YOU SAY you wanna be a New Kids on the Block fan? What's it worth to you?

Because, baby, devotion to Jordan and Jon Knight, Joe McIntyre, Danny Wood and Donnie Wahlberg is gonna cost you more than sighs and screams and the price of a tape, ticket and T-shirt. It's expensive to be true kids in this flock: According to a spokesman for Winterland Productions, which handles all merchandising for the New Kids' summer tour, the average audience member spends $12 above and beyond the $25 ticket price at a NKOTB concert. Fans purchased approximately $50 million worth of souvenirs during the group's previous six-month U.S. tour.

And New Kids spending opportunities go way beyond the line of licensed merchandise, which includes apparel from hats to shoelaces, posters, buttons, fridge magnets, keychains, earrings, necklaces, pillowcases, tour jackets, beach towels, squeeze bottles, lunchboxes, sleeping bags, watches, nightshirts, key rings, embroidered patches, charm bracelets, door tapestries, magnetic locker mirrors . . . New Kids boutiques at J.C. Penney stores in malls across the land moved more than $5 million in merchandise last year.

If you want to stay up to date, there's a never-ending flow of teen magazines with NKOTB on the cover, and three paperback bios, each of which has ridden the bestseller charts for weeks.

And there's the New Kids' two 900 numbers, which have received more than 4.5 million calls since the lines opened in March 1989 (a portion of the net phone calls are donated to support United Cerebral Palsy). Call the original (900/909-5543) to hear the boys banter and babble ($2 for the first minute; 45 cents each additional minute): On Monday, Jon and Danny "interviewed" their bodyguard, Biscuit. Or try the new Talking Fan Club Hotline (900/860-1100): At $2 for the first minute and $1 for each subsequent minute, it costs $2.50 just to get instructions on its use.WEEKEND BONUS:

Here's how to skip the Talking Fan Hotline's expensive instructions from the horrible radio announcer-voice and get right to the New Kids info you crave:


if you'd like to listen in on the New Kids talking bulletin board.


if you'd like to record your personal message for Jordan, Jon, Donnie, Danny, Joe or other fans nationwide. {Actual sample message: Hi Jordan, I love you (giggle). Umm . . . I hope you can come to my birthday party. And I think you're really cute (giggle) . . . I think you're a good dancer . . . and I think you're a good singer . . . and I think you're a babe. And I hope you get this message. (Whispered to girlfriend) What else should I say? . . . Approximate amount spent by Amanda and her three Pennsylvania girlfriends: $4.25}


to let the New Kids know what songs you'd like them to do live in your town this summer on the Magic Summer tour, where they'll be singing some new songs from their brand-new album titled "Step by Step" . . . and the old songs that you vote for from their first two albums.


if you'd like to hear the New Kids on the Block Magic Tour summer schedule.


if you'd like to hear samples from the New Kids' first two albums: the multi-platinum selling "Hangin' Tough" and the original New Kids' album featuring the smash hit, "Didn't I Blow Your Mind."


if you'd like to receive a free personalized fan club letter and packet from the New Kids on the Block.


if you'd like to hear about the special offerings and savings on New Kids on the Block merchandise and how you can place an order right now. Go ahead, make your selection now!"

Kids, remember to get permission before calling.

Roseann Hirsch has been in the idol biz for 20 years, so she's all but immune to the New Kids' charms. "I've never met them," Hirsch says. "I think of them as a product more than anything."

Even so, Hirsch can't resist saying, "I think that Danny is really cute, though. I also like Jon."

Hirsch is the publisher of Dream Guys magazine, and the book producer who dreamed up the Bantam bestseller "New Kids on the Block" (more than 2 million in print, 23 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list), and the recent "New Kids Scrapbook" (Signet, eight weeks on the list). The first paperback was written in two weeks by Grace Catalano, a twentyish freelance writer who's making a cottage industry out of New Kids on the Block (she's got range, though -- she's also written "Kirk Cameron: Dream Guy" and "River Phoenix: Hero and Heartthrob").

The New Kids, by the way, didn't participate in the books' publication and so aren't getting a cut of this unprecedented literary action. They've recently slapped together their own Bantam paperback autobiography, "Our Story," a variation on a theme, with the added bonus of baby pictures. It's currently No. 6 on the Times bestseller list.

Dream Guys, like its sibling magazines Teen Beat, Bop, et al., is an endless parade of features like "Why Jordan Would Love You If He Could Meet You." The best-selling books rearrange the same skimpy material.

"The New Kids didn't give us an interview," Hirsch admits. "But they've lived collectively 18 years; what do they have to say aside from their favorite color? We rely on press releases, material from television and print interviews they've done and recycled facts. You have to understand that their audience doesn't want anything sleazy or scandalous; you don't have to put a spin on anything. They just want some nugget of information -- that one of them likes vanilla yogurt, maybe -- that's enough for them."

Hirsh says the New Kids get 1,000 to 1,500 fan letters a week at the Dream Guys offices, and Jon seems to get the most. Fans also send presents, Hirsch says. "It's stuffed animal city here. Little bracelets, anything with hearts, one girl made a t-shirt out of glitter which dripped all over the place. One day I came into the office, and everybody was saying 'Happy birthday, Roseann!' But it wasn't my birthday. Turns out it was Jon or Jordan's, and some fan had sent a dozen red roses. They were sitting on my desk with a balloon attached."

The New Kids' appeal, Hirsch theorizes, is based on their approachability. Not impossibly pretty teen idols, they're reachable Real Boys, and with NKOTB defining "cute" for a generation of girls, the boys next door and in homeroom have a chance.

"{The New Kids} seem available to them, not intimidating or threatening. And they have a good image with the parents, anti-drug and anti-smoking, and their management is fiercely protective of that," Hirsch says.

But, she says, there are signs that the New Kids may be on the way out (collectors: buy those lunchboxes now!).

"The mail seems to be leveling off. I'll be interested to see what happens by the end of the summer," Hirsch says.

Billboard magazine predicted that the new album would go to No. 1 and stay there all summer. But "Step by Step," a third helping of carefully soul-seasoned Boston bubblegum, spent only one week at the top spot before being knocked out by M. C. Hammer's "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em."

A P.S. to parents: If you're accompanying your children to Wednesday's show, bring earplugs. We're not kidding. Even if you're going to be sitting in your car in the parking lot, it might not be a bad idea. It's not for the music: A critic who's seen the New Kids in Baltimore and at Capital Centre says the sound of nearly 50,000 shrilling little girls will push you way beyond the threshold of pain.


appear Tuesday at RFK Stadium with Tommy Page, Rick Wes and Perfect Gentlemen (featuring Maurice Starr Jr.). Call 546-3337 or 432-0200.