Send Porn Stars, Funk and Money: The Limp Bizkit Story

How the Florida band went from scrounging an extra bag of chips backstage to multimillion-album-selling stars

Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit during Limp Bizkit 'Family Values' Tour at the Nassau Colliseum at Nassau Colliseum in New York City, October 2nd, 1999. Credit: KMazur/WireImage/Getty

Who wants to speak to me?" Fred Durst regards his cell phone with suspicion. "Adam Sandler?" The Limp Bizkit leader has been chatting with producer Rick Rubin, his friend, and now he thinks his chain is being yanked.

"Oh, uh, Adam ... hey, how are you, man?" Durst says, sitting bolt upright. "What? I don't lick ass! .... Oh, kick ass — thanks, man!... Yeah, I know.... We're from Florida — Jacksonville, the really shitty part."

It's Adam Sandler, all right — and he wants a Limp Bizkit track for his new film, Big Daddy. Durst has already seen the picture: "Man, I was about to cry at one point, I swear."

The sight of Fred Durst Hollywood-schmoozing is as incongruous as the $8,000 Rolex Submariner that hangs off his tattoo-covered forearm. (Durst gave his mom a similar timepiece on Mother's Day.) Or the sight of Limp Bizkit chowing down at a pricey San Francisco Chinese restaurant, where well-heeled rubes ogle photos of former patrons like Sammy Davis Jr. and George Bush. Then again, where exactly do Limp Bizkit fit in?

This here is rock's redheaded stepchild, the rude, crude combo that discerning listeners love to hate. The lightning rod for much of the hostility is Fred Durst, sixty-six inches of tightly wound cracker with a scrappy goatee, steely blue eyes and a free-floating belligerence. His is the kind of face you see on The Jerry Springer Show, getting berated by baby mothers, or on Cops, getting an asphalt massage. It's still a little shocking to see such a mug haranguing you on MTV, but that's where Durst's formidable constituency has put him, and he's not going anywhere.

Since their first hit single — last year's funny-at-first desecration of George Michael's "Faith" — Limp Bizkit have been viewed as the living embodiment of all that's beer sodden and brain damaged in post-adolescent American manhood — in other words, a perfect match for Adam Sandler.

Being a populist pariah has its compensations. Tomorrow, the Bizkit — Durst, guitarist Wes Borland, drummer John Otto, bassist Sam Rivers and DJ Lethal — will take in a special preview of The Phantom Menace at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, and Fred Durst is flying his new girlfriend up from L.A. for their first proper date. "I can't comprehend all this stuff," says Durst, eyeing the Cantonese smorgasbord before him. "A year ago we were begging for an extra bag of Doritos on our backstage rider, and now ..." He gazes out at the panoramic view of the San Francisco sunset and shakes his head in wonder.

Limp Bizkit's second album, Significant Other, is expected to outstrip the 1.5 million sales of Three Dollar Bill Y'Alls, their debut, and sold 635,000 copies its first week alone. The reviews are good, the summer tour is selling out, and when MTV isn't playing the single "Nookie," it's reporting on the gridlock-causing guerrilla shows that Bizkit are springing on the nation's major cities. Somehow, between Dollar Bill and the new album, Limp Bizkit have managed to raise their game the way the Beastie Boys did between Licensed to Ill's frat jams and the boho freakdown of Paul's Boutique.

To add to the band's euphoria, Korn singer Jonathan Davis has arrived in San Francisco for the Phantom Menace junket. It was Korn that lifted Limp Bizkit out of Florida, taking them on the road again and again, giving them music-business hook-ups. The connection has often landed Bizkit with unfavorable comparisons to Korn, but Davis thinks that's in the past. Now that he's heard Significant Other, he views Limp Bizkit as peers, not poor relations. "With this album, they've truly established that they're Limp Bizkit," he says. "We're like proud parents," he adds with a broad grin.

