As the palm trees swayed on a hot balmy day in Florida, three generations of men watched the space shuttle take off into the air. The jet engines flared, disappearing into the clouds, as 9-year-old Lance Bass vowed he would one day go into space.
Bass still dreams of space travel, though he wound up launched into a different realm of stardom right here on Earth when he joined boy band 'N Sync. As the mega-famous group quietly disbanded in 2002, Bass moved on with his life goals.
Having come out in 2006, and participated in the first gay wedding broadcast on cable TV when he married Michael Turchin on E! this past February, Bass is an innovator in the LGBT community. Hoping to help others find true love, he recently developed an LGBT dating app called Sparxx.
When he’s not busy with his radio show Dirty Pop on Sirius, he’s developing a new TV show with Kris Jenner, fostering dogs from L.A.’s Lucky Puppy and — this Saturday, June 20 — receiving the Los Angeles Zoo’s Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award at the 45th annual Beastly Ball, the zoo's big fundraising event.
L.A. Weekly spoke with Bass about accepting the award, his involvement with animal rescue, his televised marriage and more.
How did you become involved with Lucky Puppy?
My whole life I’ve had an affinity for animals. At a very young age I learned to rescue dogs. I found this great place on Ventura called Lucky Puppy. My husband and I foster, and every dog we bring home, there’s tears flowing at the end, but we are happy they get a home.
What other animal not-for-profit projects are you involved with?
Black Jaguar White Tiger. They are located down in Mexico. They rescue lions, jaguars and tigers. They have a litter of tigers that was born a few weeks ago and we are going to go help take care of them.
How did you become involved with the L.A. Zoo?
It’s a place I’ve always been going and Pauley Perrett [NCIS], who is a dear friend of mine, is heavily involved and introduced me to the zoo.
How does it feel to be given the Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award?
It’s a great honor for sure. I hope I can be a leader. God has given me a strong voice and I hope I can use it to spread positivity in the world.
How was the experience being the first televised gay marriage?
We were very scared at first and there was no way we were gonna do it. Being televised is just a thorn in your side in any relationship. It brought us closer together. I thought it was a great message to send to the world, that it was accepted, that everyone wanted to see something like this. We showed the love that we have between us. We could not have been happier [with] how it turned out.
What responses have you received since?
Overwhelmingly positive. Just being gay, you know half the people are just going to hate you. The messages you get on Facebook and Twitter can be very vile, for sure, but we’ve grown thick skin in the last few years and it doesn’t bother us as much. There wasn’t one negative thing said [about this], which really surprised me.
You had a 2014 dance hit in Europe called “Walking on Air.” Will you be doing more dance music?
It did great in Europe but not America. Radio wouldn’t play it. No one would touch it. It’s very discouraging when you come from one of the biggest bands in the world, when radio would kiss your butt to play your songs, then you go solo and they don’t even look at you. I’m too old to fight like I’m a teenager. I’ve been there, done it, and I don’t take it too seriously. My focus is TV and film now. We are about to develop my radio show on Sirius XM for television. It is a talk show but it will be more scripted, like The Larry Sanders Show. We are going to shoot a pilot this summer.
Is there an 'N Sync reunion in the works?
No, not yet. We are like brothers. It’ll probably be like when we will get together every few years, like we did for the MTV Awards a few years back. There’s no plans for an album or reunion. That was our teenage years. We are on different paths.
Favorite 'N Sync song to sing live?
“It Makes Me Ill,” which was never a single, but was written by The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kandi Burruss.
Favorite interview you have done on Dirty Pop?
I just had Khloe Kardashian on last week, right when the Bruce Jenner story [broke]. It was nice to see what a family is feeling with everything so new. It’s also so familiar, when a person comes out, and how everyone deals with that. My ultimate get would be to interview Caitlyn Jenner, since it’s the most fascinating story in a long, long time.
Do you find it relatable to your own story in a way?
I do. I’m so glad [my radio show] airs on a LGTB station right now, too. So many people can relate to this, it’s important to share these stories, the easier it will be for people to accept themselves.
Any other new projects coming up?
Kris Jenner and I are producing a big television show next year in the music world. I think most people will be hearing more about it this fall. I created this show 10 years ago, so now that it’s finally going to get made, it’s very exciting.