By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Rob fell into all the clichéd VH1 Behind the Music trappings of fame. He descended into a fog of inebriants. "My drug of choice was always X," he says. "More than heroin and blow. I could just pop a pill and instantly feel better about all the shit in life. Of course, the problems didn't go away. The next morning, things were even worse than the day before."
For months at a time, he refused to go out in public. He couldn't take being America's punch line, a Saturday Night Live parody. "I wanted to completely disappear," he says. "I wouldn't go to the grocery store. I wouldn't go to the gas station. If I ordered pizza, I'd have somebody else answer the door just so nobody would ever see me."
Rock bottom, he says, came in 1994, when he tried to kill himself with a drug overdose. He took every bit of every drug he could find and laid on the floor, waiting to die. "Somehow, I lived," he says. "I woke up to my buddies dumping buckets of water on my face. It was right then I decided I needed to start living for me. I kicked everybody out of my house. I wanted to start everything over."
He started racing Jet Skis competitively in Florida. He met his wife at a Fourth of July party on the water. He resurfaced publicly in the late '90s, post Limp Bizkit, with a radically new image (lots of tattoos) and a rap-metal sound. When MTV viewers voted "Ice Ice Baby" the worst video of all time in 1999, Rob was invited to a studio set with Jon Stewart and Janeane Garofalo to smash the tape with a baseball bat. Although the stunt was supposed to demonstrate that Rob was a good sport, he launched into a rage, destroying the tape, the sound stage, and nearly Jon Stewart.
The next time America saw Rob was a few years later, in 2004, this time on reality TV. On the second season of the VH1 show The Surreal Life, he shared a house with late televangelist Tammy Faye, porn star Ron Jeremy, and Erik Estrada, who'd starred as sexy state trooper Ponch Poncherello on the '70s TV cop show ChiPs.
Rob had a few outrageous tantrums, and for the first time, viewers got to see the psychological consequences of life as Vanilla Ice. It was here, Rob says, that he was first able to come to terms with his role in the world. "That show helped me get to a point where I could laugh at that image I hated for so long," he says. "For a long time, I blamed that image for almost killing me." Estrada and Jeremy served as unlikely mentors, urging Rob to be grateful for the experiences he'd had and use his fame to his advantage. "Those people helped me learn to let go of a lot of the anger I had," Rob remembers now. "At one point, Erik sat me down and was like, 'Dude, wipe your ass with those people, the ones who don't get what you're all about.' "
Still, when he was voted off the show, he threw a drum set over Ron Jeremy's head.
Living as Vanilla Ice has taken its toll on Robert Van Winkle's soul. He hides it well, but there are signs: the shifting, suspicious eyes whenever he's in public; the guarded language in conversation; sitting in the back of restaurants so people won't interrupt dinner with photo requests and questions like Do you have any words to our mothers?
No matter what he does for the rest of his life, Rob knows he'll never escape the image — the history — of Vanilla Ice. He'll never get away from that song, those lyrics, the legacy of so many shiny clothes. Any attempt to do so would be Sisyphean. Today, nearly 20 years after the height of his fame, he has learned to accept the life he once hated.
After all, that brief window of superstardom set him up comfortably for life. Rob lives in a posh, gated subdivision populated with doctors and lawyers and retired pilots. The county appraiser values the two-story Van Winkle home, which includes an expansive pool and covered hot tub, at around $1 million. "I made some good investments," he says. "I didn't go Hammer with my money or anything."
Still sore the afternoon of the motorcycle jump, Rob opens his home to offer a tour (guests are asked to remove their shoes at the door) and share his excitement about recent and upcoming projects.
He has a grand piano and modern art, and for his birthday in October, his wife bought him a telescope that can transform a living room into a planetarium. Among his handful of Cadillacs is the '67 convertible Eddie Murphy drove in 48 Hours.
Nearby are Bucky, his pet wallaroo (a cross between a kangaroo and a wallaby), and Pancho, the family goat. Rob got Bucky — full name: Bucky Buckaroo Van Winkle — at an auction in West Palm Beach for $2,000. The pets made the news in 2004 when Pancho nudged a gate open and the duo wandered around town for five days. Rob had to pay $3,000 in fines and cover the damage done to a scratched car in the neighborhood.
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.
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"
Nice article. I posted a link to this as one of my three Other Thoughts for the Day: http://www.otherthoughtforthed...
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....
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!!
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.
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!
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.
Great article. Very interesting story! Once I started reading I couldn't stop. Thanks for putting it together.
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 ?
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.