You never know what the kids are going to discover on YouTube. One day, Moses Feinga, 7, came home and announced: "Mom, you're famous."
He'd learned on YouTube that his mother, Moana Feinga, used to be a rock star. There she was, at the tender age of 13, singing "Crush on You," "You Got It All" and other hits with the Wolfgramm family band, the Jets.
Remember the Jets? Those eight brothers and sisters of Tongan descent who used the Twin Cities as a launching pad to major pop stardom in the 1980s?
Twenty-five years after signing with MCA Recordings and after a decade of bitter feelings, the Jets are reuniting for a concert Friday in Minneapolis. The mayor has declared it "Jets Day" in the Mill City.
"I wanted the family to bury the hatchet," said Moana, 37, the second youngest Jet and now its chief pilot. "We all have kids now. I wanted to do a show in Minneapolis because that's where we were discovered, and everyone will show up for a family reunion."
There was enough bickering, bitterness and bad vibes in the Wolfgramm family to fill an episode of "VH1's Behind the Music." The siblings, ages 11 to 20 when they landed their big-time record contract, scored five Top 10 hits, had a song in "Beverly Hills Cop II" and performed at the White House and the World Series. But over time, the Jets, breadwinners for their family of 19, were frustrated by how little money they realized from the $12 million the band grossed between 1985 and '90, and how much their manager made. The band filed for bankruptcy and fired their high-profile manager, Don Powell. The Wolfgramm family left Minnesota in the mid-1990s, with various members landing in Utah, California, Arizona and Hawaii.
"The music almost tore us apart. The business took over and the gigs were more important than our relationships," Moana said recently from Provo, Utah. "Liz, when she was diagnosed with [breast] cancer, just walked away from the music. We were like 20 -- when kids are almost finishing college -- and we were like burnt-out, has-been music artists."
After Liz and Moana exited, the Wolfgramm boys continued with a new crew of younger sisters on vocals, even trying to plug into the teen-pop world in Orlando as JETT17. But the band disbanded in 1997 as members got married, raised kids and found work outside of music.
"All of us siblings stayed close, and eventually we healed our wounds with our parents," Moana said on a recent morning after dropping her kids off at school. "Music has always been in our blood. So you always have that passion for it."
A few years ago, Moana and Liz formed a gospel quintet of the oldest Wolfgramm women, My Sisters, and recorded a CD. "The gospel album was therapeutic for us girls, " said Moana. "It was like, 'Hey, we should try and do it again for our kids and for us, get over our old fall-outs.'"
Last year, the Jets were invited to perform in Hawaii at an oldies show with En Vogue, the Cover Girls and Ready for the World. The timing and the Pacific setting were just right. It was a smooth flight for the original Jets, even though Liz didn't participate because she was about to give birth to her sixth child.
For Minneapolis, it will be the original lineup except for Eugene, who now uses the surname Hunt.
"His perspective is totally different," Moana said.
Contacted at his home in Salt Lake City, the loose-lipped, loose-limbed Eugene said he didn't think he was in physical shape for a comeback. "I wasn't ready for the cameras to look at me," he said. "We went from the Jets to the jumbo Jets."
45 Wolfgramms expected
In 1989, the Jets played a royal command performance for the king of Tonga in their Mormon parents' native country. But the finances that fueled the band were starting to run low. In 1990, the group released its fifth and final album for MCA, "The Best of the Jets." The group struggled on, issuing a few more albums in obscurity on independent labels.
Moana thinks the Jets' last Twin Cities appearance was in the early 1990s at the now-defunct Mississippi Live at Riverplace. She knows that this week will be a trip down memory lane for the Wolfgramms, many of whom haven't been to Minnesota for more than a decade. She expects about 45 family members to show up at the State Theatre, where the opening act will be Twin City, featuring her younger siblings who were born in the Twin Cities.
"Everyone still sees Minneapolis as our hometown," Moana said.
One goal for the Jets this week is to reconnect with Powell, the Minneapolis music-biz impresario who discovered, nurtured and pretty much served as benefactor/manager/producer/second father for them for a decade.
"We don't have any bitter feeling toward our manager," Moana said. "We haven't seen him in a long time. We're hoping we'll see him."
As the Jets have been rehearsing for their homecoming concert, they've laughed and reflected on their flight. "It's been bumpy," Moana admitted, "but we ought to be happy with where we went and just be happy in our skin. We did something that no other Polynesian family ever did. We're still a family. Leaving the business kind of helped us heal our wounds and get everything back into perspective."
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719