Raise your hand if you remember Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch! Or would you rather forget that you ever bobbed your head to the song Good Vibrations? Mark Wahlberg (aka Marky Mark) led his hip-hop posse (Scott Gee, Hector “the Booty Inspector” Barros, DJ-T and Ashey Ace) to number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Formed in 1991, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were this wannabe rap group that we once thought was cool but now only stirs up embarrassing memories for him, them, us, and apparently Wahlberg’s kids. The now 50-year-old A-lister spoke about his Marky Mark past and how his kids hang their heads in shame…
Look, we’ve all had embarrassing moments in our past that make us cringe just thinking about them. Now, imagine you’re a celebrity and your most awkward moments aren’t just public but forever played on YouTube and at sporting events…
Mark Wahlberg‘s family isn’t really feeling the good vibrations. A few years back, Wahlberg and his family (his wife Rhea Durham and their kids (Ella Rae, Michael, Brendan Joseph, and Grace Margaret) were asked if they like the song Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Mark answered with a little story that basically sums up the whole thing…
“I was at a football game — my son’s game — last week,” he told the host. “In the middle of the game, they start playing Good Vibrations. My wife is just cracking up laughing, but she’s looking at my son who’s basically burying his head in his helmet.”
“It’s fine for me,” Mark added. “I don’t want to make their life any more difficult. My past is not their burden to bear.” Mark is used to being reminded of his past, and at least he has a good sense of humor about it. He told Jay Leno back in 2014, “I was an absolute train wreck. Wow.”
Good Vibrations was actually a pretty good song, at least for 1991. The #1 song (in the US, Denmark, Sweden & Switzerland in the fall of 1991) was co-written by Amir Shakir (aka “Spice”), with his good buddies, Donnie and Mark Wahlberg. There was just something about Mark that fit the role.
As a teenager, Mark had his share of scrapes with the law, but his buff body, boyish good looks, combined with the energetic dance beats and Loleatta Holloway’s vocals, made the song a smash pop hit. Good Vibrations was by far the most infectious Marky Mark song ever recorded.
Remember the video for Good Vibrations? It was in black and white, featuring 20-year-old Marky Mark working out and boxing. Oh, and we can’t forget the parts where he’s making out with a girl on a bed. Apparently, making the boxing look authentic was important for Mark (or the director).
So, they got the help of famed boxer Micky Ward to help Mark out with his boxing technique and training for the video. Mark had first met Ward when he was 18 and, in 2010, he played the boxer on the big screen in the film The Fighter.
At the height of the group’s success, a video game was released by Digital Pictures. It was called Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch: Make My Video, but it didn’t work out. Well, that would be an understatement. The truth is, it has been considered one of the worst video games ever made.
What was the purpose of Make My Video? It gave Mega CD owners the chance to edit their own music video starring Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. But when your game gets a 0 out of 10 (ranked by gamer critics), it’s safe to say that you should stick to your day job.
In 1993, fans of Marky Mark (or just his abs) were happy to have a solid exercise routine with The Marky Mark Workout: Form…Focus…Fitness. There was only one tape (remember VHS?) that lasted 70 minutes. Believe it or not, the tape still exists on VHS and a used one sells on Amazon for about 57 buckeroos.
Also amusing and shocking is the fact that the reviews — some of them even recent – are mostly positive. But when it comes to Mark Wahlberg, I think his genes account for more of his physique than his Marky Mark workout routine.
Before he became Marky Mark, he was briefly part of New Kids on the Block. Mark followed his older brother Donnie by joining Nynuk (the original group name of NKOTB), alongside Danny Wood and Jordan Knight.
Donnie and Mark were the first two members recruited into NKOTB by producer Maurice Starr. Mark was only 13 when he joined the group but grew tired of being part of it after only a few months. Starr wanted the group to focus on singing ballads instead of rap, so Mark (who was never a singer) quit.
After he left, they recruited Joey McIntyre to take his place. That’s when they became New Kids on the Block as we now know them. After Mark left NKOTB, he went down a dark, somewhat criminal path.
