I'm not gonna lie: When I heard Vanilla Ice was coming to Tropicana Field for the Rays Summer Concert Series, one memory popped into my mind.
The year was 1999, and MTV was counting down the 25 lamest videos of all time. Comics Chris Kattan, Janeane Garofalo, Denis Leary and a pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart were there to dish out some snark. And when they reached the nadir, the No. 1 worst video of all time - Ice Ice Baby - Vanilla Ice himself came out to destroy the master tape with a baseball bat.
It was supposed to be a fun-loving, self-deprecating cameo. But as the group dissected the cheesy 1991 clip, the comics egged Ice on, pushing the rapper, well, to the extreme. And at some point, Ice snapped. He grabbed the bat and went full Ninja Rap on the crew, demolishing the set with a swing that would make Carlos Pena proud.
"No, Vanilla!" shrieked a clearly terrified Kattan. Priceless.
Today, the man born Rob Van Winkle is happy to break down his swing that day.
"I can swing a bat, sure," Ice laughed Wednesday during a chat with reporters to promote his concert Friday at the Trop. "I just went in there with a bat, and they tried to throw me in there to all these comedians like a piece of meat, so to speak, so they could humiliate me and have their way with me. And I turned it around on all of them and stole the show. Everyone was confused, and they kicked me right out on my butt for that, but even the security guard said, 'Man, I gotta do my job, you gotta go, but, god, that was awesome!'"
It's good to hear Vanilla Ice talk this way. All that rage, the tattooed nu-metal persona he developed in the late '90s - none of it suited him. He still carries some of it, but at age 42, Van Winkle finally seems willing to embrace the goofy, Zubaz-wearing, Queen-biting white boy act that made him a superstar in the first place.
"I love taking it back to the old school," Ice said. "Back with Ice Ice Baby, everybody remembers where they were at, who they were dating, if they had zigzags in their hair, or Z. Cavaricci pants on, subwoofers in their car. Just good memories, good times."
Van Winkle's willingness to embrace the Ice of old is paying dividends. This year, Irish pop duo Jedward scored a No. 1 hit with the mashup Under Pressure, featuring vocals by Vanilla Ice.
After he throws out the first pitch and performs at the Trop on Friday, Ice will head back to his home in South Florida. He's filming a reality show for the DIY Network about rehabbing and flipping one of his mansions, titled VIP: The Vanilla Ice Project.
If he needs to tear down some drywall, we're sure the Rays can lend him a bat.