Squabbling among the trio bodes ill for their future

By Tom Sinclair
Updated October 29, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Guy Aroch

In the midst of their current success — hit singles ”No Scrubs” and ”Unpretty,” the multiplatinum album ”FanMail,” and a 17-date U.S. tour — TLC are showing signs of discord in their funky midriff-baring ranks. Lisa ”Left Eye” Lopes, the self-described ”crazy” in ”crazy sexy cool,” arrived late and skipped out early from a recent EW photo shoot. She missed a scheduled in-person interview with EW. And she excused herself from a group appearance on MTV’s ”TRL.”

Heard it all before, you say? (After all, Left Eye’s house burning and other unpredictable behavior is infamous.) Well, for the first time T-Boz and Chilli are talking about it. ”We lied live on MTV, saying she was sick,” Tionne ”T-Boz” Watkins tells EW. ”She was not sick.” Adds Rozanda ”Chilli” Thomas, ”She was at the hotel, upset [with us].”

How’d things become so damn unpretty? According to T-Boz and Chilli, prior to recording ”FanMail” last year, Left Eye sent a letter to their record label, LaFace, stating that she was quitting the group — an act which temporarily froze the notoriously money-troubled trio’s finances. ”The most evil, selfish, heartless thing anybody could ever do,” says Chilli.

Left Eye’s response: ”I guess it was about a year and a half ago, right before we started working on ‘FanMail.’ The process was taking such a long time, the record company wasn’t really adamant about pushing TLC, so that was my attempt to raise eyebrows and get some attention. As soon as I sent the letter, T-Boz and Chilli called me and said, ‘Please don’t leave the group, let’s just do it one more time.’ I said, ‘That’s not a problem.”’

So what of the recent spate of missed interviews and appearances? Left Eye admits to being preoccupied with a solo project. But T-Boz and Chilli claim it’s to the detriment of the group. ”She wants to go solo,” says T-Boz, ”so that’s what she’s focused on, which is not fair to us.” ”Left Eye is only concerned about Left Eye,” adds Chilli. ”She does not care about TLC, which to me really stinks.”

And now that they’re beginning a grueling tour that could tax the brotherly love of Hanson, what exactly does the future hold for TLC? Producer Dallas Austin, often referred to as the fourth member of TLC, says, ”At the end of the day, all of them know TLC is their home. Left Eye wants attention. But she knows that if she drops out of this thing, that attention’s not gonna be there.” Perhaps some primal scream therapy will help the talented trio mend their ways. And in fact, the title of their next single is ”Shout.”