NICE PRICE BABY: Reef Younis maps out the second lives of superstars gone by, starting with Robert Matthew Van Winkle


Robert Matthew Van Winkle. Just let that name digest a little, and imagine all the things a Robert Matthew Van Winkle could achieve in this world: a small-time banker, a local councillor or an estate agent, perhaps. But not this Robert Matthew Van Winkle, he was destined for something else, something bigger.

That something else came with a change to his mouthful of a moniker, a ground-breaking debut that became hip-hop’s fastest selling album of all time (as well as one of its snickering footnotes) and over 30 years of living the dream and doggedly battling the doldrums.

Throw in a relationship with Madonna, a cameo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, a pet goat, support from Public Enemy, run-ins with Death Row enforcer Suge Knight, dabbles with punk-rock and reggae, obligatory fire-arm and assault charges, depression, vegetarianism, the drug-fuelled crash and inevitable suicide attempt, and Robert Van Winkle’s time as the smoother, cooler, Vanilla Ice makes for one of the great, contrasting music stories.

At the height of his power, those shaved eyebrows and balloon pants hit the road with MC Hammer, opened for N.W.A and arguably produced the first genuine crossover hip-hop single to conquer the billboard charts. At the bottom end, a series of failed, forgetful comebacks have seen him drop to theatre and Christmas light appearances amongst private function bookings and less than illustrious shows at the Desoto Seafood Festival and Wisconsin State Fair.

But for all of the jokes, rejuvenations, resurrections, and a stack of regrettable music, Van Winkle’s ability to reinvent himself has been a common theme. As a dancer, rapper, motocross rider, former jet-ski racer, store-owner, and TV personality, he’s the king of the second life, and away from the fading, novelty appearances of a washed up 46-year old rapper, he’s become a bit of a real-estate success story. Currently the handyman and host of the Vanilla Ice Project, a Changing Rooms-meets-MTV Cribs show where our erstwhile hero uses his home improvement skills to flip Palm Beach mansions for profit, the landed reality TV star presence aside, his property dabbles have all the hallmarks of a Foxtons agent’s wet dream: a backdrop of silver Rolls’, popping champagne corks and private swimming pools set to sales pitches of making ‘rockstar investments’, ‘poppin’ collars’ to profit and the importance of choosing the right colour palette.

Hip-hop icon, home renovation expert. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, but put in context of the Rob Van Winkle legacy, it’s probably the closest he’ll ever get to reality, even if it is TV. Word to your contractor.