Since 2004, Long Beach’s Matt Allen has made a career of giving away ice cream for free at music events nationwide. That’s why he’s known as Ice Cream Man. But news of a possible Ice Cream Man benefit this month at Alex’s Bar suggested an emergency, indicating it might be time to give something back to this benevolent treat-tosser who just hopes to get “people to think about things a bit differently, proving that you can do anything with your life.” So, was it frostbite? Hypothermia? Something so bad happening to somebody so nice is the kind of thing that could put you off Popsicles forever. Fortunately, Allen is fine. It’s his baby truck Newt, a 2004 Dodge Sprinter, that’s injured.
Late in February, according to witnesses Allen met at the scene, a sleepy Long Beach driver went off course and violently rear-ended Newt while it was parked outside a mechanic’s shop awaiting repairs. Nobody was hurt, but the culprit fled, and poor Newt suffered tens of thousands of dollars of damage.
So promoter Meghan O’Dell leapt into action (at the prompting of dios front man Joel Morales): “I volunteered to get the ball rolling,” she says. “I truly appreciate everything Matt and the Ice Cream Man crew have done over the years.”
Shortly before press time, a thankful Allen reports, the insurance people cut him a check, which he’s using to purchase a new truck. But the show is still on; Allen says he hopes to use the proceeds from the benefit to fund a special project in Long Beach—giving back to the people who are giving to him.
As for the repairs to Newt? Allen has already talked to a particularly daring auto-body specialist and a local cabinet maker about resurrecting the Dodge. The paperwork calls this whole thing an accident—but, says Allen, it’s really an opportunity.
OC Weekly: What would the human equivalent of Newt’s injuries be?
Matt Allen: 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?
And now you might resurrect her as a woody wagon?
We could sell Newt for parts, but I wanna do something on my own—like custom-build a shell that would work and be dependable and look really cool and different. That would be the story—bringing Newt back to life. We’ve already worked on mock-ups. We could use a couple different types of wood and have custom windows, custom shelving on the inside, make new back doors and make it street legal . . . it’s an opportunity! The other option is find a vehicle like the Metro milk truck. This isn’t sane by any means, but we’re going to do season two of our video series Road Trip With Ice Cream Man, and you need things to happen. Good or bad! So the risk of driving a 1959 Metro milk truck 30,000 miles around the country is not a good idea and everyone agrees—but let’s film it!
Because conflict is the essence of plot?
Exactly! That’s where we thrive. I’m best on the road. When I’m picking up a hitchhiker on the way back from South By Southwest and we’re camping in the desert and talking about aeronautical stuff and freaking out about how amazing life is—that’s when things make perfect sense.
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. I think and I hope we got in the 12,000s!
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 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.
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Benefit for Ice Cream Man, featuring Repeater, Telomere Repair, Greater California, Bella Novela, the Soft Hands and DJ Phil, at Alex’s Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; www.alexsbar.com. April 16. Call for time. $5, plus optional donation. Visit Ice Cream Man at IceCreamMan.com or twitter.com/IceCreamMan.
A version of this story first appeared on our Heard Mentality blog.
This article appeared in print as "Creamed! One of Ice Cream Man Matt Allen’s trucks is heavily damaged, but he only sees sweet opportunity."