Is it CMS Made Simple. or Cms Made Easy? I have installed and used CMS Made Simple before on Dreamhost and ran it with no problems.
It sounds as thought you either have incorrect values set up for your database connection, or that mySql server was down (wwhich happens occasionally at DH!).
I suggest carefully inspecting your install for the correct user, password, database name, and db host. Many users neglect to change the db host to their DH host (set up when you created the database - usually something like mysql.yourdomain.com) ,leaving the "host" configured to "localhost" or the like.
Alternately, once you get your head around it, youo gotta love Joomla. There are hundred of GPL templates available on the web, as well as numerous template creation tools and tutorials if you google for them or check out the major Joomla sites (again, Google is your friend!)
I think the vbest way to get your own template up and running is to grab on of the "Three column" free templates out there and modify that...Joomla also has a "built in" banner rotator module, so that is an even easier piece of cake.