Times change. Vanilla Ice, in some fundamental ways, does not.

In 1990, Vanilla Ice was an out-of-nowhere teen idol, a rap sensation thanks to one song, "Ice Ice Baby." He was coming to Fort Worth with M.C. Hammer.We wanted to talk to him. Everybody wanted to talk to him.

So I waited. An interview fell through. Then another. Editors fretted. And we don't want that.

After much cajoling, Ice finally was persuaded to quit playing basketball long enough to bequeath us 15 minutes, during which he opined that he was a better dancer and singer than Hammer and would be headlining stadiums just jiffy-quick.

It did not happen. His debut, "To the Extreme," sold 10 million copies in less than eight months, but along the way questions surfaced as to Ice's identity.

Seems his real name is Robert Van Winkle, and he was living in the mean suburban streets of Carrollton, Texas, when discovered in 1987 at a Dallas club. Other inconsistencies cropped up, such as his claim that he won motocross titles for Team Honda while living in Florida; Team Honda said they had no record of him.

The idea of a white crossover rap star backfired - big time. "Vanilla Ice" became industry shorthand for "wannabe poser."

Come 1998, and the 29-year-old Ice, a man who once paid $100,000 for a sports car, is without a record label. He plays bars like the Groovy Mule in Denton, Texas.

And he still can't make his interviews.

A request for a chat before this week's Denton show is requested. Manager John Bush promises a "day of press." It comes and goes. So does the next one. A "definite" interview is scheduled. Ice doesn't make it. Deadlines loom large again.

Thus it falls to Bush to pump up the Iceman's rep.

The Ice shows, he says, are selling out everywhere, and there's a new CD, tentatively titled . . . ahem, "Hard to Swallow."

Would-be interviews are not the only things Ice is being tardy for.

The last time he played the Groovy Mule, according to co-owner Scott Foster, Ice came on late and only played 42 minutes. There was a similar problem at a show in Omaha, Neb., last month. According to the "Omaha World-Herald," the Iceman cameth and wenteth quickly: after only 45 minutes, leaving the sell-out crowd to boo and crank up a "profanity-laced chant."

And so it goes. Will Ice show up on time? Will "Swallow" ever be released?

We would have loved to ask.