Before Ricky Martin was “Livin ‘La Vida Loca,” members of his former boy-band Menudo – one of the biggest Latin groups of all time – were living a nightmare.
In a new documentary, Angelo Garcia – who joined Menudo after he had just turned 11 – said he was raped during his 1988-90 stint with the quintet. He details the sexual assault – which he said took place in his hotel room after he was given alcohol by an undisclosed man – in “Menudo: Forever Young,” a four-part docuseries that premieres on HBO Max Thursday.
“All I remember was that I, like, passed out. When I woke up, I was naked and I was bleeding, so I knew I had been penetrated, ”Garcia said in the documentary. “I had, like, these burn marks on my face from the rug. I was very confused and I didn’t understand.”
That wasn’t the only time Garcia said he was molested during his tenure with the group. “During my time in Menudo, I was raped a series of times, and that was the way that predators would take advantage of me,” he said in the documentary.
Other members of Menudo – which featured 32 different boys during its initial, 20-year run – also claimed they endured sexual abuse, as well as bullying, drug scandals and oppressive working conditions in “Forever Young.” Such negligence and exploitation, they said, took place while they worked for the boy band’s mastermind, Edgardo Díaz, who is described as “their manager, producer and father surrogate.” (Díaz, who did not respond to requests for an interview or comment on the allegations in the documentary, has always denied any abuse and any wrongdoing in his management of the group.)
“We were pawns of his business,” said Ray Acevedo, who was in Menudo from 1985 to 1988.
“Forever Young” recounts how Díaz’s brainchild, Menudo, was born in Puerto Rico in 1977. Díaz adopted a “Fountain of Youth strategy” for the group, where members would be replaced once they turned 16. Parents of the boys – many of them poor – would sign over much of their parental authority to the manager.
After first exploding in Venezuela and going on to cause “Spanish Beatlemania” in the US, Menudo found its most famous member, Martin, in 1984. “Ricky, from the beginning, was like the golden kid,” says Acevedo.
But Martin – who is not interviewed in the documentary – didn’t make life so easy for other members, according to Sergio Blass, who was in Menudo from 1986 to 1990.
“To be with Ricky was brutal because he had seniority over me,” Blass said. “So if someone knocked on the door, I had to open it. If the phone rang, I had to pick it up. I was like his housewife. ” (Representatives for Martin did not respond to The Post’s request for comment.)
Indeed, there was plenty of bullying in Menudo – Acevedo even recalled being held over a balcony by another member – and hazing of new guys. Without getting proper supervision and even security, the boys were also exposed to drugs, including marijuana and cocaine.
“One time we were in Colombia,” recalled Blass in the documentary. “I’m with [fellow Menudo member] Rubén [Gómez], and we’re getting to the hotel. We enter our room. All of a sudden, this random guy comes in… And he pulls out what must have been about a kilo of cocaine… So we freaked out, because we didn’t know this person… But the guy was actually one of the producers and promoters . ”
Blass and Gómez got kicked out of Menudo after they were busted for marijuana possession in 1990. But new members kept coming through the revolving door.
Andy Blázquez, who was in the group from 1991 to 1997, recalled in the documentary feeling uncomfortable with the “extreme sexualization that happened from the very beginning – like overly sexualized jokes that you shouldn’t say in front of children. I remember Edgardo saying, ‘You know the pleasure that you get when you’re pooping? That’s what anal sex feels like. ‘ ”
Other members have previously accused Díaz of sexual abuse, including Roy Rosselló in a television appearance that is shown in the documentary. It’s also alleged in the documentary that Díaz was surrounded by unsavory men who would prey on the boys.
But the Menudo heartthrobs were also pounced on by an endless parade of young groupies.
“They had to be escorted out of my room because there was another one waiting, and the first one didn’t want to leave,” Blass said. “As a teenager, I thought, ‘Wow, this is so cool.’ ”