Wellington Resident Vanilla Ice Talks About Madonna, Wallaroos, and What's Next

"Will it ever stop? Yo, I don't know. Turn off the lights, and I'll glow."


It's just before 8 a.m. on a recent Friday at Mom's Kitchen, a country-style breakfast joint in Wellington. In walks a six-foot-tall, 42-year-old man in cargo shorts, a navy-blue hoodie, and a black ball cap with the flat brim nudged ever so carefully to the side. Tattoos cover his body and hands, and his hair — once a tall, creamy-blond pompadour — is now dark, cropped short. He takes a seat next to a bearded man at the counter, his back to most of the restaurant. Regulars barely notice him. Strangers stare for a moment before recognizing him, their eyes tracing the familiar broad shoulders, the staunch jaw, the glowing white teeth. To the staff here, he's "Rob." But to most of the world, he will forever be known by one moniker: Vanilla Ice.

As part of a radio stunt, Rob jumped a dirt bike over a truck full of friends.
C.Stiles
As part of a radio stunt, Rob jumped a dirt bike over a truck full of friends.
His buddy Wes Kain used a can of ether to provide fireballs.
C.Stiles
His buddy Wes Kain used a can of ether to provide fireballs.

" 'Morning, Rob," a smiling waitress says. "Know what you want today?"

He does: orange juice, coffee, eggs with extra hot sauce, and hash browns. "No meat," he reminds her. These days, Rob is a vegetarian.

Soon, three of his buddies arrive. Over breakfast, Rob tells them about getting stopped by a police officer the previous day.

"I was only going maybe ten over when he got me," he says. "He's asking me why I'm in such a rush. 'What's the emergency?' That kind of stuff. And he asks me for my license and registration. I pull it out, and he takes one look at it. He goes, 'You're Vanilla Ice!' I'm like, 'Yes, sir.' He's like, 'All right, well you drive carefully, and have a good day.' " His buddies chuckle.

On this typical busy day, Rob will star in a photo shoot, go to his mechanic's shop to check on his vintage '67 Cadillac, feed his pet wallaroo, and take his wife and daughters up to a weekly car show. But before all that, he must jump a motorcycle over a monster truck full of people — part of a morning-radio stunt.

The group pays for breakfast (Rob pulls out a wad of cash with hundred-dollar bills poking out, but one of his friends is a second quicker and gives the waitress a credit card), then caravans down Okeechobee Boulevard to a small, private dirt-bike track. Rob is standing in the mud behind his black Escalade, changing into his motocross suit when his wife, Laura, arrives in her Mercedes carrying their miniature poodle, Teddy.

As Rob takes a few practice jumps on the bike, a swarm of people from a local Top 40 radio station (WiLD 95.5) arrives at the track. A morning-show DJ and eight other loud young men hop up into the bed of a jacked-up truck. Most are carrying cans of Bud Light. One man is dressed as Abraham Lincoln ("Drinkin' Lincoln," he says. "Great to meet ya!")

Rob gives a thumbs-up and revs the engine until it sounds like crackling thunder. Then he guns it. He rockets up a ten-foot dirt hill and into the air. He clears the cab of the truck, sprinkling bits of mud over the screaming drunks. He twists the handlebars midair for the cameras. Then he lands hard on the top of the next hill. The impact rattles his entire body, though he plays it off. Everyone cheers.

Afterward, taking off his pads and helmet, Rob admits the last landing stung like a bitch. In many ways, the jump serves as a metaphor for his life: the meteoric rise, the brief time on top of the world, the hard, awkward landing. Now though, he's grinning.

"I'm definitely going to feel that tomorrow," he says. "But when you feel the pain, that's how you remember you had a good time."

