THERE WAS SOMETHING STRANGE about the young man in dreadlocks sitting on the curb across the street from Joseph and Verma Villery's home in a working-class Hollywood neighborhood. There he was, around 9 a.m. on Feb. 4, glassy-eyed, drinking from a paper bag. Then, suddenly, he crossed the street and tried to break into the Villerys' Cutlass Supreme parked in the driveway. When Verma opened the door to shoo him away, says her husband, the man tried to rush into the house. "He said, 'I'm comin' in!' I said, 'Oh, no, you're not!' He looked like helter-skelter." Joseph, 50, a home-based auto mechanic, slammed him in the head with a baseball bat, then pinned him in the driveway until police arrived.

Only later did the Villerys learn that the intruder was would-be singer Rob Pilatus, erstwhile half of Milli Vanilli, the pop duo whose meteoric rise was matched by its spectacular fall. In 1990, Pilatus and partner Fabrice Morvan won a best new artist Grammy for their hit "Girl You Know It's True"—then were stripped of the award when it was learned they hadn't actually sung a word on the album. But that was no lip-synching exhibition going on in the Villerys' driveway. As Joseph Villery restrained him, Pilatus, 31, "was making wild threats, saying he was going to kill everyone in the house," says L.A. police spokesman Eduardo Funes. As a result, Pilatus was arrested on suspicion of making a terrorist threat and released on $150,000 bail. "I am really humiliated and embarrassed," says Pilatus, who had spent the night at a nearby club, where he drank so much, he says, that he mistook the Villery car for his own. Once Villery came after him, "I tried to run into the house to get away from him," Pilatus says.

For the German-born fallen star, it was only the latest episode in a long tailspin since the career-ending scandal. In 1991 he was hospitalized after he threatened to jump from a Sunset Boulevard hotel's ninth-floor balcony. Since then, he has been in and out of drug and alcohol rehab centers. "I started snorting cocaine, and it became a mind-boggling addiction that I am fighting," he says. Ironically, it seemed Pilatus had been starting to get back on track. "I have been doing really, really good," he says. He was working on a solo album scheduled to be released this summer, and he'd been struggling to remain sober. That's been difficult, he says, because people so frequently offer him drugs and alcohol. "People do take advantage of him," says Basil Clark, his lawyer. "It is almost as if they get a vicarious thrill out of seeing you get destroyed."