-paned glass wall. We’d say things we shouldn’t have been saying because they couldn’t hear us, but you could only stray so far because it’s Disney and they cracked a tight whip. No one wanted to lose their job. We were having too much fun, so it wasn’t worth getting in too much trouble.”
He adds, “There was this one time, though, when we all had our own cars and we were all driving to work. They let us leave for lunch. We could drive into Lake Buena Vista and go get lunch, and one time a bunch of the young kids wanted to come with us. Ricky Luna charged them [cracks up laughing] to drive them to lunch! He charged them to ride in his car — I forget how much. That’s so funny to me — hilarious. He was pimpin’ his ride to get these kids.”
Hmm, was it Christina?
“It was Tate [Lynch] and TJ [Fantini] or Tate and Ryan. Ricky had a Camaro at the time, and he charged them to sit in the back of the Camaro. It was great.”
In 1993, Tony recorded an album with the show’s vocal group, MMC, and set out on a mall tour.
“It’s funny, there was a time after the Mickey Mouse Club, where I thought I could be the white R&B singer,” he says. “Unfortunately, things kind of unfolded the way they did at the rate that they did, and I found that MMC stuff, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. Why didn’t someone stop me?’ Then it was just how to have fun and entertain people, and have a fanbase, but it wasn’t so much about what I wanted to do musically. I look back, and I was trying way too hard. It taught me how to work hard, and that nothing every comes easy, and it taught me how to have fun along the way. We had a lot of fun with that. Also, looking back, we won’t dress like that again, we won’t sing like that again.”
Although Tony was never asked to join Justin and JC in *NSYNC after the Mickey Mouse Club ended in 1994, he toured with the boy band during their heyday and was there from the very beginning.
“I was never formally invited to be part of *NSYNC, but I was privy to a lot of JC’s thinking out loud. At that time, we were both very close, we were both in L.A. at the same time, trying to get our hustle on so to speak. We had reacquainted with Robin Wiley, our vocal coach, and she was instrumental in putting him back with Justin, and then Chris. I think somehow they found their way into the world of Lou [Pearlman] and they went down and drank the Kool-Aid for a bit.”
He continues, “At the time I was actually working with Rhona Bennett, who was another Mouseketeer, and her and I were cowriting and trying to produce a project for her that was like a young Anita Baker thing. I was trying to be way older than I was at the time. I was trying to do adult contemporary stuff, and I was still only 19-20 years old. I was focused on becoming an incredible writer, producer and eventually artist, but JC went down, met with Lou and that was it, man. I was like, ‘Geez man, he’s got a ton money and he wants to throw it at music. He was like, ‘Maybe it’s something you and Rhona should look into. Maybe you should just come down and meet him or whatever.’ I was like, ‘If that’s what you want to do, then that’s cool.’”
It wasn’t long before *NSYNC was everywhere.
“Literally, it’s as if I hung up the phone and woke up the next day and they were everywhere. It really happened quickly for those guys. That’s amazing. I knew Joey [Fatone] from running around in the Orlando days. I knew Jason, the guy who was there before Lance did it. He’s actually one of the Ns in NSYNC names.There’s no E in *NSYNC for Lance, because there was a Jason in the band before Lance. They pilfered his initial, and then he left the band. It was kind of wild. I knew Jason, and I knew the gang. It was really exciting when those guys first came out. It was really cool.”
Nowadays, he is close to Justin and Jessica Biel, who are set to tie the knot this summer. He starred in a commercial for Justin’s 901 Tequila.
What are they like as a couple?
“They’re great,” he says. “ I think she’s probably a pretty hardcore reality check for him on a daily basis, which is what you want in a spouse. You want someone who is a B.S. filter, especially I imagine someone like Justin, who’s constantly “on” and having to put on a certain persona.”
He shares a story.
“We were on the set of the 901 Tequila thing, and it was getting late. Actually, it was early — the sun was coming up. We had been shooting all night, and she showed up to the set, and we just kind of chilled. When a man’s lady shows up, he kind of straightens up. I think that’s cool. She’s not just like, ‘Ahh!’ He likes her.”
When it comes to their summer wedding, Tony ponders a gift.
“What do you get the man that has everything? I’d buy him a bottle of 901 Tequila. Drink up, you’re going to need it [laughs]. If Justin has kids, then I have advice and insight for him, but with the wife thing, he’s on his own, man. You’ve got to figure that out for yourself.”
Surely, Justin and Jessica will be watching tonight’s show, and even though Christina gave him a stinging critique, it may help him improve his performance.
“It doesn’t take too many good reviews to keep wind in your sails,” Tony says. “It takes one bad review to really rattle your cage. Whether you let it show or not or you let it affect your work, it stays with you. I could probably quote four or five negative reviews word-for-word, going back as far as the *NSYNC tour, the Marc Anthony tour. ‘What? Did they see the same show? Wow, man.’ But I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was something about each one of those reviews that made me say, ‘Wow, if he saw that, if he saw that, that’s probably a valid opinion to some degree.’ But to me, there’s always been a little something in each negative review that bothers me because it’s true. I turn all the low moments into motivation and fuel for the next success.”
He said, “Christina speaks eloquently and intelligently on artists, performances and voices. She really does know what the hell she’s talking about.”
I wonder if he still agrees?
Watch him tonight on the results episode of The Voice, which airs at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. Good luck, Tony! You have my vote(s). Follow him @Luccadoes.com, and check out tonylucca.com to find out more.