The Iceman returneth

Nathan Hall

Fame is a harsh mistress to keep, and nobody knows that adage better than V*Ice, a.k.a. Vanilla Ice, a.k.a. Rob Van Winkle. Flash in the pans with painfully public falls from grace are nothing new, but precious few have languished in pop music purgatory as long as the Iceman has. Who else in recent memory can brag about being held outside of a hotel window by Death Row Records founder Suge Knight, beaten to a pulp by Diff’rent Strokes’ Todd Bridges on national TV, and getting busted ñ not once, but twice ñ by the press for lying about his background?

Sometimes it is hard to remember that times were decidedly rosier for Ice not so long ago. This is the same man who holds the world record for a single artist debut rap album sales (19 million plus), was paid well over a million dollars for starring in the cult classic flick Cool As Ice, guested on a top selling Bloodhound Gang disc, was once romantically linked to Madonna, and one of People Magazine‘s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1991. And let us not forget that pleather pants and flattop haircuts owe an incalculable debt to Vanilla as well. For all these reasons and more, over 2,000 cultural shut ins and snide smart alecks showed up at the Mall of America this past Friday to attend a performance by the Pat Boone of hip hop.

At $10 a head, it is wholly apparent that the Twin Cities still is deathly curious about what the man’s up to ñ aside from pulling a name change reminiscent of when New Kids on the Block redubbed themselves NKOTB. Sure, Ice had forgettable cameos in films such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze and this year’s The New Guy, so he hasn’t completely been out of the limelight. But we wanted to see the Iceman’s spangly American flag jacket up close and in-person again.

While V*Ice has run a Miami-based surf shop called To The Extreme, covered himself in tattoos and become a born-again Christian in the past decade, which seems enough to keep any two-hit wonder busy. But Ice keeps on touring, and, for whatever reason, keeps on recording. Some people exit their 15 minutes of fame graciously, and some must be dragged, fingernails clutching the lintels.

Van Winkle’s latest offering, Bi-Polar, is put out by the obscure Wayzata-based record label Liquid 8 (Midnight Oil) and features a veritable Who’s Who of musical detritus. Guest stars include The Insane Clown Posse, ex-Soul Fly drummer Roy Mayorga, former Slipknot guitarist Josh Brainerd, and even card-carrying Wu-Tang Clan member LA The Darkman. The most unexpected voice on the album, however, are those coming from Public Enemy.

Produced by Steve Evetts (Sepultura), Bi-Polar was supposed to be a double CD collection but, as released, is smooshed into a single disc due to “marketing and packaging constraints,” according to a press release.

 

The Iceman is touring, and I was on hand to witness the spectacle. Considering the fact that over 75 percent of Vanilla Ice’s travel itinerary is at various Jillian’s locations, it is probably safe to say they had a sizable say in the specifics of the tour. But by starting over three and half hours late, it seems that Ice, a former Carrolton, TX cheerleader, still knows how to manipulate a crowd, at least into an impatient frenzy. Acting for all practical purposes like the unholy second coming of Axl Rose, Ice produced a show that mirrored his new CD, at least in the sense that half of his set ripped off Korn and the other half ripped off Cypress Hill. For good measure, Ice and the Hellafied Funk Crew (his live backing band) were gracious enough to throw in a few nü metal versions of some old classics for good measure.

The crowd this Friday had a decidedly different feel than Ice’s stop at the Quest on his Hard To Swallow tour a few years back. In no small part, this was due to the fact that he didn’t have a third-rate Las Vegas magician wearing a Scream-style mask opening up for him this time. In fact, the excruciatingly long wait for him to go on marks the first time in my life that I wished there was a forgettable local band on the bill.

Pressed up against liquid-tan addicts and potential date rapists for an extended length of time made me long for the mulleted metal heads I so fondly remembered from his last show. Nevertheless, Jillian’s closed promptly at 1:00 a.m., and it was clearly evident that I wasn’t the only one feeling a tad bit cheated.

As for answering the glaring question of why anyone in their right mind would purposely choose to waste their time witnessing this horrific spectacle in the first place, I’m reminded of a delightful quote I squeezed out of Juno’s lead singer Arlie Carstens last year while discussing the future of music in this so-called Information Age. “There will always be shows,” Carsten’s said, “because there will always be people willing to pay money to watch other people screw up.”