Vanilla Ice was born Robert Matthew Van Winkle on Halloween Day, October 31, 1967. Hip hop had an inpact on Vanilla Ice at an early age, saying, “It’s a very big passion of mine because I love poetry. I was just heavily influenced by that whole movement and it’s molded me into who I am today.” Between the ages of 13 and 14, Vanilla Ice practiced breakdancing, which led to his friends nicknaming him “Vanilla”, because he was the only one in the group that wasn’t African American. Although he disliked the nickname, it stuck. Shortly afterward, he started battle rapping at parties and because of his rhymes, his friends started calling him “MC Vanilla”, however when he became a member of a breakdance troupe, his stage name was “Vanilla Ice” combining his nickname “Vanilla” with one of his breakdance moves, the “Ice”. When he was 16 years old he wrote “Ice Ice Baby” basing its lyrics on a weekend he had with friend and band member D-Shay in South Florida. The lyrics describe a drive-by shooting and praise Vanilla Ice’s rhyming skills.
In 1985 Ice was greatly into motorcross, he won 3 straight titles at the Grand National Championships in Dallas. After breaking his ankle during a race, he was not interested in racing professionally for some time, using his spare time to perfect his dance moves and creating his own while his ankle was healing. He used his beatboxing and breakdancing skills as a street performer with his friends at local malls. Vanilla Ice was first discovered at City Lights, a club in South Dallas, Texas. Without Ice’s knowledge, his friend entered him in a talent contest at the club which is owned by Tommy Quon, who became his manager. Remembers Vanilla, “I got up on stage, just busted a rhyme right there off the top of my head and the crowd started clapping with the rhyme!” He cued the house DJ and told the crowd: “Now you heard me bust a rhyme/Then you heard me bust a beat/Now check it out, I’m gonna move my feet.” With that he blew the roof off the club and won the contest hands down. “I walked off the stage and forty people handed me their business cards,” he said. He won the crowd over and was asked by local disc jockey Floyd ‘Earthquake’ Brown if he wanted to perform regularly which he accepted. Earthquake would sometimes be joined by Ice’s own disc jockeys D-Shay and Zero. Ice’s breakdance group named itself ‘The V.I.P.’ (the Vanilla Ice Posse) and performed with him on stage. As a performer for City Lights, Ice opened up for N.W.A and MC Hammer. Tommy Quon was very impressed by Ice and saw commercial potential in his rapping and dancing skills, and offered him a contract with his management company, Ultrax. In 1989, Ice’s debut album Hooked was released and sold 48,000 copies in the Texas area.”Play That Funky Music” was released as the album’s first single, with “Ice Ice Baby” appearing as the B-side. “Play That Funky Music” was not a smash while the B-side “Ice Ice Baby” gained a quick fanbase thanks to disc jockey Darrell Jaye in Georgia who played the B-side “Ice Ice Baby”! Soon after a music video was made for the song.
Vanilla Ice signed a contract with SBK Records in 1990. SBK remixed and re-recorded Hooked under the title To the Extreme. To the Extreme became the fastest selling hip hop album of all time, peaking at #1 on the Billboard 200.
In late 1990, Ice began an eight-month relationship with Madonna, and appeared in photographs for her book, Sex. In the height of his popularity, SBK licensed a 12″ doll which was made by THQ. In January 1991, he was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Ice did an appearance in the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, which he later called “one of the coolest experiences” of his career.
Vanilla Ice’s second major release was the live album Extremely Live, released in March 1991. The album was a live recording during Ice’s performance in Miami during his To The Extreme tour. In April 1991 he began to film the SBK produced Cool as Ice, in which he played a leading role. Cool as Ice opened on October 18, 1991 in 393 theaters in the United States, grossing $638,000, ranking at #14 among the week’s new releases.
Vanilla Ice’s popularity in the United States severly dropped but he continued performing to sold out crowds in his 1992 world tour, playing in South America, Europe, Australia and Asia, premiering new songs like “Get Loose”, “The Wrath”, “Now & Forever”, “Where the Dogs At? (All Night Long)”, “Minutes of Power” and “Iceman Path”. After a performance in Acapulco, the city honored him with a medal that represented “all the respect and admiration to [Van Winkle’s] music and to [him] as an artist from the Mexican people”.