Davis offers to take his surrogate sons to the O'Farrell Theater, a San Francisco strip club of national renown. Only Durst accepts, and he is not disappointed. The pneumatic pulchritude on show in the club's many rooms has him glassy eyed. He asks one girl, "Do you guys eat pussy?" Durst's manager furnishes him with sixty dollars for a private lap dance. Afterward, he glows. "The girl said, 'I saw you on MTV today,' " Durst reports. "So I said, 'That's right — I'm one of the Backstreet Boys.' "

Davis gives Durst a quick lesson in strip-club savoir-faire: He tables a Croissandwich-size wad of twenties and lets the ladies come to him. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Korn's "Got the Life" is pumping over the PA.

If there's one thing that might yet hinder Limp Bizkit's anticipated ascendancy, it is the band's poor image among female listeners. "I think about women listening to the new record more than I did with the first one," Durst says. "I didn't used to think about it at all."

Durst is not about to renounce his friendships with legendary ladies' men like Tommy Lee and Pauly Shore, or to apologize for his cameo in the porn flick Bachstage Sluts #2, but he is willing to explain his most misogynistic misstep. We're talking about "Stuck," a potty-mouthed tirade from Dollar Bill that earned the band a reputation for being not so much politically incorrect as politically insensate.

"I was angry at my girlfriend, and I let it build up," Durst explains. "If you heard what she called me... I understand that two wrongs don't make a right. I was reacting; I didn't think of the consequences. I've learned my lesson. Now I soak everything in and then I respond. And when someone criticizes my lyrics, it makes me think twice. Was I a dick? A homophobe? A chauvinist? No, but I go back to make sure."

The new single, "Nookie," is another ex-girlfriend rant, but its bone-crushing "Stick it up your..." chorus is tempered by the masochistic mantra "Like a chump, like a chump. . . ." Durst penned this schizophonic hit when he discovered the truth about a three-year relationship he'd been in: "I thought she was a nice girl who had a job in a pet shop. I found out later that she was sleeping with my friends."

"Re-arranged" illuminates one of the central themes of Durst's life. "It's about not having any support," he says. "I'm a workaholic, and I need approval and reassurance. My brain never stops — it's a serious problem. I think myself to sleep, and I wake up before my management, calling the office until they answer the phone. I gotta know everything.

"I have nothing to my life but work — I need to step back and smell the roses. Because I think the roses are starting to bloom."

Durst's mind turns to Adriana, the daughter he fathered when he was nineteen. The girl, now nine years old, is being raised in Florida by her mother, who split with Durst before the child was born. Durst understands why. "I was chasing the dreams," he says. "And it took a while to make that happen, to get the breaks." Although he can now support his kid financially, emotional investment is beyond him at this point. "I really haven't been able to spend much time on the father-daughter thing," Durst admits ruefully. Then he brightens up. "I think when she gets a little older, we're gonna be able to bond pretty good."

Although Durst was a self-described academic whiz during high school in North Carolina, his efforts became clouded by dreams of success at rapping or skateboarding. He tried studying art at local Gaston College but bailed after just four days. Flat broke and crashing on friends' couches, Durst took a cold, hard look at himself. "I was such a fuckin' loser," he says. "I thought, 'My dad can't stand me, man. I'm gonna fuckin' go in the Navy and he'll be proud of me then.' "

Durst spent eighteen "soul-destroying" months in the Navy before he injured a wrist skateboarding and got a medical discharge. He next worked at a skate park in Charlotte, North Carolina, then followed his parents to Jacksonville, Florida. There he toiled for the landscaping business that his father (a retired chief of undercover narcotics) had started.

At twenty-one, though, he still craved the kind of approval he had gotten at high school talent shows, where he'd rap and break-dance his way to victory wearing a Michael Jackson jacket.

At the drop of a Kangol, Durst will lay out his old-school credentials for you. He remembers first hearing hip-hop when classmates at his mostly black grade school in Gastonia, North Carolina, played him tapes of New York radio shows. "In 1980 I was fuckin' listenin' to the Cold Crush Brothers, Grandmaster Caz, Treacherous Three!" Durst marvels. "I was lucky to be born in 1970."

