The Vanilla Ice Project

M: If you’re like I was a few days ago, then the title of this post is utterly baffling and yet strangely intriguing to you.  See, I was sitting at home flipping channels when I stumbled across that exact title on the program grid.  I believe my exact thought as I saw it was “What in the Sam Hill is that?”  So, of course, I flipped over to it, and was mesmerized for the next hour, to the point where I put up the picture-in-picture box when I changed to a different channel during commercials so I wouldn’t miss it coming back.  Seriously.  So, now that you’re asking what the heck it is that had me so spellbound, it’s time for me to explain, and for you to stop, collaborate and listen….

Apparently, for the past decade or more, Rob Van Winkle (aka Vanilla Ice) has been flipping houses.  For those of you not up on your real estate lingo, or your Bravo shows about some neurotic, paranoid, OCD guy, that means buying a house not for the purpose of living in it, but to do all kinds of renovations to it and then turn right around and sell it, hopefully making a much larger profit than what you spent on the renovations.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, how could such an amazing musical talent as Vanilla Ice not be focusing all his time and effort on creating more musical masterpieces?  After all he is a lyrical poet, right?  The guy had the first ever hip hop single to top the Billboard charts, and the fastest selling hip hop album of all time (still to this day), shouldn’t that guy be spending all his time giving us more amazing rhymes set to the tunes of musical legends?

Ok, maybe that wasn’t what you were thinking.  And as you can guess, it wasn’t what I was thinking either.  What I was thinking at the time of watching it, not knowing his history in flipping houses, went quickly from “what idiot gave Vanilla Ice a show” to “wait, I remember him freaking out on Chris Katan, this could be entertaining” to “Hmm, he kind of seems like he knows what he’s talking about.  What’s up with that?”

Let me explain the premise of the show.  DIY (the do-it-yourself network) decided to take a camera crew and follow Van Winkle around on his latest house improvement project, a beat up mansion in Palm Beach.  The cast of the show is a small group of his friends who also happen to be contractors or guys skilled in some other area of construction.  We get introduced the the crew, to the mansion, and then in each half-hour long episode (I saw two back to back) they focus on one specific area of the house to renovate, and tell the story of that particular renovation.

The first thing that comes across when watching it is that Ice is really amazingly competent and knowledgeable when it comes to home renovations.  He has a plan, and a budget, and sticks to it.  He looks for ways to cut costs, like buying custom cabinets that a guy he knows had sitting in his garage because of a deal that fell through.  He deals with high end vendors, but waits them out and low balls them, and ends up with a good product at a reasonable price.  And he does a ton of the work himself.

In one of the segments, there was another amazing revelation…  he appears to be a pretty good father!  He organized a “bring your kids to work” day, where all the guys kids came to the house.  He immediately put them, including his own daughters, to work spackling one of the bedrooms that had a lot of little holes in the walls (once again finding a way to save time and money).  He was caring and attentive with them, and they were genuinely happy to be there with him.  It was surprising in the best kind of way.

Of course there were gags and jokes, most of which were corny, but all fit well in the setting.  The cheesiest was when they were looking at the cabinets, worrying about if they will fit in the kitchen they had to work with.  Vanilla’s right hand man provided the soft ball “They should all fit in there. But if we have a problem….”, and of course Vanilla finished it off with “Yo I’ll solve it”, much to everyone’s amusement.

Amazingly, the work they did was REALLY nice.  In the first episode they did over a bedroom and the upstairs hallway and stairs, including a railing.  The previous railing was a sketchy, out of place looking bunch of two-by-fours nailed together.  It kind of  looked like one of those break-away railings you would see in a saloon in an old Western.  You know, the kind that, during the inevitable barroom brawl, someone stumbles backwards through, falling into the main fray.  It didn’t look particularly safe, never mind attractive.  They replaced it with an intricate railing that included several hundred decorative iron balusters, that turned out to be beautiful.  They put down a sharp-looking hardwood floor in the hall and on the stairs.  They painted and carpeted using neutral tones, and gave tips on what they were doing the whole time.  In the second episode they renovated the kitchen, which had been stripped bare by the previous owners.  Where the custom cabinets didn’t fit perfectly they created decorative spacers out of the same wood, which looked beautiful.  They saved the tile backsplash that was left on the wall and added to it, and added all new appliances.  In the end both sections of the house they redid looked gorgeous, of course, in the words of the project leader, “anything less than the best is a felony”.

All in all, it was hugely surprising, and very enjoyable to watch.  As for my interest, will it ever stop?  Yo, I don’t know.  What I do know is I’ll enjoy watching this again, and continuing to be surprised at the overall competency of someone who had previously always come across as such a joke.  Now I’m outta here.  Word to your mother.

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