Jean Claude Van Damme–the “Muscles from Brussels”–is about to become a reality TV star. In America, we will likely see him on A&E.
He’s arrived in Cannes, is staying on a yacht, and has brought his 20ish son Kristopher van Varenberg as Creative Director. Tomorrow, on the Apache, he’s throwing a cocktail party to announce that he’s going to become the next Ozzy Osbourne or Gene Simmons.
Van Damme is already an international star. There should be a lot of interest in seeing him as he gets ready for an October fight with Somluck Kamsing, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist in boxing. (The joke, of course, is that Van Damme will need “some luck” to beat this guy. Ha, ha.)
There was a lot of buzz about British firm ITV doing this deal with Van Damme last winter. But now the 50 year old superstar tells me it’s really happening, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“You’re going to see my family, and everything that surrounds it,” he told me last night at the “Robin Hood” premiere in Cannes. He was accompanied by his French agent and by Kristopher, whose mother is Gladys Portugues–van Damme’s third wife and his current wife (they were divorced but remarried in 1999).
There’s certainly going to be speculation that JCVD at 50 won’t be in shape for a big kick boxing match against an Olympic winner. But he is solid as a rock, to quote Ashford & Simpson. When you tap him on the arm, he feels like steel. Unlike Kirstie Alley, Van Damme has physical goals that will be met–and be obvious to the viewer.
More importantly for reality TV, JCVD is a lively, engaging character. He’s funny, and talks constantly. He’s extremely articulate. There won’t be any lack of things to do or talk about. And he divides him time between Hong Kong and Los Angeles, so the venues will be somewhat exotic.
This is all pretty funny when you think about it. Back in 1983, when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth, A&E was called Arts & Entertainment. At Ballantine Books, we produced a half hour show for them on video tape called “Now in Paperback.” It was very quaint.