In high school, Durst's hip-hop obsession allowed him a more fluid identity than most students had. "There was a jock scene and a bad-boy redneck scene and a black scene," he says. "I was part of them all in a weird way." But he also felt a strong undercurrent of intolerance from his peers. "Until the Beastie Boys came out, I was called 'nigger lover,' " says Durst. "I mean, I couldn't go to parties, I would get ganged by so many fuckin' people. I learned how to fight good."

Fred Durst's hip-hop saga comes full circle with the Significant Other track "N2 Gether Now," on which he gets to cross lightsabers with one of rap's true Jedi knights, Wu-Tang warrior Method Man. Durst sees the Method Man duet as a chance to garner another kind of approval. "I don't want the hip-hop world to buy my record," says Durst in a rare burst of humility. "I just want 'em to go, 'Hey, man, at least we know that guy's for real.' "

In the early Nineties, Durst's musical ambitions led him to try reconciling his love of hip-hop with the rock music that had always been part of his background. In 1994, after going through "a ton of musicians," he cannibalized local bands for the first Bizkit lineup. Through his day job, as a tattoo artist, Durst ran into Korn, who were touring in Florida. After inking the band, he sent Korn a demo tape, and they spread the word. It was a pivotal moment in Limp Bizkit's career — and a complete triumph of ambition over talent.

"Fred told us he'd been tattooing for years," says Korn's Davis. "But it turned out it was, like, his third tattoo! He did a Korn tattoo on [guitarist] Head's back — and it looked like Horn."

Fred Durst's mother works as a secretary at a Lutheran church in Florida. He himself is a self-confessed sinner who maintains only a light grip on the Christian faith. "I believe in God, and I pray a whole lot," he says as he barrels into a Gap store on San Francisco's Haight Street. "But I also know that I cuss, and I've had extramarital sex." Then again, even this non-devout dude knows a road to Damascus when he skids across it.

The road in question is Interstate 10, just outside Van Horn, Texas. It was 1996, and the members of Limp Bizkit were on their way to Los Angeles in a white Ford van. Sometime around 5 A.M., the band's driver nodded off briefly and, waking up in a panic, managed to flip over the vehicle half a dozen times. Miraculously, no one perished.

When Durst got over the shock of breaking both feet and seeing band mates crawling bloody from the wreckage, there came the revelation. "I suddenly thought, 'This is my chance — I'm taking this as karma,'" he says. The band had been on its way to making its first record, yet something didn't feel right. "It was kinda like God flipping the van," says Durst, who had just replaced original member Wes Borland with two new guitarists. "We took it as a sign to get Wes back and start all over again."

Durst decided that Limp Bizkit had signed with the wrong record label and asked his friend Jordan Schur to step in. Schur's independent Flip Records was the first company to court Limp Bizkit; he'd called the band "unfuck-upable" and spent $50,000 on it. This prompted a bidding war, and the band ended up at a faceless MCA subsidiary.

A lesser man would have laughed at Limp Bizkit for fucking up in such a craven fashion, but Schur didn't complain. "These things happen in this business," he says. Schur bought out the band's record and management contracts for $175,000 and financed months of live dates, often in front of hostile or apathetic audiences. Many bands implode in such conditions, but Bizkit's resolve was girded: On 1998's OzzFest tour, they addressed their detractors by entering the stage through a thirty-foot toilet. "Everybody was saying, 'Limp Bizkit is shit,'" Durst sneers. "So we said, 'OK, we'll be shit. We'll make a gigantic toilet and come out of it like five turds.' We got their attention. They were watchin' the show, and they were buyin' the records. You gotta do that sometimes, man."

Last March, Limp Bizkit's record company took the unusual step of paying an Oregon radio station $5,000 to play the band's music on the air. The ploy made national headlines, yet Fred Durst is too pragmatic to worry about any damage it might have done to his hard-won credibility. "I thought it was a smart move," he says with a dismissive rattle of the Rolex.

