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Milli Vanilli’s Rob Pilatus dead at 33

Eight years after fifteen-minute pop sensation Milli Vanilli were
ensconced in the annals of pop infamy for not singing on their
Grammy winning debut album and lip-synching in concert,
model/dancer/”singer” Rob Pilatus was found dead in a Frankfurt
hotel room on Thursday, April 2. He was 33.

Although an official autopsy report has not yet been issued,
according to German newspaper Blid am Sonntag and AP
reports, Pilatus had been consuming a potentially fatal combination
of alcohol and pills. Pilatus’ former partner Fab Morvan and
producer Frank Farian told the newspaper that Pilatus had been
undergoing drug rehab in Germany since late last year.
Milli Vanilli won the 1989 Grammy for Best New Artist on the
strength of their multi-platinum debut, Girl You Know It’s
True.
With their long dreadlocks, model builds and smooth
dance steps, Pilatus and Morvan made for eye candy that was as
easily swallowed as their hook-filled hybrid of soul and pop. At
the peak of Milli Vanilli’s fame, Pilatus told Time
magazine that he and Morvan had contributed more to pop music than
Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger. When suspicions arose
that the duo lip-synched their material, Pilatus was quick to
defend his talent. “I am very proud person, and this is
embarrassing,” he told Rolling Stone in 1990. “We can sing
as good as any other pop star in the Top Ten.”

Nevertheless, the grand illusion was dispelled in late 1990
after Farian admitted that the pair had not sung a note on the
album (those chores had been left to uncredited studio musicians).
Disgraced, Pilatus and Morvan were forced to surrender their Grammy
and disappeared from the public spotlight as quickly as they had
burst into it. A subsequent album made without Farian, 1993’s
Rob & Fab, bombed.

Morvan would later claim that they were deceived into taking
part in the faux-group by Farian; referring to the scandal, Pilatus
told the L.A. Times “we sold our souls to the devil.” In a
1997 “Behind the Music” VH-1 documentary, Pilatus described the
agonizing shame of the scandal which led to his downfall. “It’s
like something happened to you and you think you’re dying — only
you don’t die.” Although Morvan has attempted to slowly build a
solo career out of the ruins (he played a gig at L.A.’s trendy
Viper Room late last year), Pilatus’ post-MV story went from bad to
worse. In the aftermath of the expose, he made multiple suicide
attempts, including slashing his wrists and threatening to jump
from a ninth-floor balcony. In November of 1997, a Van Nuys, Calif.
municipal court judge issued an arrest warrant for Pilatus after he
failed to show for a probation violation hearing. He had been
charged with grand theft, felony forgery and four 1996 misdemeanor
convictions.

Although Farian had plans to release a best of Milli Vanilli
album this year and reportedly hoped to reunite Pilatus and Morvan
for a tour, the latter seemed adamant about distancing himself from
Pilatus and his destructive cycle. In a December 1997 interview
with People magazine, Morvan said of Pilatus: “We have no
relationship at this point. I got sober. I am going my own
way.”

Pilatus, a former model and break-dancer, was the son of a U.S.
soldier and a German mother. He was born in New York and raised in
Munich.

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