Informant: My friend told me this one. Do you know who Paul Newman was? He’s before your time, isn’t he? He was an actor. His face is on those—he has a pasta sauce brand, I think. He was very handsome and popular. He’s dead now. But anyway, my friend told me—this was years ago—that this woman was in Connecticut, and she went to one of the ice cream parlors in town. So she walks into the ice cream parlor, and there are only two people there—the clerk, and, sitting at the bar, Paul Newman. So the woman decides to play it cool, you know, act unimpressed and give Paul Newman his privacy. So she ignores him while she orders her ice cream and pays. Well, she gets back out to her car and she realizes she’s only got her change in her hand, so she figures she left her ice cream cone on the counter inside. She goes back in, and—and Paul Newman turns around and says, “You put it in your purse.”
The informant (my grandmother) was born and raised in Texas. She spent many years moving from place to place across the world with her husband, a banker, before settling in Connecticut long enough to work as an English teacher at the Greenwich Country Day School. She currently lives in San Francisco, CA.
I discovered a similar story in an online collection of modern urban legends. That version has Jack Nicholson (another popular actor) in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor in Massachusetts in 1986. Other versions of the story feature different actors, leading me to believe that this ice cream parlor legend is most definitely an example of an urban legend passed down as a FOF (friend of a friend) story; my grandmother maintains that her friend says it really did happen to a woman she knows.
The appeal of this urban legend may come from our ability to relate to the unspecified woman, who could be any one of us. She attempts to “play it cool” in front of a celebrity (Paul Newman is interchangeable; any popular and attractive actor would achieve the desired effect, and I assume the featured celebrity changes over time according to trends) only to be so distracted by her own attempts to ignore said celebrity that she embarrasses herself. We find amusement in this story because we can cringe for the woman, even though we ourselves are safe from embarrassment in front of a handsome and popular actor.
Citation: “The Ice Cream Cone in the Purse.” Tall Tales, Legends and Lies. NetPlaces, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.