Breaking the Mold

updated 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

BILL MANSPEAKER DOES HIS BEST TO tell the world that his 10-member band, Green Jellÿ, is the crummiest show on earth. There's even a printed warning on their video compilation, Cereal Killer: "Go read a damn book, or you could end up like the idiots in this band."

But the fans aren't buying it. Or rather, they are, to the tune of 65,000 copies of Killer and 650,000 copies of its soundtrack CD, which features Green Jellÿ's hit single, "Three Little Pigs." Admits Manspeaker, 30: "We do everything wrong, and somehow it seems to work."

Founded as Green Jellö by four Buffalo, high school pals a dozen years ago, the group, says Man-speaker, quickly "realized we were really bad and began making costumes to distract from that." Absurdly garbed in cow and pumpkin heads made of papier-mâché, among other low-tech adornments, they did their unspeakable—and unspeakably campy—thing in rented spaces around town, before crowds who weren't above showering band members with dessert items.

In 1986 they decamped to L.A. There, they partied on as an ever-changing mass of creative types (over the years, 74-people have been Jellies) whose big moment was being gonged off The Gong Show in 1987. Then, 15 months ago, the glib Man-speaker talked his way into a $60,000 contract from Zoo Entertainment to make Cereal Killer. The 60-minule, 11-song video featured, among other things, a pink-mohawked Fred Flint-stone and Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and is laced, according to a Washington Post critic, "with a sense of humor straight out of a junior high school bathroom." Bingo! The group just finished their first major tour and is now negotiating for both a Marvel Comic book and a children's TV show.

But fame, it turns out, can be a fun-flattening thing. One legally sticky stretch last spring brought a cease-and-desist order from Jell-O, resulting in a quick name change to Green Jellÿ, and letters from various corporate interests wanting to protect the good names of Fred Flintstone and Toucan Sam. As the bits get cut, admits Manspeaker, "the video keeps getting shorter and shorter." And the bottom line, inexplicably, gets bigger and bigger.

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