Fame Comes at a Cost for Nick and Aaron Carter

ByABC News

April 29, 2005 — -- Fame and success can bring money, but it also can bring pain and -- as it did with Nick and Aaron Carter -- it can tear apart a family.

When their family was young, Jane and Bob Carter lived out of a van. But their sons' stardom carried the family from a hand-to-mouth existence to wealth and comfort on a 17-acre compound in the Florida Keys.

Nick Carter, now 25, enjoyed years of stardom as a member of the multi-platinum group the Backstreet Boys. His younger brother, Aaron, now 17, got his break when he opened for the Backstreet Boys at a 1997 concert in Germany.

The boys' success was a tribute to their talent, but it was also a tribute to the tireless persistence of their mother and manager, Jane Carter.

"I sacrificed my whole entire life for that child and for the other child for the sake of that family. I made sacrifices every day. I was willing to do it for them. For the family," she told "20/20."

Jane's sacrifices paid off, but the great wealth and fame that accompanied the boys' success took a heavy toll on the family.

Nick and Aaron Carter said they had to cut their mother out of their lives because she insisted on acting like a boss instead of a mom. "I think, mainly what we're saying now, is that we were starved for that attention, of a motherly figure," Nick told "20/20."

"Sometimes I would just stop and I would be like, "Mom, why can't we just fight about, you know, me being a teenager, and me growing up?" Aaron said.

Family tensions heightened in 1998. Jane had spent nine months traveling the world to make 10-year-old Aaron a star, and both boys had hits. However, things weren't as sunny at home. According to Bob Carter, the couple's three daughters were increasingly resentful of their mother's focus on the high-earning sons.

"The other kids used to call Nick the 'cash cow.' And when Nick grew up ... Aaron was the cash cow. 'Oh, mom only likes the cash cow.' This is what the girls would say," Bob Carter said.

By 2003, Jane and Bob Carter had separated. Aaron lived with his mom, but decided one day to visit his dad, who he hadn't spoken with in eight months. He said his dad showed him documents that convinced him his mother hadn't paid him the money he was owed.

"Every show we did, we would probably make about maybe $40,000, $50,000 a show. And it was all gone," Aaron said.

Jane told "20/20" a different story. She points out Aaron and Bob signed a document stating that she did not mishandle Aaron's money. She described a family that was over-extended, with children who had lavish spending habits and a husband who was buying boats, tractors, tour buses and cars.

Jane Carter's epic story of personal and professional heartbreak came to a humiliating climax on the night of Jan. 13, 2004, when she arrived unannounced at the home she once shared with her husband and kids. That night she found her estranged husband in bed with his soon-to be fiancée, Ginger Elrod.

After throwing a remote control at Elrod's head, Aaron phoned 911 and Jane was taken into custody on a charge of battery.

After the humiliation of her arrest, Jane tried to move on. The charges against her were dropped and Jane moved back to Tampa, Fla., but the pain between the mother and her sons wasn't over just yet. Earlier this year, the National Enquirer ran photos of Aaron getting high when he was 15 years old.

"I wasn't a bit surprised. I just knew it was a matter of time before they were going to be foolish enough to get caught doing what they were doing," Jane said.

Jane claims that she caught Aaron with a bag of marijuana at a show during the Hawaiian Tropics Pageant.

"Being young sometimes, you know, you try things, and sometimes you don't like it. But, for me, you know, I know that I've made mistakes. And everybody learns from their mistakes," Aaron said. Although he has distanced himself from his mother, Aaron still struggles with the situation.

"It hurts. A mother doesn't go on TV and trash her son," Aaron said. "I just want her to love me, you know? I just want her to be my mom. Is that too much to ask for?"

Bob Carter has his own take on his wife's motives. "She's broke. And she's using Aaron and me and everybody else to stir up publicity so that she can sell a book of lies," he said.

Jane says her new book will be called "The Price of Fame."

"This has been not just Aaron and Nick's life, this has been my entire life. And I have a right to talk about my life," Jane said.

Jane tells "20/20" she is estranged from four of her five children, but is still close with 18-year-old Leslie Carter, who has also written and recorded songs. And, yes, Jane is her manager as well.

But Jane is optimistic that the mother-daughter business relationship will work. "It's different, because I don't have that stress of the bad relationship. And that's all behind me now. So it's going to be fun this time," Jane said.

However, Aaron has some advice for his sister, "My advice to you would be, 'Don't let mom manage you.'"

With a new single out, Aaron is continuing to pursue his music career. This December, he will turn 18 and gain access to a trust estimated at $5 million. He says he's grateful for the love and discipline his father has brought to his life.

Jane, in turn, has her own dreams for the future. They're rooted in the hard lessons of her past. "I can say, that I learned something positive out of this whole thing. It taught me a really big lesson, that all the material things in the world are not important compared to the amount of time that you can spend with your children."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events