Unfortunately, they were out of Elon Musk.
I’d traveled nearly two hours from my home in Upstate New York to Washington Square Park in Manhattan with a very clear mission: I was going to visit the viral “Eat the Rich” pop-up ice cream truck — which sells five different popsicles featuring the faces of famous billionaires — and eat one of each. Then I was going to rank them according to how good they tasted. But when the ice cream truck’s window opened for its third and final day in business, I discovered that not only were all the popsicles the same flavor — which makes a flavor ranking pointless — but also that the Musk version was no longer available.
While I was disappointed, I made the most of things by ordering the four remaining popsicles — at $10 a piece — and began to stuff my face with them, beginning with Mark Zuckerberg.
I chose to start with Zuckerberg because I thought, of the five popsicles, his likeness was the best. In fairness, all of them are pretty great, but there was something about the Zuckerberg popsicle that was downright uncanny. Perhaps it’s because the man already looks like a popsicle? I don’t know. Seriously, just look at it — it’s astounding.
When I bit into his head, Mark Zuckerberg tasted quite good. The popsicle kind of had a nondescript, vaguely vanilla sherbet-like flavor, but it was still sweet and satisfying. Nikitas, the guy who was running the truck, told me that he also had detected a hint of banana flavor in there, which seemed about right. Nikitas is a man who knows what he’s talking about too, as he’s an ice cream truck veteran and can clearly distinguish between the flavors of Sonic, SpongeBob and all the different character popsicles he normally sells.
In the hour I spent hanging around the ice cream truck, it never got too crowded. At most, a line of maybe a half dozen people would form, then there would be a lull with nobody there at all (except a handful of other journalists, but I’m not counting them). This gave me a chance to chat with Nikitas, who informed me that, thanks to the media attention over the past few days — in outlets like the New York Post and TMZ — business had picked up steadily on the second day, and he expected even more on the truck’s final day.
As for why it was only a three-day venture, Nikitas didn’t know, but when I spoke to the men behind the whole operation, they explained that three days was standard practice for this kind of thing, which they’ve done many times.
To that end, Eat the Rich Popsicles is just the latest project of a Brooklyn-based organization called MSCHF — pronounced “Mischief” — which artists and founding members Lukas Bentel and Kevin Wiesner describe as an “art collective.” But, Wiesner admits, “We call it an [that] because no one really knows what that means.”
In addition to Eat the Rich, MSCHF has been behind a wide variety of art projects that have captured headlines and gotten them into legal trouble. Last year, they were sued by Nike for selling “satan shoes,” which were modified Nike Air Max 97s containing actual human blood. Also last year, they mounted a paintball gun on a robotic police dog as a statement protesting the use of such robots by police. That one earned them a formal rebuke by the company that makes the robots. Rounding out 2021, last fall, they created a two-day pop-up store called 8-Twelve — a play on 7-Eleven — which sold fake products that parodied real ones.
Although Eat the Rich popsicles weren’t sold in 8-Twelve, Bentel and Wiesner tell me that the store featured a sign for a Jeff Bezos popsicle that a lot of people seemed to like, so they eventually decided to pursue that idea with two genuine ice cream trucks — one in New York, one in L.A. — that offered popsicles that look like billionaires. While Bentel and Wiesner gave a somewhat vague, artistic answer on the statement behind Eat the Rich — explaining that it was a comment on “American consumerism” — they made clear that this was in protest of these uber-rich magantes, not in admiration of them.
Speaking of Bezos, after finishing up my Zuckerberg popsicle, I next decided to try his popsicle, which was easily the number-one seller when I was there, given the absence of Musk. He tasted much the same as Zuckerberg, but there was something quite surprising about the popsicle. Despite the fact that the packaging featured black gumball eyes, Bezos’ eyes were burning red. When I mentioned this later to Bentel and Wiesner, they were completely shocked by this, too, as they’d designed him with black eyes.
“He has the eyes of the devil,” Nikitas said to me, as he also explained that all the Jeff Bezos popsicles he’d seen were red-eyed. Either way, it seemed to meet consumers where they were at, as everyone who bought Bezos popsicles hated the guy. “I don’t like him at all,” a customer named Tara told me. Another customer named Miles added, “I got Jeff Bezos because he’s bald. And I don’t like him very much.”
Eyes of the devil indeed.
As for the others on offer, when I bit into the gray hair of Bill Gates, I finally tasted something different, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on the flavor. When talking to Bentel and Wiesner, they explained that the flavoring chosen for the popsicles had nothing to do with each billionaire. Instead, it was about which flavors came standard in the colors they needed. For Gates’ hair, they thought it may have been maple, but they couldn’t quite remember. For the most part though, all the popsicles were primarily that peachy skin-tone color — which comes standard with vanilla flavor — so they did all taste pretty much the same.
Of all the billionaires offered, Gates seemed to garner the least amount of animosity. “Bill Gates has at least done some charity work,” a customer named Rob told me as he was buying a Bezos head to munch on. I also ran into a group of five guys from Seattle, four of which had selected Gates because he was from their hometown. The fifth chose Jack Ma, but he didn’t really offer a reason.
After I was around the truck for about 40 minutes, Jeff Bezos popsicles had completely sold out, and a few minutes after that, the Zuckerberg popsicles were all gone as well. By the time I was leaving, Nikitas informed me that he was into the last box of Bill Gates, though he still had five boxes left of Jack Ma, who, I guess, people didn’t know as well.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about him either, but I do now know that he makes for a pretty tasty popsicle.
Finally, there’s the one that got away — Elon Musk. While I guess, given his insatiable need for media attention, it’s not that surprising that Musk was the most popular popsicle, what surprised me about Musk was that the people who came to the truck to eat him actually like him. “He’s the coolest one they have,” I was told by a guy named Fausto. And a couple named Vladimir and Julia said they were both fans of Elon Musk and were disappointed that he wasn’t available.
I guess the silver lining for Musk is, if self-driving cars, brain chips and commercial space travel don’t work out or he does have to fork over a court-mandated $44 billion for Twitter, there’s always the popsicle business.