He has admitted to having developed a cocaine addiction by the age of 13. He dropped out of school and committed petty crimes like shoplifting. He also confessed to being part of several racially motivated attacks in his neighborhood of Dorchester (in Boston). He was sent to prison for 45 days after a brutal assault in 1988.
After serving jail time, he changed direction and returned to music. Thanks to his big bro Donnie, he became Marky Mark. When Donnie came back from a tour with his own group, he kept his promise to Mark and wrote Good Vibrations (with the help of Mark and “MC Spice”).
The three guys produced a demo tape that was then sent to Interscope Records’ co-founder Jimmy Iovine. Iovine loved it and signed Mark to a record deal, placing the brothers in a studio to record a full album.
Originally Mark wanted their other track, Wildside, to be his debut single, but Interscope insisted that Good Vibrations was “the one.” And they were right: it reached the top 20 in 15 countries, was certified Gold in America, and Billboard ranked it the #20 song of 1991.
Wildside ended up being the follow-up track, but it never really became a hit. Whether he likes it or not, Marky Mark will go down as a one-hit-wonder artist of the ‘90s. And if you refer to him as Marky Mark, as Eminem, did, it’s gonna be a problem.
Eminem referred to Mark as “Marky” during an interview in 1999 with Carson Daly (Total Request Live) and it sparked a beef that was actually caught on camera. It was then immortalized by Eminem in pen in his song, Drug Ballad.
“Back when Mark Wahlberg was Marky Mark
This is how we used to make the party start.”
Then, there was Frank Sanello who wrote an unofficial biography of Mark Wahlberg called Don’t Call Me Marky Mark. It’s pretty clear that it was, and still is, a touchy subject.
The thing about Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch was that, unlike other early ‘90s rappers who glorified drug usage, this crew was strictly drug-free. The ‘80s (and the whole crack epidemic) was so fresh you could still smell it. We also can’t forget that Mark himself was an addict not so long before he became Marky Mark.
Good Vibrations, for example, has the lyrics:
“Drug-free, so put the crack up
no need for speed
My body is healthy my rhymes make me wealthy
and the Funky Bunch helps me
to bring you a show with no intoxication.”
One day in 1994, a woman who attended one of Marky Mark’s shows claimed that she suffered injuries after being trampled on. It occurred right after Marky pulled down his pants on stage and showed off his Calvin Klein tighty whities.
With that, he instigated the pre-teen and post-teen crowd to rush the stage. What became of the lawsuit? Who knows? But what we do know is that Marky Mark and CK underwear were a package deal, like partners in crime. In 1992, Mark took his Marky Mark fame and became a Calvin Klein underwear model.
Before Justin Bieber and his tatted-up CK ads, there was the OG. Marky Mark and his six-pack in Calvin Klein underwear dominated posters across the country. The hugely successful ad campaign was shot by fashion photographer Herb Ritts.
Kate Moss also appeared with him in a number of ads and TV commercials. The boy-next-door face and his buff bod made him universally appealing. Of course, it helped him and his Funky Bunch reach further heights. That is, until they broke up about a year later.
He didn’t write it, though. In 1992, a photo-bio was published with pictures taken by rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith accompanied by commentary contributed by Mark himself. Essentially, it’s 144 pages of photos that he just says stuff about.
Adding to this bad boy, Marky Mark dedicated the book to his “privates” aka “the funkiest member” of his “bunch.” The “memoir” is described by readers as “funny” with the disclaimer that you should “keep it away from young ones,” you know, because of all the swearing.
In his pre-Marky days, Mark was a handful, especially in the eyes of the law. His problematic behavior took a while to fizzle out of his system, and it even dragged on for a bit after he reached Marky Mark fame.
As the story goes, some guy allegedly used a racist slur against Marky Mark’s Black bodyguard. Mark then reportedly beat him. Badly. He was arrested on assault and battery charges only to have them dropped after the victim reached an out-of-court settlement with Mark.
When Marky and his Funk Bunch hit the stage, the ripped hip-hop star would offer glimpses of his body to his screaming fans. Evidently, he was also into going shirtless (and with a body like that, you can’t blame him for trying to capitalize on it).
