Murrow’s interview with Kennedy. Rather’s interview with Bush. And now another seminal moment in broadcast journalism: Arsenio Hall’s interview with Vanilla Ice. Clad in a metallic, superhero-style jumpsuit, the controversial white rapper recently sat for a chat on The Arsenio Hall Show — and helped create nine of the most onerous minutes in television talk show history.
Ice took the offensive from the start, unexpectedly calling black rapper Flavor Flav (of Public Enemy) from behind the curtains for an on-camera hug. ”Why (did) you (bring) him out?” snapped Hall after Flav had left. ”To show that you have black supporters?” From there on, the two traded huffs as their audience hooted. ”I’ve never said anything bad about M.C. Hammer,” Ice insisted at one point. ”That’s not true!” Hall interrupted. ”I have an audiotape!”
Ice (a.k.a. Robert Van Winkle) is grooming himself for the silver screen (in the forthcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of Ooze — no joke), and his Arsenio imbroglio may have been an attempt to repair his tattered image. In recent months, the 23-year-old chart topper has been caught fibbing about his background, has been the object of scorn and ridicule from other rap stars, and has had portions of his quarrelsome acceptance speech — ”Those that try to hold the Iceman down can kiss my white a–” — bleeped at the American Music Awards. But the fracas may have been an effort at image building for Hall, as well. The host is said to be smarting from criticism of his gushy interviewing style, and his Ice chopping may have been a stab at a more probing journalistic technique. If so, it backfired badly: Hall’s usually adoring studio audience actually booed him — twice.