Vanilla Ice, other celebs don aqua shades to tout Palm Beach County arts scene

3:59 p.m Wednesday, April 6, 2016 Nation & World
Bruce Bennett
Vanilla Ice arrives on the red carpet for the 21st Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival's Student Showcase of Films at Lynn University Friday, March 11, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

More than a dozen well-known celebrities have agreed to don a pair of aqua sunglasses and sing the praises of Palm Beach County’s arts scene as part of a new national advertising campaign designed to convince out-of-town cultural enthusiasts to visit the county.

A team of eight employees from The Cultural Council of Palm Beach County helped dreamed up the “Behind The Sunglasses” campaign, which urges arts lovers to see the county “through a different lens.” The group has convinced a host of celebrities, including actor Tony Danza, musician Kenny G, and comedian Judy Gold, to be filmed and photographed while wearing the sunglasses and speaking about the county’s arts and cultural offerings.

The best part: All of the celebrities are participating for free.

Marilyn Bauer, the council’s director of marketing and government affairs, said the digital advertisements will target arts lovers in the northeastern part of the country, including New York and Boston, where cultural enthusiasts support a wealth of theaters, museums and other attractions. The ads are aimed at “cultural boomers” — older, more affluent travelers who have “shifted their status symbols from things like a Rolex watch to experiences,” Bauer said.

The cultural council hired an outside advertising firm to help come up with the sunglasses theme, but its own staff members were the brainchild behind sunglass-wearing-celebrity photos and videos. The advertisements are being shot and edited by the council’s eight-member team, which includes two paid interns.

Bauer hopes the sunglass-centered advertisements will eventually become as recognizable as the iconic “Got Milk” campaign.

The council is targeting celebrities who perform in Palm Beach County in hopes of showing the variety of cultural offerings here, officials said.

“We have the best,” Victoria Van Dam, the council’s marketing manager said of the messaging behind the campaign.

In addition to Danza, Kenny G, and Gold, the list of those who have already participated includes: Tony Award-winning actor Ben Vereen, musician Joshua Bell, Musical icon, and DIY television star Vanilla Ice, playwright Israel Horovitz, Boardwalk Empire actor and opera singer Anthony Laciura, American Idol contestant Emily Brooke, dancer Daniel Ulbricht; dancer Cassandra Trenary, and actor John O’Hurley, who played J Peterman from Seinfeld! and was filmed as that character for the council’s campaign.

Vereen, who has started in a number of Broadway plays and television shows, agreed to let the council’s staff film him during a dress rehearsal before his February performance at Palm Beach State College’s Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens.

In a one and a half minute video for the campaign, Vereen speaks about the importance of the arts, before addressing the county’s culture offerings.

“I, Ben Vereen, support the arts in the Palm Beaches and the world,” Vereen said donning the campaign’s signature shades. “From here, from the Palm Beaches, we can change the world and make it a better place.”

The council plans to continue to add to its list of celebrities by working with local venues and arts organizations, officials said.

Getting so many artists to participate in the campaign was not an easy feat, especially given the non-profit council’s limited staff and resources, Bauer said.

“We started by calling the celebrities ourselves and telling them we were trying to support over 200 organizations in the arts,” Bauer said. “It is not easy picking up the phone and saying to Israel Horovitz, ‘would you mind if we took some pictures and video of you wearing aqua sunglasses.’”

The campaign directs tourists to a newly-created website,, which includes a calender of events, sample itineraries and a list of must-see attractions. The council has also partnered with more than a dozen local hotels to offer cultural tourists the lowest published rates on hotel stays here.

Cultural tourism is the fastest growing sector of the travel industry, and cultural tourists typically spend more and stay longer when visiting a destination, council officials said.

In Palm Beach County, there are more than 200 arts and cultural organizations providing more than 42,000 offerings each year. The industry supports roughly 6,000 full-time jobs and has an annual economic impact of $250 million, officials have said.