Bubble Gum Babes

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Her mother, Cendy, says Brittany has restyled the frothy pop song that features her voice on the Funn Club CD. Brittany plays the beginning verses of "Stop the World," turning it into a plaintive ballad with more dramatic pauses than the Funn Club version and more-elastic phrasing. "It's not kid pop," Cendy says.

Although Brittany works to develop her own ideas and sound, she says she's comfortable with the songs and image the Watsons have crafted for the Funn Club. "I think it's really good for kids. I can't get the songs out of my mind. And they send good messages."

She expects the Funn Club to have a limited shelf life. But if the band makes the tween scene and then transitions into mainstream, she'd be happy. "I'd just ride it," she says.

For the girl the Funn Club has nicknamed "Ghetto," Emmi Kozulin has a rather refined background. She speaks six languages, including Russian, fluently. Her father, Alex Kozulin, is a successful pianist and singer who with his wife immigrated from Israel to Berlin. Luminaries such as Rudolph Nureyev visited the family when it lived in Berlin, where Emmi was born. As a child, she was tended by two nannies. Her father allowed only classical music in their home.

The Kozulins came to Florida when Emmi was 6 years old. Alex planned to perform here, but then he decided to return to Germany, where his reputation and his career were well-established. By that time, Emmi's sister, Shiri, was enrolled in a fine-arts program, and Carmella wanted to stay with Emmi in the United States.

From age 4 to 13, Emmi studied Russian classical ballet technique. She took classes five days a week. But as she became more Americanized, she gravitated toward hip-hop dance. Her ballet teacher gave her an ultimatum: either ballet or nothing. She took hip-hop.

These days, Emmi says, Missy Elliott is her favorite singer. She shares a North Miami Beach apartment with her mother. They rent a unit in a complex with a United Nations of tenants. The grand piano and artwork are in storage. Emmi's new baby-blue moped sits in the living room next to the sofa.

Emmi has a deadly serious side. When the band performed in Virginia, the girls couldn't sleep. Emmi told them the story of the Holocaust. She says she did it to scare the others, a reaction she enjoys. But Danielle says she was deeply affected. "It was very sad," she said. Emmi also wrote a poem imagining she was a child who died on September 11, 2001.

And on her computer, Emmi composes complex techno and trance music. She says performing is in her blood. But if she doesn't become a professional singer, there will be other options. Entertainment lawyer would be one choice. "If I get in an argument, I can make you feel this small," she says, illustrating by holding her thumb and forefinger a half-inch apart.

The Funn Club is set to hit the Broward County Fair around noon on November 23. The four still have more than an hour before performing, and the crowds are sparse. Mark Watson suggests they walk around the fairgrounds while he videotapes them. The girls lock arms and skip down the concourse. They stand out, these four pretty teens all dressed in white and black.

At one of the booths, the attendant chats them up, asking who they are and if they are going to be performing. Then he tries to persuade them to compete for giant stuffed animals. After he slashes the price in half from $4 to $2 and Mark hands the money over, the four girls sit down and grab water guns.

Emmi beats the others and chooses a yellow spotted leopard. As they leave, the man asks Danielle, "So, are you going to be famous some day and have someone videotaping your entire life?"

She tilts her head sideways and stares off as though contemplating the question. "Yeah," she says. "Probably. Something like that."

The Funn Club is inching closer to success. On December 5, Radio Disney's national programming office interviewed the four girls in Dallas and recorded radio promo spots with them. A snippet of the Funn Club version of Tag Team's "Whoomp! There It Is" is currently available to Radio Disney listeners online. Each week, about 5,000 tweens sign on to the website and listen to and rate a selection of about 18 songs.

"Whoomp! There It Is" has been receiving pretty good ratings, says national director of programming Robin Jones. "It's in the same camp as other songs already being played on the radio," she says.

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Susan Eastman
Contact: Susan Eastman