Days passed. Things got weirder. As the world's eyes turned toward the Vatican in mid-March, Rodman, wearing a flower-print blazer, suddenly materialized in Saint Peter's Square. As cardinals from around the globe pondered who would follow Pope Benedict, Rodman was ostensibly advocating for a black pope. But when the Associated Press asked him about Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, Rodman was perplexed. "From Africa, right?" he asked. Rodman's Irish sponsor, Paddy Power, had arranged for him to ride through town in a Mercedes popemobile. (The vehicle was delayed by snow in Northern Italy, so Rodman rode it a day later than planned.)

When Rodman arrived home from his adventures, he was exhausted and didn't want to see anyone, his friend Bright says. Only his daughter Alexis, who visited him that week, got any time with the athlete. "He's completely different when he's not in public," she says. "He's normal. It's a beautiful thing... But he's built up a tower of drinking and craziness, and it's so high that now he can't come down."

On a Thursday afternoon soon after, the Miami drag queen Elaine Lancaster called Rodman for lunch. They've known each other for 30 years, and "Dennis will do anything — anything — for Elaine," Bright says. Many of Rodman's outlandish outfits originate with Lancaster. "He just loves the attention," Lancaster explains. "And he gets jealous if someone else around him gets it."

Trishy Trish shares a tumultuous relationship with Dennis Rodman but cares for him deeply.
Monica McGivern
Trishy Trish shares a tumultuous relationship with Dennis Rodman but cares for him deeply.
Rodman spends his time in public with drink in hand and surrounded by women.
Launce Rake
Rodman spends his time in public with drink in hand and surrounded by women.

Which rarely happens.

Rodman arrived at Balans Café on Biscayne Boulevard that Thursday at Lancaster's urging. Empty Corona bottles and discarded glasses perspiring with melted ice soon populated the table, one of the few occupied at the small restaurant. Around the table sat Lancaster, Trishy Trish, Mike Bradley, Bradley's brown-haired wife, and Rodman. The onetime rebounding champion wore white Reebok basketball pants, Chuck Taylors, and burgundy socks.

"Excuse me, miss?" he yelled at the waitress, a cute and effervescent brunette. "I'm just gonna say this, and it's going to be vulgar. But do you have any pussy on ice?"

Puffing a cigar as thick as a sausage, Rodman howled with laughter. The cackle infected the rest of the table, and everyone smirked at the waitress, who giggled uncomfortably. Soon after, Rodman lost interest in the table's banter. A visitor asked him how long he'd lived in Miami. "It doesn't matter," said Rodman, who untangled his impossibly long legs to stand. He then espied a dark-haired man charming a pretty woman in the parking lot. The sight of this pleased Rodman. "Just fuck him already!" Rodman yelled, and everyone laughed. "Fuck him!"

The bill was paid, and Rodman climbed into Lancaster's silver SUV. They headed for her house near NE 73rd Street and Biscayne. Trishy Trish sat in the back. She'd been annoying him all day. One of his friends had called her a bitch, and this made Rodman wary of his bedmate.

"Do one thing, Trish: Shut up," Rodman growled after arriving at Lancaster's. "Quit being a bitch."

"What am I doing?" she asked.

"You want to be the boss!" Rodman yelled.

Rodman looked at a reporter. His eyes weren't discernible behind the dark sunglasses. "Write this, please. Please write it." He then glowered at Trishy Trish, who said, "Write it."

"Why are you mad at me?" she asked, weeping.

"Say you're sorry," Rodman commanded.

"I'm sorry."

"Not like that," Rodman said. "Say you're sorry."

"I'm sorry."

"Guess what?" Rodman said. "She's a bitch. I don't give a rat's ass."

"Why am I a bitch?" Trishy Trish asked. "You just stress me the fuck out. I'm tired. Every week has been like this!"

Crying, Trishy Trish disappeared behind Lancaster's house, but she returned minutes later smoking a cigarette.

"Dennis is a fucking asshole!" she screamed. "You guys try spending 24 hours a fucking day for a fucking month with him. See what kind of mood you're in. Don't take it personally, Dennis, but you're a lot of stress. You have a lot of emotion. I need a straitjacket probably. And who made you this way, Dennis? Who marketed you? You did!"

Rodman, looking at the white siding of Lancaster's house, was quiet for a long moment. "You know what?" he said. "She's right. How about that? She's right. And that's why people love me around the world."

By the time Rodman arrived at the Los Vegas strip club on an overcast Sunday afternoon later that week, the techno music was pulsing so loudly that thought had become impossible. That was fine by him. He was in his favorite flower-print blazer, and at his side were two brunet porn stars from Vivid Entertainment, a major pornography company in Los Angeles. The ballplayer ignored them. "I'm here to get fucked up," he said, sliding up to the bar at Sapphire Gentlemen's Club. Swilling red wine, he fell into the arms of a blond Playboy model in a red bikini.

Rodman wore a sad, distant expression and wasn't particularly interested in ­conversation with the young woman. He asked a burly, gray-haired photographer to stop snapping his picture, and bouncers erected a wall of chairs to separate him from other guests. For once, Rodman didn't want attention.

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