Milli Vanilli's Rob Pilatus has died in Germany according to the Sunday issue of the German newspaper "Bild am Sonntag."
The paper says that the troubled former pop-star was found dead Friday in a Frankfurt hotel room. The cause of death was unknown at press time, but a combination of drugs and alcohol is suspected. Producer Frank Farian told the paper that Pilatus had just completed a round of drug rehabilitation and was scheduled to travel to India for more treatment when he died.
Pilatus, alongside Fabrice Morvan, was half of the fashion-savvy dreadlocked dance duo that rocketed to fame in the late 1980's, only to be shot down in 1990 when it was revealed they didn't sing on their own records, leading to the revoking of their Grammy award. Pilatus continued to get press attention long after the duo's demise with an array of arrests mostly stemming from various drunken altercations.
The son of a German stripper and an American soldier, Pilatus was adopted by a physician and his wife in Munich at the age of four and ran away from home at 14. He tried his hand at DJ-ing and modeling and eventually became a champion breakdancer. He was in the States for a breakdance competition when he met up with Morvan, a Frenchman in town attending a dance music conference, at a Los Angeles disco.
Once back in Munich, the two hooked up and attempted to find work as back-up singers, then formed their own act. From most reports, Pilatus had a passable voice and Morvan's was considered quite good. They gained popularity and came to the attention of famed German producer Frank Farian. Farian readily agreed to audition the two, but found their vocals lacking. He agreed to sign them, but only as frontmen. Farian assigned them some already recorded music, dressed them up and put them out to the public as Milli Vanilli in 1988 with songs like "Girl You Know It's True."
While the duo may not have sang their way to the top, their good looks, smooth moves and some of the greatest hair in the business certainly helped propel the band to sales totaling 30 million singles and 14 million albums. Unfortunately, their sudden success also propelled their egos -- they didn't endear themselves to the press or fans when they compared themselves in interviews to Elvis and the Beatles.
It all came crashing to a halt when Pilatus and Morvan demanded that Farian allow them to sing and threatened to expose the scam. Farian called a surprise press conference in November of 1990 and announced the hoax himself, firing Pilatus and Morvan in the process. Farian, who had faced similar miming accusations with his previous group, seventies disco group Boney M, escaped relatively unscathed and went on to produce/manufacture hit European bands including La Bouche and No Mercy. The much maligned Pilatus and Morvan went on to record an album as Rob and Fab, but it failed miserably.
Morvan then launched a solo career, playing shows around Los Angeles and recording an album, "Love Revolution," due for release this Spring.
Pilatus began a downward slide that included at least one suicide attempt and several arrests. Oddly enough, Pilatus, bailed out of jail by Farian during one of his escapades, returned to Germany and realigned himself with the producer. He also retained an agent and began seeking movie roles.
A PR spokesperson for Morvan, Ilene Proctor, confirmed to MTV News via email that Pilatus and Morvan hadn't spoken since 1995, although she says Pilatus had been in touch with Morvan's management. Proctor also made it clear that Morvan has not forgiven Farian, whom, she said, is "again profiting from the boys."
Proctor adds that she hopes a pending movie deal will tell the true tale. "We are talking with major movie studios who are very anxious to help us tell the real Milli Vanilli story," says Proctor. "The whole story, the real story has never been told."
Pilatus was 32.