Brew at the Zoo

Vanilla Ice on Almost Dying, Joining the Juggalos, and "Living the American Dream"

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He immortalized the phrase, "Ice, Ice baby," reigned atop the Billboard charts for sixteen weeks, and sold 15 million albums. He dated Madonna. He costarred with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he rocked the most astounding Caucasian flattop in the history of humankind.

He was declared a "has-been" by the age of 27, dabbled in Rastafarianism, and developed a serious weed-smoking habit. He gobbled ecstasy, tooted cocaine, and overdosed on heroin. But he survived, covered his body with tattoos, accepted Jesus Christ, discovered the home-improvement business, started a family, joined the Juggalo Nation, and found another shot at fame as a reality TV star.

So yeah, after 46 years on Planet Earth and a seemingly endless succession of jackknife turns along the path of life, Rob "Vanilla Ice" Van Winkle has learned to exist by that zen-like, singsong maxim.

"I don't plan anything, brother," Ice insists. "I take it day by day. I wake up with a smile and try go to bed with a smile. I head out every morning to experience new things, just to see what I like," he says. "I ended up likin' music. And I ended up likin' real estate."

At the moment, this rapper, house flipper, and television personality is prepping his next, as-yet-untitled album for release on Insane Clown Posse's Psychopathic Records while hosting the fourth season of his handy-man series, The Vanilla Ice Project. ("It's the number-one show on the DIY Network," he beams, "and I'm really honored that people appreciate it.") He's also dealt with his past, its embarrassments, and the public ridicule that dogged him throughout the '90s and early '00s as he tried to reroute his career.

"You're only who you are because of who you were," Ice philosophizes, paraphrasing his former Surreal Life co-star, the late televangelist Tammy Faye Baker. "All my negatives and all my positives and everything I've done, whether it be in the public eye or not, I don't regret, because I can't go back and change anything.

"My life in the '90s, I love it now. And sure, I hated it for a while," he chuckles, "because it nearly killed me. But I look back at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, doing the running man, shaving lines in my eyebrows, wearing parachute pants -- I laugh at it all, because I'm honored to be who I am today."

See also: Vanilla Ice on "Ice Ice Baby" and Suge Knight: "He Never Hung Me Over No Balcony, Man"

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S. Pajot