Even as Limp Bizkit overcome all the adversities before them, Durst's search for approval continues. Directing his own videos ("Faith" and "Nookie"), kibitzing with the likes of Adam Sandler and trying to get his own multimillion-dollar label deal, to Durst's mind, are only the beginning. He is currently shopping a film treatment that he describes as "The Breakfast Club meets The Game."

"I want to be the only musician who puts true, good, original thoughts into music and into films that have a major impact worldwide," he says. "I want to do it on a huge level. I can nail it in both worlds, really do it, man. That's where I'm heading: I wanna be Freddie Ford Coppola."

A convoy of black limos snakes through Marin County roads under a glaring midday sun. The vehicles head for the heart of George Lucas' sprawling, idyllic Skywalker Ranch, where MTV film crews lie in wait.

The first car disgorges DJ Lethal and his girlfriend, plus Fred Durst and his significant other — none other than Carmen Electra, former Prince protégé, MTV game-show hostess and putative wife of NBA oddity Dennis Rodman (as well as a one-time consort of Tommy Lee). Electra's charms are accentuated by a clingy pink sweater.

Fred Durst's romantic judgment is still, apparently, less than razor sharp. It's not that the terrierlike singer is an improbable match for a love goddess. It's just that Durst's most recent ex-girlfriend is one of MTV's event coordinators. She is right now wearing a livid expression (and, as it happens, a clingy pink sweater). Bizkit label boss Schur rushes over and mollifies her as Durst slips into the crowd.

A small, pale dude with a backward baseball cap hails Durst with a "What's up, bro?"

"Same shit, dude — just slangin' and gang-bangin'," Durst responds. His funky friend is Justin Jeffre of 98 Degrees. Limp Bizkit are sworn enemies of all boy bands, but it's hard to carry that kind of righteousness into the real world. Especially when your management company has just added Backstreet Boys to its roster.

The assembled junior celebrities mill around on the lawn of Skywalker's fitness facility, clutching their Phantom Menace goodie bags and dutifully supplying MTV with sound bites. Durst mingles with Katie Holmes, all three Hansons, Alyssa Milano and the guy from Third Eye Blind; representing the dark side of the showbiz force are Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie and Andy Dick.

The Hollywood contingent is tricked out in the most au courant glad rags that Melrose Avenue can offer. Once again, Limp Bizkit don't quite fit in. Their fashion sense remains defiantly downbeat and — except for DJ Lethal, a Puma man — they all sport the Adidas shell toes that the Beastie Boys ditched five years back. "We're the ugly ducklings of the bunch," quips Sam Rivers.

Crestfallen Star Wars buff Wes Borland gets back from his perfunctory tour of Skywalker Ranch's main house. It's time to go home — but hold on. Fred Durst has, without prior warning, spirited Carmen Electra back to San Francisco in one of the band's cars. There is only one spare seat in the other limo (complete with champagne on ice), meaning that one individual will have to suffer forty minutes of mild discomfort on the way back to the city.

John Otto is not going to take it. "I ain't squeezing in!" sputters the drummer with all the principle-of-the-thing fury he can muster. "This sucks — I'm gonna ream some asses! I'm sick of this shit!" Any talk of Limp Bizkit maturing is apparently a little premature.

Wes Borland is next to blow up, damning the whole event as "kissass bullshit." Schur takes this rant personally — Borland has been riding him all day about his excessive cell-phone jockeying. So Schur takes the guitarist to one side and chews him out. Then Schur volunteers to make his own transportation arrangements.

An hour after Limp Bizkit exit the Skywalker Ranch, there is still no sign of Schur's taxi. He asks Tori Spelling for a ride in her half-empty stretch — and the Beverly Hills 90210 starlet declines. It's a tragicomic scene that would be perfect for Limp Bizkit's allegedly "wild" and "honest" home video, to be released this fall. The document is titled Poop.