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April 18, 2014

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Joey Fatone: When Justin Timberlake makes the call, the boy band is still ’N Sync

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Kris Kristofferson and Joey Fatone at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 20, 2012.

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Anya Garnis and Joey Fatone perform in "Dancing With the Stars: Live in Las Vegas" at the Tropicana on Friday, April 13, 2012.

If you are a former member of ’N Sync and your caller ID suddenly flashes with “Justin Timberlake,” or some variation thereof, you take that call.

“Justin contacted each of us, saying he was getting the Vanguard Award at the VMAs, and said, ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today without you, and I want you to be with me when I accept it,’ ” Joey Fatone recalled in a phone conversation this afternoon. “He hit up everyone individually, and we all said we would support him, no question.”

That’s how it works, still, with one of the most famous bands to vault to fame during the peak of MTV’s influence. The VMAs of which Fatone speaks are the MTV Video Music Awards, which aired Sunday night from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

This long-awaited, much-anticipated and (give the guys credit for this) about flawless reunion performance was arranged as quickly as a piece of ’N Sync choreography. Fatone says he was contacted by Timberlake about three weeks ago, as were fellow ’N Syncers J.C. Chasez, Lance Bass and Chris Kirkpatrick.

“We had a little rehearsal time in New York, and then the day of the show, we had a rehearsal while trying to keep everything hush-hush,” Fatone said. “But keeping it 100 percent hush-hush was impossible.”

When the five original members met for those rehearsals, it seemed as if time had not passed since the group’s most recent live performance before Sunday’s. That was during the 2003 Grammy Awards telecast. They performed a tribute to the Bee Gees on the show, which turned out to be their collective sendoff.

A decade had nod eroded the group’s chemistry.

“It was funny how natural it felt. We were cracking jokes, laughing about it,” Fatone said. “But when it came down to doing some choreography, we got down to business.” The guys had kept in touch and were together two years ago for Kirkpatrick’s 40th birthday party.

“We’ve been in touch,” Fatone said. “We’re still friends. It’s fun to hang out and talk, but working together again was really cool.”

The group performed a quick medley of “Gone,” “Girlfriend” and “Bye, Bye, Bye.” Then Timberlake accepted his Vanguard Award, named for Michael Jackson. But the crowd was still abuzz over the ’N Sync performance.

“It was pretty amazing just to hear the audience’s reaction when we came out,” Fatone said. “I couldn’t hear myself over my in-ear monitors. The screaming from the crowd actually drowned out what I was supposed to hear in my ear, which had never happened before.”

Days later, Fatone is still sensing the band’s unshakable popularity.

“When word got out about this, my phone started ringing off the hook, and I was like, ‘What?!’ ” Fatone said. “It was definitely nostalgic. It brought us back to where we were in our lives and reminded us about how huge MTV was in our careers.”

Fatone remains busy with his cable TV show My Family Recipe Rocks on LiveWell Network. The show is entering its third season, and Carrot Top and Frankie Moreno have appeared on the show from Vegas.

Fatone has performed in dissimilar roles on the Strip, first as a guest host of the since-closed “The Price Is Right Live!” at Bally’s and “Dancing With the Stars: Live in Las Vegas” at Tropicana. Fatone also is working on a new CD, writing a stack of new songs with the Moreno brothers in Las Vegas.

But Fatone says not to expect an ’N Sync reunion of the same flavor of tours by grown-up boy bands the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and New Kids on the Block.

“As of right now, it’s not in the plans. Justin is on tour through December, and there hasn’t even been a conversation about (a reunion tour),” Fatone said. “It was more or less something we did to be with Justin for this award. We haven’t talked about it or anything like that, honestly.

“This was just a one-shot deal.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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