Reality Bites: The Vanilla Ice Project

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If I were Rob "Vanilla Ice" Van Winkle (if only!), I'd be a little insulted the DIY Network hasn't done more to promote my program, The Vanilla Ice Project. I've been doing this reality show thing for a while now and I had no idea the VIP even existed. And it's in its third season.

Heh; "VIP." Let's kick it.

Even more surprising is that Van Winkle is now a real estate/home improvement enthusiast, of sorts. You can even get his guide on his real estate web site, and also suffer through the hard sell for his VIP Club, which offers tips on property investing and promises you "rock star cash," all for a mere $7.95 a month.

Was TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze that traumatic, Ice? Or was Amway just not "extreme" enough for the man who likes to "Hit 'em Hard?"

For starters, I was sorely disappointed to find out The Vanilla Ice Project bore no similarities to The Blair Witch Project. It seemed there was no possibility of Van Winkle having his teeth removed in horribly painful fashion, or made to stand in a corner while he was menaced by some spectral force.

Or Suge Knight. Probably scarier that way, now that I think about it.

But no, the special I saw ("Ice This House") follows Van Winkle and his crew as they descend upon a lucky family whose home has been selected for renovations. The winners this time around were Michelle and Nesty Nunez from Florida, who were looking for a new backyard setup and an enclosure for their iguanas.

Looking at the DIY Network's home page, I couldn't tell if this was a knockoff of The Bronson Pinchot Project or vice versa (edit: it's vice versa). I also can't decide who I'd be less likely to welcome into my home: a guy who used to have razor cuts in his eyebrows or fucking Serge.

Ice's "ninjas" roll up in a van and join forces with whatever local contractors haven't paid their protection money that month (or so I surmise). This conveniently allows our intrepid host and his boys to skirt around the actual heavy lifting.

All except for Wes, Van Winkle's "right hand man." He seems somewhat more competent than Ice himself, but walks the middle ground between capable construction foreman and tattooed doofus. As for Ice himself, his contributions are minimal. He makes a few desultory passes with a chipping hammer and offers statements like "And there you have it!" or "It's dated and hated." This when not nodding sagely as the roofing foreman describes problems with the house's fascia.

Further confidence is instilled when a hurricane hits during the group's renovations. It's nice to know these clowns had a week-long timeframe to work with and nobody bothered to check the Weather Channel's 10-day forecast. Fortunately, it's "just" a Category 1, so damages are minimal.

It also affords Ice and the Nunezes the opportunity to take an airboat ride -- something the Florida residents have probably *never* done. He and Wes also make a side trip to a reptile park to get some ideas for Nesty's iguanas. This also gives them the chance to strike poses next to some crocodiles. To the extreme.

The job eventually gets done, of course, as it would be hard to stretch this monotony out over three seasons otherwise. Van Winkle rarely participates in more than basic demolition (he enjoys swinging a hammer, but then who doesn't?), but I still can't shake this feeling of annoyance. It isn't that I'm bothered by his career redemption, though I'm as surprised as anyone he survived the last two decades, punctuated as it was with stuff like this. No, I think it's the apparent ease with which he sidled into this gig.

By his own admission, Ice was surprised at the ease with which he sold several of his "Ice Ice Baby" funded properties (including homes in Laurel Canyon and New York City). He was also "amazed" at the fact he made decent money in the process. That's right, Rob: even in a down market, multi-million dollar properties in highly coveted locations will still turn a profit. What a guru you are.

The rest, after listening to a few Robert Shemin seminars and throwing in several hundred thousand dollars he had lying around from selling his extra houses, is history. Rob Van Winkle is now a "home renovation expert" with a TV show. Congratulations real estate agents, now you know how every struggling writer in America felt when Snooki got her book deal.

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