It was the ‘90s, so he liked to wear his baggy jeans slung low with his Calvin Klein underwear peeking out. There was also his signature backward baseball cap. And we can’t forget about the crotch grabs. It’s all cliché now, but that sh*t was the bomb back then…
Marky Mark’s live shows were basically strip teases that just barely stopped short of full exposure. He said that it started out as an impulsive and rebellious game during one performance at Magic Mountain in Southern California.
It then became a deliberate strategy. “I had never seen so many camera flashes and such a crazy reaction.” He loved being on stage and the center of attention. “You have to do that,” he said, “not pull down your pants, but do whatever it is to keep interest.”
He explained that he was coming into his own, discovering what people liked and didn’t like. Along the way, he learned that he had a gay fan base. So, he took his act to gay clubs. Entertainment mogul David Geffen discovered him around that time.
Word on the street is that it was Geffen who whispered a piece of advice into his friend, Calvin Klein’s ear. Klein, smitten by the young chunk of meat, soon plastered Mark on ads from subways to highway billboards. His face – and body – were everywhere.
In 1991, MTV embarked on a new TV series called Rock n’ Jock which featured actors, musicians, and other celebrities playing sports against professional athletes. Marky Mark thought what the hell, why not get in on the action?
He joined the series as a regular, along teammates that sometimes included his own brother Donnie and Will Smith. Mark once revealed that during an appearance on the show, he had a run-in with Leonardo DiCaprio, and it nearly cost him his role in The Basketball Diaries.
The Funky Bunch’s debut album was a runaway success, but their follow-up album was basically a flop. Readers of Rolling Stone voted Marky Mark the “Worst Singer of the Year” in 1992. It was a major slap in the face – one that gave Mark the push he needed to leave the group and pursue acting.
Ironically, Marky Mark received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1993 for the You Gotta Believe album. Still, the group fizzled out. After they disbanded, Mark didn’t jump into acting just yet.
First, he teamed up with reggae musician Prince Ital Joe. Together, they released two albums in Europe. The song United became a No.1 hit in Germany. Afterward, Mark started piecing together a musical act called One Love as a producer and the lead singer.
It was only in the late ‘90s that Mark (who lost the “y”) retired from the music business to start a career in acting, although he had had some side roles in movies during the mid-‘90s (like Basketball Diaries with Leonardo DiCaprio).
Mark’s first movie role came in 1994 in Renaissance Man, where he played Private Tommy Lee Haywood. It was difficult for Mark to shed his bad-boy image and be taken seriously as an actor. But it turns out the pop star could act.
His roles in Renaissance Man, The Basketball Diaries, and Fear gave him the boost that he needed. By 1997, he really made heads turn when he became one of Hollywood’s leading men in the popular film Boogie Nights (he played a young porn star, after all).
Ever since, the skies have been relatively clear and sunny for Mark. He’s managed to go from a delinquent to a pop-star rapper to being a Hollywood A-lister. I think we know how tough that can be – to remain relevant in a world that now more than ever just can’t forgive people for the mistakes they’ve made.
And Mark Wahlberg has made his fair share of mistakes. I’m not talking about the Marky Mark phase. A few of his illegal slip-ups have already been mentioned, but Mark had a varied rap sheet.
That 45-day jail stint he served in 1988? That was his punishment for beating up two Vietnamese men, one of whom had a five-foot-long wooden pole. Mark called them racial slurs. Later, he explained (and confessed) that he was on PCP at the time.
He was initially charged with attempted murder and even pleaded guilty to felony assault. The judge handed him a two-year sentence, but 45 days was apparently all he needed to serve. Mark was under the impression that he left one of the two victims, Johnny Trinh, permanently blind in one eye.
Then there was the time he was charged for chasing down some fellow residents of Dorchester, shouting racial slurs while throwing rocks at them. In 1992, after already being known as Marky Mark, he kicked another man, his neighbor no less, in the head repeatedly.
Mark fractured the jaw of Robert Crehan. Court documents stated that Mark “without provocation or cause, viciously and repeatedly kicked” Crehan in the face. All the while, a man named Derek McCall held Crehan to the ground. Mark’s attorney claimed that Mark and McCall, who is Black, were provoked after Crehan called him a racial slur.