In 1993 Vanilla Ice took a small break from music and most members of the V.I.P. (Vanilla Ice Posse) had gone their separate ways, including Ice’s disc jockey Earthquake. On March 22, 1994, Ice released his second studio album, Mind Blowin. Reviews were unfavorable. Sadly he attempted suicide with a heroin overdose on July 4, 1994 but was revived by his friends. After being revived, he decided that it was time to change his lifestyle. As a symbol of his attempt to begin anew, he got a tattoo of a leaf on his stomach. He sold his estate in California and moved back to Florida and took a break from music, rather focusing on motocrossing and jet skiing. By the summer of ’95 he was the world’s No. 6-ranked sit-down Jet Ski racer.
In 1995, Ice set up a recording studio in Miami and joined a grunge band, Pickin Scabz. The name was set to reflect his career and how he was healing from his suicide attempt and that he was now “picking up the pieces”. He performed his set from Mind Blowin in a tour around Russia in 95.
His third studio album, Hard to Swallow, featured a darker sound and lyrics than his previous work as well as various mixtures of different styles of hip hop and hard rock which caught the media’s attention. He attracted a whole new audience when he started touring again, some who were even unfamiliar with his more mainstream sound. Ice toured with a seven-piece live band which included bassist Scott Shriner. The band opened with rock-oriented material from Hard to Swallow and concluded with older hip hop songs.
In 2001, DJ ReAnimator remixed “Ice Ice Baby” with Ice re-doing his vocals for the track. Ice Ice Baby 2001 was released as a single and music video for the European market spawning a wave of overseas interest in Vanilla Ice.
On October 23, 2001, Skabz and Bomb Tha System were released as a single album, Bi-Polar. After the release of Bi-Polar, Ice left Sony-Universal to be with Ultrax full time. With Quon back as manager, Ice was scheduled to appear in various reality TV programs. In 2002 he appeared on Celebrity Boxing, fighting Todd Bridges under the name ‘Bi-Polar’. In 2003, he appeared in five episodes of Hollywood Squares, eight episodes on ‘The Farm’ and three episodes of Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge as well as a cameo in The New Guy in 2002. He was also on the reality show The Surreal Life in 2004. Although much of the series was staged, Ice found the experience to be therapeutic, stating that a comment made by Tammy Faye Messner during filming; “We are who we are because of who we were” helped him accept his past.
On August 2, 2005, Ice released his fifth studio album, Platinum Underground. He stated that the title of the album reflected the fact that he could maintain a fanbase without mainstream airplay.
In September 2008, Ice signed a contract with Cleopatra Records, recording the cover album Vanilla Ice Is Back! at the label’s request.
In 2009, Ice started filming a reality television series called The Vanilla Ice Project which premiered on DIY Network on October 14, 2010. The season is focused on renovating a house in Palm Beach, Florida with each episode dedicated to a different room in the house. In 2011, he published a book on the subject, Vanilla Ice Project – Real Estate Guide on how to succeed in real estate. The book was made available as a free digital download on his real estate website. The second season will air January 2012. He released his sixth studio album, WTF in 2009.
In early 2011, Vanilla Ice appeared on the sixth season of the UK show Dancing on Ice as well as various ice skating tours surrounding the show. He also filmed a role in the film I Hate You, Dad, portraying Antonio, Adam Sandler’s best friend from high school. In December 2011, Ice will portray Captain Hook in the Chatham Central Theatre pantomime production of Peter Pan alongside Henry Winkler.
Vanilla Ice Tidbits:
-His mom Camilla Beth Van Winkle, was a part-time private music teacher in their home.
-He has 1 sister and 1 brother Kip who is older.
-He was married to Laura Giaritta in 1997; the couple split in 2011.
-He has two daughters, Dusti Rain (born 1998) and KeeLee Breeze (born 2000).
-He is a Juggalo and a Vegetarian.
-He was the first rapper to perform in China.
-He appeared in a commercial for the South African light beer Castle Lite.
-He races motocross professionally, under the name Rob VanWinkle, he has earned over a hundred trophys for his riding efforts.
-He won the Golden Razzie Award for ‘Worst New Star’ for his starring role in the 1991 movie Cool As Ice.
-He served as a spokesperson for Nike and Coca-Cola throughout 1991 and 1992.
Vanilla Ice quote: I used the music kind of as therapy, and it’s just amazing that I feel so free after doing that. I feel like I had it trapped inside of me and now I feel free. So it’s been a very good therapy session for me as well.
Well I think Ice has lead a very interesting life and I wish him much success in his future projects!
Anyhow, if it should happen that the doorknob doesn’t turn around and try to crawl through the keyhole when the milk bottle chases the pussy cat off the back stoop, then I may tell you next about another bright star…
Check out my website Naturesjoy’s Celebrity Clippings & Pinups for a great selection of your favorite Stars!