Ice Cream in Purse

A woman is so overwhelmed a meeting a celebrity in an ice cream parlor that she inadvertently puts her ice cream cone into her purse.

  • Barbara Mikkelson
  • Published


A woman is so overwhelmed a meeting a celebrity in an ice cream parlor that she inadvertently puts her ice cream cone into her purse.



In 1986 the legend about an encounter with a celebrity’s prompting a woman to unthinkingly stash her cone in her pocketbook broke loose like a wave and washed across the nation. Everyone had heard it, and it was always told as a recent and local occurrence featuring a handsome devil from the silver screen. Many could picture themselves in the unfortunate woman’s place, fighting back the urge to swoon in front of her idol and thinking she’d pulled it off, but ballsing it up nonetheless. Her mortification is made complete by her movie god being the one to point out where the mysteriously vanished ice cream cone had ended up.

[Harvey, 1986]

Our “For What It’s Worth Department” understands that actor Robert Redford is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, making a movie . . .

In and around town between takes . . .

But the lady who encountered him in an ice-cream parlor on Canyon Street was determined to stay cool . . . She pretended to ignore the presence of the movie star . . . But after leaving the shop she realized that she did not have the ice-cream cone she’d bought and paid for.

She returned to the shop . . . To ask for her ice-cream cone.

Overhearing, Robert Redford said, “Madam, you’ll probably find it where you put it — in your purse.”

[Radovsky and Gillies, 1997]

“I was in an ice-cream shop in Connecticut last summer, and I realized Paul Newman was standing behind me,” recalls Debbie Rawlins, a 33-year-old teacher. “Determined not to get flustered by his presence, I ordered my ice cream, paid for it, and walked outside — only to discover I couldn’t find it. When I walked back into the shop, everybody was laughing. Paul grinned at me and said, ‘It’s in your purse.’ Sure enough, rocky road was melting all over the inside of my bag while I turned cherry red from embarrassment! But Paul couldn’t have been nicer.”

Oh, what a rocky road it sometimes is!

The good news is the stashed ice cream story likely never happened to anyone.

Redford has repeatedly denied the tale. As for Newman, despite his daughter, Nell, presenting the tale as true in The Christian Science Monitor in 2000 as something she witnessed at some unnamed date, her father had in 1986 been quoted in USA Today as saying he felt like suing Nicholson and Redford because the tale was his false story of the summer. Nicholson has been at time a bit more coy about the matter, almost half-admitting that yes, it might indeed have happened to him. But with his sense of devilry, who can tell?

The earliest print sighting of this legend is a 5 June 1986 article in the Hartford Courant. In it, columnist Jerry Dumas reports on a rumor heard from his wife, who heard it from the gal it supposedly happened to. When Dumas attempted to check the facts with this friend of his wife’s, he discovered no, it really hadn’t happened to her; she’d gotten it from another woman who’d gotten it from her minister. Dumas never did manage to trace back the story to its point of origin.


  • The sharp-eyed celebrity has been identified as Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Tom Brokaw, and Ben Affleck.
  • Places the incident has supposedly happened are: Santa Fe, Westport CT, Cohasset MA, Manhattan, the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Colorado Springs, and an ice cream shop in Los Angeles.

  • Barbara Mikkelson
  • Published

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    Cosmopolitan.   October 1997   (p. 256).

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