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Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg was born in the poor working class district of Boston known as Dorchester. He was born on June 5th, 1971; the youngest of nine children. His parents were Alma & Donald Wahlberg. The large Wahlberg brood didn't have a lot growing up, especially after his parents divorced when he was eleven. The kids crammed into a three bedroom apartment, none of them having very much privacy. After the divorce, Mark's mother has said that she became very self-absorbed with her own problems. She blames herself for her son's subsequent problems and delinquency.
Wahlberg dropped out of high school at age 14 (but later got GED) to pursue a life of petty crime and drugs. He'd spend his days scamming and stealing, working on the odd drug deal before treating himself to the substances himself. The young man also had a violent streak - one which was often aimed at minorities. At age 16, he was convicted of assault against two Vietnamese men after he had tried to rob them. As a result of his assault conviction, he was sentenced to serve 50 days in prison at Deer Island penitentiary. While there he began working out to pass time, and when he emerged at the end of his sentence he had gone from being a scrawny young kid to a buff young man. Wahlberg also credits the jail time as being his motivation to improve his lifestyle and leave the crime behind him. Once he was released, Mark rejoined his family, who were now in the national spotlight. His older brother Donnie was a member of the 1980's singing sensation - The New Kids On the Block. Mark himself had been an original member of the band but had backed out early on - uncomfortable with the squeaky clean image of the group. A precursor to the boyband craze, NKOTB were dominating the charts and were on top of their game. Donnie Wahlberg decided to help his little bro out and tried to get him on the straight and narrow. He pulled some strings and got Mark set up with a recording contract. Despite a lack of singing ability, promoters took to his dance moves and a physique they knew teenage girls would love. Donnie scripted some easy songs for Mark, who collected a troupe of dancers and a deejay to become his "Funky Bunch" and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch was born. His debut album, Music for the People, was a smash hit which was propelled along by the rapper's willingness to disrobe down to boxer-briefs on stage - not to mention several catchy tunes. Teenage girls thrilled to the rapping 'bad boy'.
Record producer David Geffen saw in Wahlberg a cash-cow of marketing ability. After speaking to designer Calvin Klein, Marky Mark was set up as the designer's chief underwear model. His scantily clad figure soon adorned billboards across the nation. Ironically, while New Kids on the Block's fame was dwindling as audiences tired of their syrupy lyrics, Marky Mark's bad boy image was becoming even more of a commodity. He was constantly in the headlines (often of the tabloids) after multiple scandals. In 1992, he released a book dedicated to his penis. Wahlberg was constantly getting into rumored fights, most memorably with Madonna and her entourage at an L.A. party. While things were always intense, they were relatively harmless and made for enjoyable reading for the public. However, when the story of his arrest for assault - and the allegations of racism - broke in the press, things took on a decidedly darker note. People were not amused. Soon after while on a British talk show along with rapper Shabba Ranks, he got into even more trouble. After Ranks made the statement that gays should be crucified, Wahlberg was accused of condoning the comments by his silence. Marky Mark was suddenly surrounded by charges of brutality, homophobia and racial hatred. His second album, You Gotta Believe had not been faring well - and after the charges surface, it plummeted off the charts. Adding to the hoopla, Wahlberg was brought to court for allegedly assaulting a security guard. He was ordered to make amends by appearing in a series of anti-bias advertisements. Humbled and humiliated by his fall from grace in the music world, Wahlberg decided to pursue another angle - acting. He dropped the Marky Mark moniker and became known simply as Mark Wahlberg.
His first big screen role came in Penny Marshall's Renaissance Man. Despite the name change, many people snickered at the idea of the has-been rapper thinking he could make it as an actor. From the get-go he was proving them wrong. In Renaissance Man, he gave an utterly charming performance as a simple but sincere army recruit. What naysayers remained found it increasingly difficult to write Mark Wahlberg off as he delivered one fine performance after another. He blew them away in the controversial Basketball Diaries and chilled them in Fear as every father's worst nightmare. Wahlberg hit a high point in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, in which he metamorphosed from shy young Eddie Adams into egomaniac porn star Dirk Diggler. Critics and audiences were impressed with the young actor's range and abilities - not to mention certain other attributes... It seems as though Mark Wahlberg has finally put bad boy Marky Mark behind him. While some controversy remains - Wahlberg denies ever having been a racist - he is now taken much more seriously than he ever was before. He is one of the few teen pop sensations to survive through it and come out on top.