Willy-nilly with Milli

Maybe I've had too much to drink already. Here I slouch in the Hard Rock Hotel lobby, gabbing with silky-shirted old ladies about cigarettes and alcohol, when I find myself tapping my toes to Milli Vanilli's Fabrice Morvan and his acoustic rendition of "Blame it on the Rain" (as well as a less-than-purple butchering of Prince's "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"). At some point after my fifth complimentary martini at what's being called the Velvet Sessions, a networking membership club with Hard Rock trappings, I realize that I'm actually supposed to interview Milli.

Or is that Vanilli?

Fab is one half of the duo that lip-synched its way to a Best New Artist Grammy before anybody knew that it wasn't them singing. With that as their claim to fame, you'd think it would be OK for me to just fake the interview. Instead, I'm in a panic because I can't get my tape recorder to work, so I throw a big scene, tripping over a velvet rope and stumbling into the gift shop.

"Um, we don't have any double-A's, just triples," informs the gift guy.

At just about the time that I'm going to fall on the floor and cry Hard Rock tears, I realize that it's the pause button. The pause button is on. This is why I'm not a serious journalist.

This, and the fact that I insist on talking to people like Fabrice, sole survivor of the Big Broken Milli Vanilli Promise that melted like Vanilla Ice under an MC Hammer at the turn of the '90s. And guess what? He's not very bright!

"Oh, man! This sound!" he says. "It's like, can you turn me up some more? ... Because, when you're on stage, you can't hear nothing."

Maybe I should have been on stage, then. Anyway, Fabrice, what have you been up to? Um, besides nothing.

"I've done so much to turn the tide over," he wakes. "I've been doing a lot of grass-roots campaigns. It's not about advertising, because people are hip to that now. If it's real, then, you know. Human beings have antennas, and they'll feel it. You can only fool people so long."

Note to self: Human beings have antennas. Or is that antennae? Fabrice's antennae are a little cloudy, however, as he can't quite remember what musicians he pays half-a-mind (the only half) to these days.

"A lot of them are dead. Ha ha ha," he creeps. "But, I listen to everything from Radiohead to Gorillaz. Ummmmm, I go blank. There's a turn going to happen in music ..."

Will it be anything like the one currently happening in my stomach? Let's turn the subject a little and talk about Rob Pilatus, the other half of Milli Vanilli, who rather famously offed himself after looking very depressed on one of the better Behind the Music's.

"The problem with Rob -- fortunately, I had the strength to focus on my own thing, and I did -- but he was surrounded by the wrong people," he puffs. "That, in L.A., is deadly. He didn't die in L.A.; he died in Frankfurt. But the thing is, he was hanging out with the wrong people. I mean, I've hung out with wolves myself, but it made me stronger to get away from them."

So you got away from Rob.

"He was getting arrested left and right, and I was like, I can't get wrapped up in that, because I'm trying to clean up my life," he narcs. "I told him, Ã?If you get better, maybe we could do something together.'"

Well, when you were doing something together, you weren't really doing much. I mean, you braided your hair ...

He recalls the career joke that blew up in their faces. "People didn't know that it was only going to be one single, on a regional level, not even national," he rationalizes. "Germany's a small country, but it was only supposed to be in one county. I mean, compared to L.A., it would be like Orange County ... on a cable channel."

Are there counties in Germany?

"It was never planned," he rewrites of their, um, unfortunate success. "We were just dressing ourselves; we were just doing it as it came. Then it became a phenomenon. We became scared of it. We were afraid to jump up, because there was a power pull."

My mind, meanwhile, is being powerfully pulled to images of Rob and Fab jumping up in unison to the tune of "Girl You Know It's True." Oooh, Oooh ... eeeew. These days, Fabrice is feeling quite painfully realized. "I'm still here, and I'm still doing my music. I speak from the heart. With a message, with a melody. You make them dance, you make them sing. If you get those three ..."

I only counted two. But then, I know how to count. Fabrice counts 12 songs that he's demoed for the label-shopping process that sustains many a faded pop hero. He's having a hard time getting them heard, though. "Unfortunately, I was in New York when the attack took place," he sniffles. "That was devastating. I got there on Monday, and the attack took place on Tuesday. I had major meetings lined up, and I lost them." Blame it on the rain? No, blame it on the planes.

"In this country, a lot of people get built, and then they're destroyed," he crashes, then burns. "That, in a sense, is a business. You have to understand the big picture about it all."

Was I blond in that picture?

"I know how hard it was, but for me it's been an amazing road," he blurs into predictable reverie. "... and I know how to handle it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

If this is stronger, I'll take another martini. Blame it on the drain.


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