In 2014, Mark tried requesting a pardon for his 1988 assault on Trinh. He said he had met with Trinh to apologize “for those horrific acts.” Trinh then publicly forgave his former attacker. But his request for a pardon didn’t sit well with many people.
According to the BBC, the idea of a pardon raised “difficult issues, with the arguments on both sides being far-reaching and complex.” One person who opposed the pardon was one of Mark’s former victims, a guy whom Mark had attacked when he was younger.
The unnamed individual said, “a racist will always be a racist.” Judith Beals, the prosecutor in some of the cases, argued that Mark “has never acknowledged the racial nature of his crimes.” By 2016, Mark stated that he regrets his attempt to obtain a pardon.
It’s probably the right move on his part because it was not looking good for his cause. It was around the time of the protests in Ferguson and New York City, when Black Americans were fighting against a slew of crooked cops.
It didn’t look so good that Mark Wahlberg walked in, with his heavy wallet and “white privilege” showing people that if you’re white and rich in this country, you should get special treatment. Pardon or not, it made him look like a real jerk.
Still, Mark had his reasons for the pardon. He wrote, “My prior record can potentially be the basis to deny me a concessionaire’s license in California and elsewhere.” Okay, fine, but his rap sheet never stopped him from opening restaurants, including Wahlburgers, which even has its own reality TV show.
There are other reasons for his desire for a pardon, like the fact that he had “become close with many members of the local law enforcement community in Boston and Los Angeles.” He expressed a desire to work with at-risk youth, but his record keeps him from doing such work.
But it all came down to the real reason: “Receiving a pardon would be a formal recognition that I am not the same person that I was on the night of April 8, 1998.”
The guy was trying to prove to the world (and let’s be honest – to himself first and foremost) that he is actually a good guy. This whole pardon thing came at a time when Mark was on some sort of “redemption tour.” In 2013, for instance, he finally got his GED.
He also had some tattoos removed. But not everything can be erased, nor should they be. Some things are simply etched in society’s memory forever. And it looks like both Mark and everyone else understands that. The petition for the pardon was, after all, officially closed.
Now, at 50, Mark Wahlberg can’t see his Marky Mark past without clenching his teeth just a tad. But back when he was 26, at the height of his Boogie Nights in 1997, he didn’t mind it. “I don’t have a problem with people associating me with Marky Mark as far as the music goes,” he told The New York Times.
“But with the whole movie thing,” he added, “people are not going to see Marky Mark. They’re not.” He went on to say that Marky Mark is a big part of him, but a more “trumped-up version.”
As opposed to the energetic, wild boy who pulled his pants down, “Mark Wahlberg is grown into a young man,” he told The New York Times reporter from the balcony of his Hollywood Hills home. He was far from his not-so-promising roots.
Mark was born the youngest of nine kids to working-class, Catholic parents. The family of 11 lived in a three-bedroom apartment in Dorchester. His parents divorced when he was 11, and his mother, Alma, blames the divorce for his slide into delinquency.
His mother explained that she was too busy working and feeling sorry for herself to pay attention to her son. “Emotionally, I just wasn’t available to him,” she said. Mark was left to his own devices, trading school for the street.
Every day was: “Wake up, go out, hustle, make money, steal, sell drugs, rob people, do drugs,” Mark recalled. “By normal standards, by Middle-American standards, I should have been locked away, and they should have thrown away the key.” (Yet he wanted a pardon…)
Then came the days when he was plastered on every wall and billboard. “My friends would joke about it a lot,” his mom admitted. They would tell her, “Oh, Alma, I was in Filene’s, and I saw your son hanging from the rafters in his underwear.”
Marky Mark was the talk of the town, and it wasn’t all positive. That 1992 picture book? Yeah, well, he dedicated it to his, um, nether regions. He was also a part of public brawls, including one with Madonna’s posse at a party in LA.
By 1993, he was getting a bad rap again once the press discovered the racist incidents of his youth. Mark, as we understand now, is something of a chameleon. He knows when to change direction and morph into someone else.
