LOS ANGELES, NOV. 16 -- In the wake of revelations that the chart-topping pop duo Milli Vanilli never sang a word of any of its music, the two spent today here finally doing what they and their associates say they've been dying to do -- singing in a recording studio.

They have a new manager and a new publicist -- and a voice coach. Apparently they've been working with him for about a year.

"They're relieved," said publicist Eliot Sekuler, describing his clients' reactions to the public discovery that their German producer, Frank Farian, had made Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan the front men for music recorded by unseen performers and christened the act Milli Vanilli. After the two went to Farian this week insisting they wanted to sing, Farian fired them and held a press conference announcing the truth.

On Tuesday, Pilatus and Morvan -- who share a house here -- will hold their own press conference to discuss their plans. They intend to remain performers.

But are they still Milli Vanilli?

"We're looking into that," says the group's lawyer, Alan Mintz.

"Milli Vanilli no longer exists," an Arista Records official said succinctly today. Certainly as far as Arista is concerned, it doesn't. The record label that distributed Milli Vanilli's best-selling album -- and that may or may not have always known that the duo wasn't really singing -- is saying only that it supports "the creative genius of Frank Farian."

Meanwhile, the potentially defunct Milli Vanilli still risks being stripped of its 1990 Grammy Award as Best New Artist. Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, has said the academy may not reach a decision until the end of this year.

"It's not the Persian Gulf crisis," said Greene. "Nothing's going to happen if we don't make a decision in the next couple of days... . We want to get all the facts."

This is the first time in its 33-year history that the academy has faced something like this. Although Greene stressed that the academy is not an investigative body, he did note he is looking into rumors that the lead singer on "Everybody, Everybody" by the group Black Box did not really do the vocals. "We have a couple of people checking it out," Greene said.

The academy's pending decision about Milli Vanilli is complicated by the fact that the award was not for a single song or album but for Best New Artist. "There's a persona attached," says Greene. "I think those kinds of intangibles make this more difficult."

At a news conference in Las Vegas today, Greene suggested that the Grammy should be forfeited, according to the Associated Press. "I don't think what we've done so far should stand as it is," he said. "We're appalled by it. But our hearts go out to these two guys, because they're very easy targets."

If it does rescind the award, Greene said in a phone conversation earlier in the day, the academy will probably opt not to choose another winner in place of Milli Vanilli. The academy president said he's been informed that Milli Vanilli will abide by whatever decision is made. He spoke sympathetically about the performers themselves, saying, "We feel sorry for anyone put in this position. We all make mistakes."

Greene said he had heard rumors -- "Milli Vanilli has had quite a cloud over their head for quite a while about authenticity... . As late as two weeks ago I called Arista to say I'd heard the rumors and ask them, is there anything I should know about this? They said, 'No, no, no, that's all malicious rumor.' "

In fact, Milli Vanilli has always had something of a cloud over its moneymaking head. Long scoffed at for its lightweight music, the duo became the example in arguments about how slim and paltry pop music had become, as well as the butt of jokes by Arsenio Hall and other late-night comics. Fox's Emmy Award-winning satirical show "In Living Color" was prescient enough last year to do a searing takeoff that featured the Milli Vanilli duo selling "Do-it-yourself Milli Vanilli kits."

Today, the entertainment industry's version of spin doctors -- publicists and managers -- portrayed the situation as a Dickensian tale of two well-meaning entertainers victimized by a manipulative record producer.

"Rob and Fab are the victims here," said their former manager, Todd Headlee, who described the two as starving young artists in Germany when Frank Farian found them. "They have fought tooth and nail to the point of tears to ensure they would be lead vocals on the new album. They've said many times they would come forward. They've been ready to throw Milli Vanilli in the wastebasket. They were tired of the Arsenio Hall jokes, they were tired of being called puppets."

Headlee recalled being on a 10-week European tour with Pilatus and Morvan last year. "Two weeks into it we were in Barcelona and they broke down, they were literally in tears -- 'Please, you've got to get Clive Davis {president of Arista} to get Frank to let us do the vocals on the new album. We can't do this anymore,' " Headlee said.

However, the group continued the charade. "They got a lot of advice from all the powers that be that said, 'No, you can't, you'll destroy it, just be patient,' " said Headlee, who represented them until they fired him and the company for which he worked -- Gallin Morey Associates. Since then, Gallin Morey Associates has fired Headlee and he now works for himself.

A current Milli Vanilli associate echoes that story and says the duo was essentially threatened with "the withholding of moneys due them. They were coerced to stay in line, not rock the boat... . It got real ugly there for a while. Whatever their relative talents are, they were working with a producer who was extremely manipulative."

Singer Charles Shaw, who did some voice work on one of the Milli Vanilli songs, said in a phone interview from Germany today that Pilatus and Morvan weren't the only ones who got the message they shouldn't talk about the reality behind the group.

Houston-born Shaw, who went to Germany in 1978 as an Army private and remained as a singer, recorded the rap -- and only the rap -- on "Girl You Know It's True" with other singers. "I was paid for my studio work and that was it," he said. This was before Pilatus and Morvan even came along. "I've never met Milli Vanilli," Shaw said.

But when the song was released under the Milli Vanilli packaging and became a hit, a now-defunct German record company that had signed Shaw promoted the fact that he was the rapper on the song. Shaw also readily admitted it to German interviewers, as well as the Washington-based monthly Sister 2 Sister.

"Nobody believed it," recalled Shaw, 30, who lives in Mannheim and works as a professional singer. "They said it's another guy trying to make some money. So I said, 'Just drop it.' "

Shaw said he got several threatening phone calls at the time and was never hired again by Frank Farian. He declined to name the two other young black American men, also former GIs, who are the voices you hear on the Milli Vanilli album.

"I have to watch myself. This is a hard game," Shaw said. "I never realized what a threat was until I got involved with this thing."

It's unclear how all this controversy will affect the erstwhile Milli Vanilli. "I'd be amazed if any success came out of this," said Paul Grein, who writes a column analyzing the pop charts for Billboard Magazine.

Grein predicts that the recording business will emerge unscathed. "I think the fact that they were always considered the most featherweight act in the business will minimize the damage to the music industry," Grein says. "I think if it was discovered that it was Whitney Houston or even Paula Abdul it would be more damaging."