Since 2004, Long Beach's Ice Cream Man Matt Allen has made a career of giving away ice cream for free at music events nationwide. But news of a possible Ice Cream Man benefit this April at Alex's Bar suggested an emergency meaning it's time to give something back to Ice Cream Man. That's a scary idea--something bad (frostbite? hypothermia?) happening to somebody so nice is the kind of thing that could put you off popsicles forever. Luckily, Allen is fine. It's his baby truck Newt that's injured.
Late last month, a sleepy Long Beach driver went off course and ferociously rear-ended Allen's number-two ice cream delivery vehicle while it was parked outside a mechanic awaiting repairs. No people were hurt, but poor Newt suffered tens of thousands of dollars of damage, and like many of the musicians who've enjoyed Ice Cream Man's complimentary ice creams, it didn't exactly have the necessary insurance.
Luckily, says Allen now, the other party's insurance seems likely to come through, so the benefit may not be necessary. However, he did unexpectedly have to coax old warhorse Bessie--the original 1969 Chevy ice cream truck he's had since his official transformation into Ice Cream Man--all the way to Texas (where he is now) to try and set a new record for gifted ice creams at SXSW 2010 next week.
OC Weekly: I'm glad this benefit is for your truck and not for your own injuries--however, Newt does look pretty beat-up. What would the human equivalent of Newt's injuries be?
I'm not sure we're actually going to have the benefit. At the time, we had no information on Newt's condition. We carry liability insurance which costs us $400-$500 bucks a month, but no collision. There was a good chance we were going to be out $20,000. Eventually I got the police report and it looks like the guy has decent insurance--and he didn't get hurt. Once I found that out I kind of put the brakes on the benefit idea. I'm still not sure if Newt will survive though. She was hit really hard in the rear end. Maybe it's like if a fraternity initiation went terribly wrong and someone got paddled for a couple days? If I were Newt, I'd be in the hospital for shock and some reconstruction. Out of nowhere at one in the morning--POW! She was awakened by a 2008 Toyota truck smashing into her back.
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How has the damage to your baby ice cream truck affected your opinion of human nature?
I'm not the worrying type. Once something happens, you just have to accept it and move on. I did two national cream slinging tours in Bessie, our 1969 truck. She'd break down all the time and I'd have to figure out how to get her running again. I'm a believer that things work out and there's no other way. I just drove three days in Bessie to Austin--a 40-year-old truck making it 1,400 miles across half of America, just to give away 15,000 ice creams during SXSW.
What superstitious or practical precautions did you take to get her there?
Take her to our mechanic--Nate Jones Tire up in Signal Hill. They take care of the main things that are going to make it possible for me to drive her 3,000 miles to Texas and back. And just take care of her. You can usually tell when something isn't right and you need to be sure to deal with any issues when they happen instead of prolonging. Old vehicles were built to last. My first car--a 1969 Chrysler Newport--lasted me over a dozen years because I took care of her.
What happens if you break the record of 15,000 creams slung at SXSW? What's the previous record and where was it set?
SXSW is the biggest event we do all year. Two years ago we slang 11,000 ice creams there. Last year we had to sell one of our Bessitas--a Toyota Yaris we use to sling cream--to cover to cost to get out here since we couldn't find any sponsors. I think we slung about 7,000 then. This year Nokia and Ben & Jerry's are both helping out to make it possible to sling 15,000. It's a lot of work but we'll have Bessie, a borrowed Bessita and a push cart available. We've also got a ton of crew heading out for the party. Our main goal is to sling a ton of cream.
Our goal for all of Ice Cream Man is to give away half a million ice creams. Over the last five years, we've given away 250,000. I want to wrap things up for me by the end of 2011 so we got our work cut out. The think I like most about SXSW is that anyone can find us and get ice cream--it's really not hard. Follow us on Twitter--@icecreamman. Rachel Ray is throwing a party, but I don't think we'll be there. I'm just happy to see all our friends in Austin and a ton of bands I'm a fan of--Carsick Cars, Cornelius and local favorites Avi Buffalo. Hopefully we'll make some more fans and some of those will become celebs one day and take care of us when we're living out of an ice cream truck--ha!
If you meet the person who hit-and-ran Newt, what ice cream treat would be most appropriate to give them and why?
I'd give them whatever they wanted that we had on board. Shit happens. It was in no way intentional that this person hit Newt. I have no hard feelings at all. I'm just happy she's--hopefully--going to get fixed up in time for Sasquatch Festival and summer tour. I think he'd want a really big cookie sandwich though. Something that would make him want to fall asleep on the couch. He needs to rest off the pain of the crash.