Scott Kalvert, a friend of Mark’s who directed the video for Good Vibrations as well as The Basketball Diaries, said, “The smartest thing Mark learned was that you had to diversify and explore other things.” Let’s just say that if he hadn’t, the guy might have been the one flipping the burgers at Wahlburgers.
He made the film Fear in 1996, where he got to play evil and basically stole every scene. Then came the movie Traveler, which served his goal of being an actor who loves the craft more than the paycheck.
Every step of the way, he was distancing himself from Marky Mark. “He didn’t do any of the affectations that Marky Mark had,” Brian Grazer, one of the producers of Fear, shared. “He refused to be referred to as Marky Mark. That wasn’t his identity any longer.”
Mark is far from his hip-hop days, but the idea of a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch reunion has been brought up multiple times. In 2012, he told Moviephone that he was totally done with music, but a few years later, he told UK’s Heat magazine that a reunion is on the table.
“Well, the Funky Bunch wants to get back out there,” he shared. “I’ve just got to find the right time. We might, though.” He wondered out loud if the return of the group would be “lucrative.”
Believe it or not, Mark has been married only once. He married model Rhea Durham in 2009 and the couple have been together ever since. Mark said that he appreciates his wife so much that he credits her for every good thing that has happened in his life. Wow.
“I owe a lot to my wife,” he gushed to The Sun in 2018. “She has helped me become the man that I am and created a beautiful life for me and our children.” Wow.
The happy couple are proud parents to Ella, Michael, Brendan and Grace. Mark said he knew that she loved him for who he was – that she was someone he could trust. “Until I met her, I wasn’t ready to have a family,” he explained.
They started dating in 2001, and eight years later they decided to tie the knot. They had three of their four children when they walked down the aisle. By 2010, their family was complete. What’s their secret? He told Redbook magazine that they have a date night every Thursday.
Mark told Esquire magazine in 2014 of his parenting “secrets.” The way he sees it, it’s all about being involved in every aspect of their life. “To give them enough trust that they can share things with you. I don’t want them to be terrified of me, you know?”
He also does whatever it takes to make Rhea happy. Apparently, he dresses up like a handyman to “fulfill her wildest fantasies.” In 2015, he told Ellen DeGeneres that his wife “just wants me fixing things. I wear a wife beater around the house and walk around with a hammer or a screwdriver.”
Born in 2003, the couple’s eldest child is all grown up at 18 years old. Mark told Jimmy Kimmel in 2020 that Ella isn’t driving due to a “bad experience.” The experience involved a golf cart and some lava during a family vacation.
It wasn’t hot lava, thought, rather “dry, sharp, dangerous lava.” The girl hasn’t asked to drive since. When it comes to his daughter’s dating life, Mark recalled the time he asked to meet one of his daughter’s “suitors.” Can you imagine being that dude?
Their second child, Michael, was born in 2006. The 15-year-old isn’t following in his dad’s footsteps. Instead, he seems to have a future as an athlete. In fact, both of his sons are “obsessed with everything sports.”
Mark revealed that he started watching his sons play sports from his car. “My kids want to have their own identity,” he explained. “I’m not allowed to get out of the car at football practice or a game. I gotta sit in the car and watch.” Makes sense…
Born in 2008, Brendan is Mark’s spitting image. The father-son duo is often seen on Instagram via Brendan’s account. Brendan is the one who seems to be following in dad’s fitness footsteps as the two like to work out together.
As much as the kid loves his dad, he also wants to have his own life separate from being the son of a celebrity. At first, Mark said he took it personally, but then he realized that he needed to support his kids in the best way possible.
Last but not least is the youngest born Grace Margaret, who shares a special bond with her dad. Born in 2010, the 11-year-old is already a competitive horseback rider. And, of course, he posted about it on Instagram.
Like his older daughter, Grace is also going to start dating eventually and he’s going to want to meet her suitors, too. “I’m dreading the teenage years with my daughters; it’s not going to be easy for them to go on a date.” Good luck with that, Mr. Wahlberg.