Remember what the world was like in 1990. Before Vanilla Ice, radio airwaves were dominated by Phil Collins, Wilson Phillips, Sinéad O'Connor, New Kids on the Block, and a spattering of hair bands whose sole existence seemed to be aerosol distribution. Maybe it was the daring shiny suits, the fascinating balloon pants. Maybe it was the novelty of a white rapper. Maybe it was the hard-to-ignore swagger. Or maybe it all came down to that irresistible, unshakable, deviously catchy sound:

If there was a problem, yo, I'll solve it Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

Ding-ding-ding ding-a ding-ding

Ding-ding-ding ding-a ding-ding dink

Whatever the reason, within days of its release, "Ice Ice Baby" gripped America tightly, unleashing a wave of consumption like no song before or since. The single was spun hourly on radio stations from coast to coast. The video played at least that often. Cars with neon-lit underbellies and hydraulics blasted the tune in high school parking lots. Teenaged boys danced across pep rallies, one hand behind the head, elbow out, the other hand grabbing a foot. A generation of suburbanites was captivated.

Of course, the phenomenon was short-lived. In just over a year, Ice was out of the spotlight, replaced by darker, ultraserious acts like Nirvana. The feel-good dance-along sounds soon gave way to Tupac Shakur and gangsta rap. Vanilla Ice became America's favorite joke, mocked as a symbol of the silly extravagance and neon sensibilities of the late '80s and early '90s.

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25 comments
Madonna
Madonna

He is real Rock Star.

june
june

he was awesome when he came out at 16 with ice ice baby and still is. he does not need to apologize to anyone. he belongs to "one of a kind" and I'd luv to have him to myself for one night. you're unique Rob, just be yourself.

NED
NED

Great story! We all laughed at him then, but we all realize we'd have done the exact same thing in his spot. Maybe we were all spared and he has to live with these experiences in his head and memory.

PS: LOL @ "iron claw"

craig Zabransky
craig Zabransky

Great piece. I just purchased the iconic song....Ice, Ice, Baby on iTunes last month. Felt it was time to add it to my party mix....a true classic. I guess it is coming back around....

stay adventurous,Craig

kevin
kevin

This guy has taken a lot of shit. It's turned him into a very weird human being. But he is still a human being. Great f@#king story!!

B9
B9

Go Iceman...turn off the lights-- and you'll still glow!

Sherman
Sherman

Been following Rob / Vanilla Ice for years. I've bought every album he ever put out, the rap music and the scream-metal music. Some of its good, some of its not. Loved Ice Ice Baby then, and love it now. Whenever I have a party or am at somebody elses', I make sure it gets played, both versions. Always makes people smile. I feel for the guy; he's sure been through a lot. And I'm happy he's got his life back together. Its good to hear that he's doing shows again. I would pay to see one.

shadowspawn
shadowspawn

Eddie Murphy drove a Porche. Nick Nolte drove the Blue Caddy in 48 hours.

troys
troys

Thanks for the great article. I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks, Rob for being human. You, Rob, are one of the best at what you do, so please keep it up!

Gary
Gary

Eddie Murphy's car in 48 Hrs was a bathtub Porsche. Nick Nolte drove the Cadilac and described himself as a ragtop man. Good for Rob.

Didn't know
Didn't know

Great article. Very interesting story! Once I started reading I couldn't stop. Thanks for putting it together.

Joe
Joe

That was an amazing article. Thank you.

Joe
Joe

That was a amazing article.. Thank you.

elbillo
elbillo

I thought eddie murphy drove a vw (karman ghia) in 48 hours ? perhaps the author is referring to nick nolte's convertible cadillac, but I thought that model was (slightly) more recent than '67 ?

kingmeerkat
kingmeerkat

Great read! You guys at the pulp have some serious talent.

10 year NewTimes reader.

tony
tony

Good story! To the Extreme!

Atv Ryan
Atv Ryan

Anyone who rides and jumps dirtbikes is ok in my book!!

J-son
J-son

I saw him at the Juggalo nation a while back. The show was OK but he was a very very cool guy.

tck
tck

who could still hate this guy? let it go gus. great fun story!

Marky Nate
Marky Nate

What a great story! He has to live the rest of his life with this legacy fair or not. I feel for him. His music makes a lot of people really happy.

Karen
Karen

Quit hating Gus. You know you loved that song then and you know you love it now.

McKenzie
McKenzie

This is an interesting, candid look into Vanilla Ice's past, present, and future.

Thanks MJM.

gus roth
gus roth

i wanna puke all over again

 
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