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The Creator of Milli Vanilli Speaks Out--in His Own Words : Pop music: German producer Frank Farian admits that he should have been more candid about the duo's lip-syncing, but please don't compare him to Saddam Hussein.

December 31, 1990|MARC FISHER | THE WASHINGTON POST

ROSBACH, Germany — "And now the Moment of Truth!" says Frank Farian, creator of Milli Vanilli, inventor of Rob and Fab, the pretty faces who--can you believe it!--people actually thought were singing.

Farian, the German producer who blew the whistle last month on his own fraud, swivels around from his 84-track mixing console, the Pontiac-size machine on which Milli Vanilli was really made, and furnishes the promised honest-to-God truth.

It's a record album.

"That's the name," he giggles as he hands over the freshly printed album cover. "The name of the new Milli Vanilli album is 'The Moment of Truth'! I say it's always best to make what you can out of a bad situation. So this is 'The Moment of Truth.' Good, eh?"

By God, it is. The new single, "Keep on Running," is out already in Europe, and of course, it's No. 4 and rising, No. 1 in Austria. Release date in America is Jan. 21, but right now there's still a problem--what to call the new Milli Vanilli, no, the old Milli Vanilli, well, that's the problem.

The new band is partly made up of the old band--that is, the same musicians who played and sang, sans credit, on the first Milli Vanilli album.

On the European album, the band is called "The Real Voices of Milli Vanilli," but in the States, they're not sure that's good enough.

Just off the fax machine, a letter from Joel Schoenfeld, senior vice president and general counsel of Bertelsmann Music Group in New York: " 'The Real Milli Vanilli' does not solve our problem." Maybe "The Original Milli Vanilli" would be better.

And with this, a caveat: "New members who weren't on the first album should be noted with 'new members.' "

"Yes, yes," Farian says to himself, wearily. "We did that." Frank Farian, the man Arista Records called a "creative genius" even after the Milli Vanilli fraud stripped the duo of a Grammy, can't get over those Americans. "Here in Europe, everything is positive. Stars play a greater role in America. They're taken so much more seriously. And they love the scandal. This music--it's just for dancing!"

Out here at the FAR Studios, Farian's sprawling villa of recording rooms and mixing consoles down a rutted road 40 minutes outside Frankfurt, the walls are chockablock with gold records and charts studded with Farian-produced numbers and--they're still here--posters of Rob and Fab, the 22-year-old pretty boys who finally gave Farian what he had always dreamed of, mega-success in the U.S.A.

"Robert has lied so much," Farian says. He sighs and shakes his shoulder-length orange hair. Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, the front men for Milli Vanilli, have said many terrible things about Farian since the lid finally was blown off their scam. They've said their producer took most of the money. They've said Farian refused to let them sing. They've said they agreed to fake being the lead singers only to escape their miserable existence living in the Munich projects and working at McDonald's.

"Terrible lies," Farian says. "I know Rob's father and mother--very honorable people. They adopted him from a children's home. He wants sympathy. There are no slums in Munich, no projects. He was a clerk in a department store, a normal German teen-ager.

"It's very bad now, but in five or 10 years, Rob will see it wasn't so bad. Then he'll be thankful.

"I made them rich. Rob and Fab got 3 million marks--$2.1 million--from us. The record companies were very satisfied. The real singers also got rich. And Frank Farian got even richer. Only Rob Pilatus wanted much more."

What Rob and Fab wanted was to sing, just as they saw themselves doing on the videos. Impossible, Farian says.

"I've never heard such a bad singer," he says. "They wanted to sing. They wanted to write songs. It never happened. They went instead to discos till 4 a.m. and slept all day. All they ever really did was party. Someone who lives like that can't make good music."

Rob and Fab have said repeatedly that they're good singers, and at a press conference after the hoax was exposed, they performed a lusty if inelegant rap riff from the song that launched them, "Girl You Know It's True." They could not be reached for comment.

Thirteen kittens live in the doorway. Farian's black Jaguar is parked outside, and inside, in his playroom, the producer tries to put it all in perspective. Why does someone named "Gerade Rifera" want him to appear on his American TV talk show? Why has "Milli Vanilli"--such a cute name, borrowed from a defunct Berlin discotheque--become a synonym for slime?

Farian, who sings in virtually unaccented English but speaks only a few words of the language, is alternately defensive and apologetic.

"This caused me to lose a lot of sleep," he says. His assistant nods and later adds that Farian even checked into the hospital with chest pains and high blood pressure at the height of the controversy.

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