What happened to Dream

Members came together after responding to an 800-number solicitation for a girl group and impressed Bad Boy boss Sean “Puffy” Combs so much in a hotel audition that he signed them on the spot.

Why do I know that name?: Before “American Idol,” there was Dream. The Southern California R&B quartet consisted of Ashley Poole, Diana Ortiz, Holly Arnstein and Melissa Schuman. Poole got on board by calling (800) BE-A-STAR, while Schuman and Arnstein auditioned at the suggestion of their vocal coaches, with the latter recommending her lifelong friend Ortiz for the prefab four.

Their manager set up a Beverly Hills Hotel audition for Combs, who initially seemed unimpressed with the 14-year-olds. “It was really scary but awesome,” Poole said of the audition. “We sang some songs for Puffy from our demo, he shook our hands and said, ‘Good luck.’ We were like, ‘Oh, didn’t get that!’ And then 10 minutes later, he was sending us a contract to sign.”

The road to riches: Their debut album, It Was All a Dream, was released in January 2001, when all four were 16 or younger, and spawned the pop/urban hit “He Loves U Not.” Legendary music-biz titan Clive Davis told the girls that the song would have been a hit no matter who sang it, but Poole said the fact that “four white girls on a hip-hop label” sang it made the song even more massive. The girls performed at the NFL’s Pro Bowl in 2001, toured with ‘NSYNC, Britney Spears, 98 Degrees and future Where Ya Been? subjects the Baha Men. Dream appeared at the American Music Awards and the VMAs. And, of course, Poole, 20, who is working on her debut solo album, said they thought the ride would last “forever.”

Reality bites: Schuman left in 2002 to pursue acting and was replaced by Kasey Sheridan. The follow-up single to “He Loves U Not” tanked, in part, Arnstein said, because it came out just before the September 11 terrorist attacks.

So the girls hit the studio to record album number two, Reality, which hung in limbo as release dates came and went. The video for the first single, “Crazy,” portrayed the formerly fresh-scrubbed teens in a sexier light, a decision that was the beginning of the end.

“I think the second album is 100 times better than our first one,” said Arnstein, 20, who is preparing to go to San Francisco State to study psychology and now sings in the “Fleetwood Mac meet Coldplay” band Whirlmagnet. “There was this push for us to be more sexual and this emphasis on being skinny. We always had this mentality that we were real, we were really friends and really in love with music and having a good time. Suddenly that was not the game. It was, ‘How much weight can you lose and how sexual can you be?’ ”

Reality was never released in the U.S., and the group’s members drifted apart, with lead singer Blake the first to jump ship. “The music and chemistry were amazing, and we really were best friends and family,” Poole said. “We did love each other, but we were very young, and as anyone who has ever been 18 knows, it’s a confusing time in your life.”

The moral: If the Dream seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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