The Sad Truth

Pilatus, though, continued his downward spiral: In December 1995, he attacked a man with a metal lamp base; the following month, he vandalized a home and slapped another man; the month after that, he slapped a man who caught him trying to break into his car. Pleading no contest to the three attacks (all of which took place in L.A.) and related charges in 1996, he was sentenced to three months in jail and six in rehab. It wouldn't be his last time in drug treatment (primarily for cocaine abuse). About a month before his death, he was interviewed in a rehab center on German TV, where he shocked viewers by remarking that he wanted to die; one associate believes that he'd been in rehab nearly a dozen times by then.

April Sutton, a broadcast journalist who became friends with the duo while covering their rise for the cable network BET, feels there were "many elements that made it [more] traumatic for Rob [than Fab]. He was an adopted child and didn't have a solid family base. He ran away from home as a teenager. Rob was a lonely soul in America attempting to understand the culture, wandering in the dark."

And perhaps, as an immigrant, Pilatus had too much pride to allow him to understand that America might be more forgiving—if not embracing—if he appeared to be in on the joke. Especially now, with '80s nostalgia in vogue and public figures being forgiven for far grosser crimes, the time might have seemed right to crack a smile and cash in. But Pilatus still hoped to be taken seriously. Says VH1's Gay Rosenthal, who executive-produced the Behind the Music special, "When we had the cameras and he had his little entourage, shooting him on the beach, you could tell that's what he loved; he needed that attention. He was in great shape, working out every day. But inside, he was the opposite. For someone who looked so strong, Rob was a very, very fragile person."

Originally posted Apr 17, 1998 Published in issue #427 Apr 17, 1998 Order article reprints
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