The email said to meet at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center, corner of Midway and Walnut Hill, at 12:15 sharp. "Look for the Rolls-Royce." (A borrowed 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe, if you must know, and you must.) That, said the missive, is where I would find Robbie Van Winkle this afternoon. And, sure enough, there he was -- a few minutes late, but only a few minutes. He'd taken the convertible out for a ride, camera crew in tow. A little B-roll.
He knows the neighborhood well enough, after all: Van Winkle used to sell beer out of the back of his IROC-Z to kids along Forest Lane back in '88, '89, around when he dropped out of R.L. Turner in the 10th grade. "Five bucks a beer," he recalls with no small amount of pride. "That was good money."
He found a way to make better -- first with that song you're trying to get out of your head at this very moment, then with a movie or two you may have forgotten about. Then, after "a weekend that lasted three years" and included a drugtrastrophe and suicide attempt, he got into the real-estate game. And now, of course, there's that DIY Network show: The Vanilla Ice Project.
Which is why Van Winkle was back home today, if only for a few hours.
Sean and Erica Heatley, a couple living a few blocks from Thomas Jefferson High School, on Best Drive off of Merrell Road, won the "Ice My House" contest the DIY Network started running a few weeks back. Out of the "thousands of submissions," say DIY'ers on hand, five finalists were selected; Van Winkle says that when the network chose the Heatleys, they actually had no idea Dallas was his hometown.
Van Winkle was here to surprise the twosome, scope out their wrecked room -- a brick bunker in their finely manicured backyard, close to their crystal-blue swimming pool -- and give 'em a what-what before returning in August for the three-day makeover that airs in January.
"I'm don't know what to do with myself," said Erica, who'd seen Van Winkle pull up to the house in the Rolls and rushed out to greet the once and future Vanilla Ice. "I'm so sorry I don't know what to say."
Said Sean, "Freakin' so excited."
Sure, dude. Vanilla Ice is in your house. Actually, he's in your backyard, scoping out your cinder-block sweatbox with the rickety crapper and trying to talk you out of your wishes to turn it into a guest room. Van Winkle has bigger plans: "sliding glass, a NanaWall, an A roof, a huge barbecue grill, fireplace, skylight, outdoor theater -- a magical party room."
Yeah, Sean nods. That'll work.
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"This is your canvas," Sean says. "This is our confusion."
Tomorrow, one more installment in my series of interviews with Vanilla Ice, which began when I was at the Dallas Times Herald in 1990, the year "Ice Ice Baby" was released. Today's was our first since this 2002 sitdown in his tour bus in the parking lot of the Bronco Bowl, which seems like 100 years ago. Must have been all that weed. On the list of subjects covered: his new movie (with Adam Sandler), his new website and his new album. That's right. You heard me.